Phillies Nuggets with Tim Kelly

Charlie Manuel says both Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins should be Hall of Famers


Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins are two of the greatest Phillies of all time. (Gavin Baker/Icon Sportswire)

Charlie Manuel — the winningest manager in franchise history — says that he believes two of the core pieces from the most successful era of Philadelphia Phillies baseball are deserving of election to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

2007 National League MVP Jimmy Rollins is wrapping up his first cycle on the ballot. While Rollins isn’t going to sniff induction this year, at the time of publication, the four-time Gold Glove Award winner is closing in on the 5% minimum needed to return to the ballot next year.

Last February, Manuel told Phillies Nation that Rollins “should be considered for the Hall of Fame, with a good chance of getting in.” Nearly a year later, Manuel has sharpened his endorsement of Rollins’ Cooperstown credentials.

“Without a doubt,” Manuel told Jayson Stark and Doug Glanville when asked whether Rollins is a Hall of Famer on The Athletic Baseball Show.

“I think his career actually started moving in 2002 or 2003, and from 2004 all through up until he was about 30, 31 years old, his career was very consistent. He was an everyday player for 10 years there, if you go back and look, he played anywhere from 154 games to 160. The only time he ever rested was when the manager absolutely just gave him a day off. When I think about the things that he could do … I’ve never heard anyone say anything bad about Jimmy Rollins’ defense, have you? On defense, in all the years that I had him, I never had anyone ever tell me something that he did wrong on defense. I mean that. His talent got overlooked. … Jimmy Rollins had a tremendous arm on cutoffs and relays. Everything about how to play the game, he had basically the fundamentals of baseball down. And he had a great, accurate arm.

“… When I look back today and I watch baseball and I think about Jimmy and the things that he could do, especially from a defensive standpoint, he was kind of underrated. I think that’s because people looked at him as an offensive player as far as his speed and the fact that he could play the game right. He could execute right in situations. To me, he was a big part of our team and he was a big part of our makeup. But his talent speaks for itself.”

According to Ryan Thibodaux’s public ballot tracker, 41.1% of all ballots are now known, and Rollins has received votes from 11.8% of those voters. Again, he’ll have to stay about 5% to return to the ballot in 2023.

In many senses, Rollins’ case is going to come down to what you value the most when evaluating a candidate’s Hall of Fame worthiness, as Stark wrote in an excellent piece.

Rollins won an MVP, four Gold Gloves, made three All-Star teams and finished his career with over 2,400 hits. He was the catalyst for one of the most successful teams of his era, and for a franchise that’s existed since 1883, he’s the all-time leader in hits.

At the same time, Rollins never hit .300 in a single season, and finished his career with a .264 batting average, significantly below the marks of the two most recent BBWAA electees at the position, Barry Larkin and Derek Jeter. He also falls well under the average bWAR, WAR 7 and JAWS — three metrics relied upon heavily by analytically-inclined voters — of a Hall of Fame shortstop.

Rollins will almost certainly hang around the ballot for quite some time, and Manuel said that he’d taken him over any shortstop he’s ever coached, which includes 11-time Gold Glove Award winner Omar Vizquel. Whether that ever translates to a plaque in baseball’s most prestigious museum remains to be seen. 

Meanwhile, Utley won’t appear on the ballot until 2024, a class that will also include the likes of Adrián Beltré, David Wright and Joe Mauer. Manuel says that he also believes that Rollins’ long-time double-play partner deserves to be a Hall of Famer.

“Yeah, he’s a Hall of Famer, yes,” Manuel said. “For me, he is a Hall of Famer.

“… When we talk about Chase Utley, we’re talking about the most prepared person that I’ve ever been around in 60 years [in baseball]. He was the one that led by an example. He always hustled. He’d be down 0-2 with two outs in an inning and nobody on base, and you could count at least three, five, six times a year where we would win that game because Chase Utley hustled on a play and beat the throw to first or did something and got on the base. And he did that very consistently. People did not see those things in how he played.

“But at the same time too, not only that, but he was a really good hitter and he played a lot of games. And at times, he was hard to get out of the lineup, but most of time, I didn’t want to take him out of the lineup.”

While Utley was a six-time All-Star, his case is somewhat lacking in terms of traditional accolades. He never finished in the top five in National League MVP voting, though we’ve written in the past that such a reality is probably more of an indictment on the voters than the player. Utley also finished his career with 1,885 hits, and to some older voters, having less than 2,000 hits is a disqualifier.

At the same time, Utley’s peak stats put him among the best second basemen to ever play.

The average WAR 7 — the top seven single-season bWAR totals in a players career added up — of a Hall of Fame second baseman is 44.5. Utley’s WAR 7 was 49.3, which puts him above Hall of Famers Ryne Sandberg, Roberto Alomar and Craig Biggio, just to name a few.

Between 2005 and 2013, Utley’s 53.9 fWAR was second among all position players, trailing only future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols. Over the same period, Utley’s 126 defensive runs saved trail only another future Hall of Famer, Yadier Molina.

The Hall of Fame cases of both Rollins and Utley figure to be debated for at least the next half decade. It will be interesting to see whether the Phillies ultimately retire both of their numbers, regardless of if they are enshrined in Cooperstown or not.

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