It is hard to imagine baseball in Philadelphia without Jimmy Rollins. The man who has pioneered a losing team, 9 playoff appearances from 1883-2000, to a Championship team, 5 straight division titles, a National League title, and 2008 World Series Champs, since J-Roll became a regular in 2001. When it came down to it Jimmy Rollins wasn’t going anywhere, no matter the money. Philly is home, it’s where he has spent nearly half of his life playing the game he loves. Despite being on the “downside” of his playing career J-Roll still belongs at #14 of the Best Athletes in Philadelphia. Jiiimmmmmmyyyyyy!!
There is something special about homegrown players, watching them develop through the ranks, boastfully cheering them on as if they are part of the family, because in Philadelphia they are. Going to Reading to see the likes of Pat Burrell, Jimmy Rollins, and Adam Eaton (let the boos commence). It is exciting to watch and even more fun to root for. Now don’t get me wrong I’ll take the Doc Halladays, Cliff Lees and Shane Victorinos all day long but there is a different connection with the Jimmy Rollins and the Cole Hamels.
"From the first day I got here in the big leagues, it was about making this team a contender and then a champion,” Rollins stated after re-signing with the Phils in December. “Those things have been accomplished, the champion part not as often as I would've liked. Obviously, when money is on the table, and it's guaranteed, it's tempting. But you think of everything else that you've done and what you will be able to do going forward and where it makes sense for you to do those things."
From the age of 17, being drafted by the Phillies in the second round of the 1996 Draft, Philadelphia is all he’s known. An Oak-Town California boy, Rollins was born into an athletic family. His mom played competitive fastpitch softball, his brother some minor league ball, and his sister played basketball collegiately at the University of San Francisco. He has developed into a five tool player with an MVP, 3 All-Star appearances, 3 Gold Gloves, and a World Series Ring to boast.
Rollins has become infamous for his “proclamations.” From the “Team to Beat” in 2007, leading the Phillies to their first NL East Division title in 14 years, to the same prediction in 2008 leading the Phillies to their first World Series Championship in 28 years! Let’s just say Jimmy is good with words. He has been the architect of what is now a strong foundation, the catalyst to building this team into a champion. In his rookie season in 2001 Rollins came in with a bang, stealing 46 bases and was the only representative for the Phillies in the All-Star game.
We can talk for days about what Jimmy has done for the organization, for this team, and for this city. We have grown to love Jimmy, and grown to get frustrated with him as well. After a 15-year marriage there are no doubt going to be some bumps along the way, but truth be told it has been a wonderful 15 years.
He is not the National League MVP from 2007 but he can still succeed and compete at the major league level. With a vesting option for a fourth year Rollins has a lot to play for and wants to prove that the Phillies brass made the correct decision.
Despite his offensive numbers decreasing since 2007 his glove and arm can still make a 21-year old jealous. In 2011 Jimmy posted his second career best in fielding percentage with 98.8% showing he can still snag balls with the best of ‘em. He has always had excellent rage, a strong arm, and a fearless attitude on the field.
J-Roll has been and still is the Phillies sparkplug, the leader, the juice that gets the runs flowing. As the old Phillies adage says, “As Jimmy goes, the Phillies go.” He is no doubt Charlie Manuel’s go to guy and the player that Uncle Cholly looks at to take control of the lineup. In 2011 Jimmy matched his career high in walks with 58 and will need to continue to get on base with a high percentage for the Phillies dormant offense to breathe new life.
As his 33-year old body gets older staying injury free is essential to the whole equation. Something that has plagued Jimmy over the last few years. His is coming off a relatively healthy season, playing in 148 games, and should be has healthy as ever heading into 2012. His speed is something that has fueled his game and will be needed heavily to manufacture runs for the Phillies. After stealing 30 bases last year, (BOLD PREDICTION WARNING) I predict a 40 SB season for J-Roll!
With a new approach to hitting this year we are looking for everyone in the lineup to get on base more, to produce runs, to hit. Jimmy will be that guy leading the charge. The same position he’s anchored for the past 11 seasons. I wouldn’t want to see it any other way.
There is something special about Jimmy Rollins. From that captivating grin, to his loveable relationship with skipper Charlie Manuel. You can’t help but love the man. He brings attitude, leadership, life, fun, speed, and energy to a Phillies team desperately looking to reclaim the title. 2012 is the year of rebirth for Jimmy Rollins, and rebirth for the Philadelphia Phillies. That is why Jimmy Rollins is #14 on the BLN Best Athlete in Philadelphia countdown.