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Phillies trade of Jimmy Rollins the official end of an era

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Even though everybody knew it would be sooner than later that this core group of Philadelphia Phillies players would eventually move on, make no mistake: The trade of Jimmy Rollins to the Los Angeles Dodgers is a pretty significant day in the history of the Phillies' franchise.

 

The Phillies are a team historically known for its losing ways. Jimmy Rollins only played on four sub .500 Phillies teams in his fifteen years with the club. If Rollins never declared the Phillies “The Team to Beat” in 2007, are we even talking about his departure the way we are? Probably not.

Jimmy Rollins photo: Getty Images

 

Rollins and Larry Bowa deserve the credit for instilling a winning culture in the Phillies’ clubhouse. A clubhouse that had been used to losing and readily accepted this prior to the arrival of the two. It rubbed off on Ryan Howard, it rubbed off on Chase Utley, it rubbed off on Cole Hamels and countless others who wore a Phillies jersey over the last decade and a half.


This didn’t happen overnight. Along the way, there were several heartbreaking losses (ie: Craig Biggio), and the team didn’t make the postseason until Rollins’ seventh full season. But when the Phillies got there, they stayed there- for the next five years. Years that everybody will look back on fondly, despite reaching the pinnacle of baseball excellence only once- in 2008.

 

Yes, I know; Rollins was a real-life version of Willie Mays Hayes from Major League, he was nicknamed Jimmy Poppins due to his tendency to pop up at the worst possible time, he didn’t always hustle, he didn’t move runners over consistently, he didn’t bunt as much as he should have, he wasn’t your prototypical leadoff man and his on-base percentage is less than spectacular. Whether he was right or wrong, he spoke his mind whenever he pleased, which angered a lot of people here.

 

That being said, here is what he WAS: A four-time Rawlings Gold Glove winner, a three-time All-Star, a Silver Slugger Award winner, a National League MVP, owner of more hits than anybody in Phillies history (2,306) and perhaps most importantly, a World Series champion. Rollins’ resume might even be good enough to land him a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame when all is said and done.

 

Was he your perfect, ideal, Derek Jeter-esque type player? No. However, if I’m a pitcher, there’s two outs in the ninth inning, the tying run is on third base and you need your infielder to make a game-winning play, I’d want that ball hit to Jimmy Rollins. Moreover, I would put him right there with the greatest fielding shortstops in the history of the game- including Jeter.

 

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Although his stats have declined in recent years, there’s nobody on this Phillies team who can currently fill Rollins’ shoes. At this stage, however, it’s more about how this Phillies team can return to prominence. And after three straight, subpar seasons, it’s obvious to everyone (Rollins included) that the core group of Phillies players weren’t going to get better. Father time combined with untimely injuries has made this team a shell of its former self. The players have been in decline for some time now. The trade of Rollins doesn’t tell us anything we don’t know, it just makes it official that this era of the Phillies' halcyon days are indeed over, and the dismantling of the empire has officially begun. Rollins was a franchise cornerstone. He might be the first to go, but he won’t be the last. I obviously can’t speak for him, but don’t be surprised if a player like Chase Utley agrees to be moved elsewhere after witnessing the departure of his longtime double play partner.

 

In a perfect world, Rollins retires as a Philly and rides off into the sunset. But this is Philadelphia. We don’t do happy endings here, and we probably wouldn’t like it even if it did happen. It’s just the way most people are wired in the fickle city of Philadelphia. Yes, 2008 seems like a distant memory right now. But the good times, much like the previous era of Phillies baseball that celebrated a title in 1980, can’t last forever. The quicker the rebuilding starts, the sooner happy days are here again (not that I have an ounce of faith in Phillies management that they can make this happen).

 

Say what you want about Jimmy Rollins. Some of it might be true, some of it might be slightly exaggerated. At the end of the day, however, he is, without question, the greatest shortstop in the history of the Phillies franchise.

We probably won’t see the likes of him again.

 

 

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

 

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