Phillies Pushing Away Hall of Fame Level Shortstop

Is Rollins a HOF'er like Jeter? (AP)

Is Rollins a HOF’er like Jeter? (AP)

It’s no secret; Phillies franchise shortstop Jimmy Rollins and new manager Ryne Sandberg don’t like each other very much.

Sandberg sent a message by benching Rollins this spring and gave a “no comment” when asked if Rollins was a positive influence on the team. The latest in the Rollins saga is that the front office is wondering if the team would be better off by trading Rollins and appeasing its new manager.

A trade for Rollins seems unlikely as he has a full no trade clause, and likely only wants to play for a west coast teams, none of which have a need at the current position.

If Rollins was eventually moved, the Phillies would be trading away the best shortstop in franchise history. But would they also be trading away a future hall of famer?

Initially, most Phillies fans would say no. I put a poll up asking the public their thoughts on the matter and 62% said no. Whether personal feelings or beliefs play a role in that is unknown.

However, baseball is a game about numbers, and when you look at the numbers James Calvin Rollins has certainly put himself in the conversation.

The not-so-storied franchise that’s been around since 1883 has seen quite a few solid shortstops in its time, and Jimmy Rollins is the best of the bunch. Better than Larry Bowa, better than the Whiz Kids’ Grammy Hamner. Yes, Jimmy Rollins is the best shortstop in franchise history. The diminutive shortstop from Oakland, California holds every offensive record for short stops. At bats, games played hits, runs, doubles, and triples, all. He owns all of them. But let’s move away from the SS and move to the team as a whole.

When it comes to Phillies team records Rollins is also at the top, or close to it. Rollins is second all-time in games played, and 2nd all-time in at bats (a record he will likely pass this year as he is only 262 at bats behind Mike Schmidt). He is 3rd in runs scored, and has a chance to move into second place. Of course, he would need his contract extension to vest. He’s 4th in franchise history in hits, and will pass all those in front of him, including Mike Schmidt, when he gets hit No. 60 this season. He’s the all-time leader in doubles, 3rd in triples, second in stolen bases, and is in the top 10 for homeruns, runs batted in, and walks.

So it’s a lock that Jimmy Rollins will be on the Phillies Wall of Fame, but what about Cooperstown? Ozzie Smith had his Gold Gloves, and Cal Ripken had his streak, but Rollins doesn’t have that ONE thing to put him in. Or does he?

Rollins is one of just seven shortstops with 2,000 hits and 700 extra base hits. Rollins is one of just five shortstops with 2,000 hits and 400 stolen bases. It’s the combination of the two stats that display how impressive the Phillies shortstop is. Only Jimmy Rollins and Honus Wagner have 2000 hits, 700 extra base hits, and 400 stolen bases. Let that sink in.

If that doesn’t do it for you, how about the fact that Rollins is the only shortstop to win an MVP award in addition to four Gold Gloves. He has been one of the premier defensive shortstops at his position, and those four Gold Gloves are evidence. Oh wait, there’s more.

Among short stops with at least 10 years of service time, Rollins ranks second only behind Omar Vizquel in fielding percentage.
But what about when you compare Rollins to other shortstops in the hall of fame? Rollins’ numbers are right there. Barry Larkin is a good measuring stick as he was the most recent shortstop to be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012. Rollins has more doubles, triples, homeruns, and stolen bases than Larkin. Moreover, Rollins will likely have more hits (only 165 behind). Both shortstops boast one MVP award apiece, but Rollins has won more Gold Gloves.

Ozzie Smith? Rollins has more doubles, triples, homeruns, and runs batted in. pretty impressive when you consider the Wizard of Oz had 1,306 more at bats than Jimmy. Or how about the” Iron Man” Cal Ripken Jr? Rollins has more triples, stolen bases, and Gold Gloves.

Then, there’s Phil Rizzuto. If there is a case to be made for Rollins to be in the Hall of Fame you need look no further than the former Yankees shortstop. Rollins passes Rizzuto in every offensive category. At bats, games played, hits, doubles, triples, homeruns, runs batted in, stolen bases, runs scored. They both have one MVP; Rizzuto however never won any Gold Gloves. It’s hard for me to say Rizzuto is a hall of famer but Jimmy Rollins is not.

One of the knocks against Jimmy is the new school way of thinking. Instead of looking at the hard numbers, fans are now focusing on WAR, as well as on base percentage. His .327 career OBP isn’t exactly impressive, and his .269 career batting average doesn’t scream HOF. Out of the 25 shortstops in the Hall of Fame only 5 have a lower career OBP than Rollins with four of those five retiring in or before 1935 (Luis Aparicio is the only one to retire after 1935). So that.269 career BA might not be all that impressive, but it’s still higher than Ozzie Smith’s at .262 BA, and isn’t far off Rizzuto’s .273 career BA.

Something needs to be said for longevity. Rollins plays one of the most demanding positions in baseball, and does so at an elite level. Even when Rollins offensive game is struggling, his glove work is still some of the best in baseball.

Rollins currently ranks 24th all-time at games played at shortstop with everyone ahead of him having played 16 or more years.With a healthy season Rollins could move into the top 15. And while the core of the Phillies has been injury prone, Rollins has stayed healthy. No active shortstop with at least six seasons at the position has averaged the 147 games-per-year that Rollins has.

J-Roll needs 434 plate appearances for the option on his contract to vest. He’s done that in every season but two (2010 & his first call up in 2000). He has routinely said that he will not waive his no trade clause, so if all goes right (or wrong, depending on your stance) he will be back in Phillies pinstripes in 2015 – and at that time will be 36 years old.

Rollins has been awesome, frustrating, incredible, outspoken and unapologetic about it. He led the Phillies into the playoffs in 2007 and brought the city its first championship in 25 years when the Phillies won the World Series in 2008.

Defensively, offensively, Jimmy Rollins has been one of the best shortstops of his era. He is one of just 15 shortstops to win an MVP award, something Derek Jeter has never done. In the era of steroids, his name has never been linked to PED use or a failed drug test. Yes, his OBP is low, but when you look at the complete player, the numbers he has put up, the awards he has won, its tough to keep him out.

Maybe he hasn’t been the “leader” that the city has always wanted him to be, but the numbers certainly speak for themselves.

Rollins isn’t a first ballot Hall of Famer, and he isn’t even a second ballot Hall of Famer. But it is my belief that he IS a Hall of Famer. It will take a couple of years and maybe, like Rizzuto, it will come down to the veterans committee voting him in, but he WILL get in. Jimmy Rollins has had a Hall of Fame career and were in the last few years of it, so take time to soak it in and enjoy it.

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