He lazily jogs down first base, then makes incredible defensive stabs and throws deep in the hole. He pops out on the first pitch with the bases loaded and no outs, then rips a walk-off double in the gap to beat the Dodgers in game 4 of the 2009 NLCS. He is a career .268 lead-off hitter who doesn’t walk much, but now has the most hits in Phillies history. He has played his entire career in Philadelphia–currently in his 15th season with the Phillies–but he has called the fans “front-runners.”
He is one of the all-time polarizing enigmas in Philadelphia sports and his name is Jimmy Rollins.
In today’s day and age, one would think, a player that has played his entire career of 14-plus seasons in one city, accumulating an MVP award, a World Series Title, four gold gloves, three all-star games, and a top-three spot in Phillies history in hits, doubles, triples, games played, extra-base hits, total bases, runs scored, and steals, would be unconditionally loved by the fans of that city. Rollins, however, is not.
Throughout his career he has spoken his mind, maybe to his detriment, and after a Phillies win on Saturday he was no different. Rollins, who under the 10-5 rule has the ability to veto any trade said, “If we’re in absolutely last place with nowhere to go and change is obviously on the horizon, then at that point I’d think about it [allowing a trade].”
Whether it be something he said or a ground ball he didn’t run out, or the fact that he would never be his revered counter part over at second base in Chase Utley (no one is Utley, to be fair), Rollins is as fascinating as it gets when it comes to relationships between athletes and the city of brotherly love.
On Saturday afternoon in the 5th inning, Rollins laced a 3-1 pitch to right-field for a single, something he had done many times before. This particular time was unique, as it was Rollins’ 2,235th career hit, and he surpassed Mike Schmidt as the Phillies all-time hits leader. Schmidt came out to greet Rollins, followed by his teammates and coaches. The fans cheered and appreciated the historic moment, but not necessarily the player who accomplished it.
Ironically, Schmidt, who hit 548 home runs in his career, was not universally loved while he played with the Phillies either. The Hall Of Famer and three-time MVP did not always get along with the passionate Phillies fans over his 17 seasons with the club (1972-1989), and called Philly a “tough town” when discussing his relationship with the fan base in April of 2013. Now, no one has a bad word to say about the former Phillies third baseman.
When living in those contentious moments that made him such a controversial player over the past 14 years, it is effortless–and even warranted at times–to criticize Rollins. Nevertheless, in 2028, after another 14 years have passed we’ll be teaching those who were not fortunate enough to see Rollins play, about his career. And looking back, like Schmidt, he’ll finally be appreciated.
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