Philadelphia Phillies icon Jimmy Rollins believes that two members of the 2008 World Series Championship teams have resumes worthy of Cooperstown, and one of them wore No. 11.
After garnering 9.4% of the vote in his first cycle on the Hall of Fame ballot, Rollins was asked how many players from one of the most beloved teams in franchise history he believes are Hall of Fame worthy.
“Probably two,” Rollins told NBC Sports Philadelphia‘s John Clark.
And those to would be?
“One, being Chase Utley. And the other being the guy talking,” Rollins said with a smile, referring to himself.
“Since a kid, I’ve known about it [the Hall of Fame]. I remember watching ‘Soul of the Game’ on HBO talking about the Negro Leagues. A lot of those guys didn’t get a chance to play Major League Baseball, and all those things inspired me. Had a lot of the Black players been able to play, how many more of those guys would have been in the Hall of Fame?
“So when I look at it, I look at the legacy of the plight of Black players in baseball, in sports — and really — in this country. That’s the reason why I’ve always strived to be great, because there were many that came before me that didn’t have that opportunity. So getting in would also mean that I got in for them also.”
9.4% is quite a ways away from the 75% total needed to be elected to the Hall of Fame, but a meteoric rise is hardly unprecedented. For example, Rollins’ former teammate Scott Rolen received votes on just 10.2% of ballots in 2018, his first year on the ballot. Fast forward a few years, and Rolen appears to be on the doorstep of election after he garnered votes on 63.2% of ballots in 2022.
David Ortiz was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2022, while Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling all fell off the BBWAA ballot. Rollins will get his chance to have his case further examined in the coming years, and whether a given voter decides to get on his bandwagon or not may depend on their perspective of what makes a Hall of Famer.
Rollins won the 2007 National League MVP, was a three-time All-Star and won four Gold Glove Awards. He was the catalyst for one of the best teams of his era, and his 2,306 hits in red pinstripes are the most in Phillies history. From a back-of-the-baseball-card sense, some believe that Rollins has a case pretty similar to long-time Cincinnati Reds’ shortstop Barry Larkin, who was elected in 2012, his third year of eligibility.
However, while there are some similarities between the careers of Rollins and Larkin, more analytically-inclined voters will point out that there are some stark differences.
Larkin was a career .295 hitter, who had nine seasons where he finished with a batting average above .300. Rollins was a career .264 hitter, whose top individual season batting average came when he hit .296 in 2007. While Larkin tops the average bWAR, WAR 7 and JAWS — three metrics given quite a bit of credence by younger voters — of a Hall of Fame shortstop shortstop, Rollins falls well short in all three categories.
Rollins, though, has the support of quite a few people who got to see him play on a day-in-and-day-out basis. Larry Bowa and Charlie Manuel have both endorsed Rollins’ Hall of Fame bonafides. Phillies Wall of Famer and current broadcaster John Kruk said last summer that he believes Rollins is the second best player in franchise history, and is worthy of election. Utley told Matt Breen of The Philadelphia Inquirer earlier this week that he has “no doubt” that Rollins should have a plaque in Cooperstown.
At the very least, Rollins projects to be someone that hangs around the Hall of Fame ballot for some time, as his former teammates Billy Wagner and Bobby Abreu have done. Does he have any idea how many years it would potentially take him to be elected?
“Shoot, I have no idea. I know you get 10 [years], and I got 9.4% this year. And with guys coming off [the ballot], there have been new guys coming on. And as they look to the numbers and the body of work, they’ll make that decision. And if I get in, I’ll see you in Cooperstown. If not, then I’ll see you out in center field at Citizens Bank Park.”
Regardless of whether he’s elected to the Hall of Fame or not, Rollins will see hoards of thankful Phillies fans in center field when he’s inducted onto the team’s Wall of Fame. Ditto for Utley — who becomes eligible for the Hall of Fame ballot in 2024, and has a case based more on his tremendous peak and analytical numbers.
The question then becomes whether the two will have their numbers retired by the Phillies, regardless of their Hall of Fame status.
Phillies Nation‘s Destiny Lugardo pondered this in regards to Ryan Howard, who fell off the Hall of Fame ballot this week after receiving votes on 2% of ballots in 2022. Are there players who spent time with the Phillies who had better overall careers than some or all of Howard, Utley and Rollins? Yes, names like Roy Halladay, Dick Allen, Jim Bunning and Curt Schilling are among those who may fit that criteria. But just in terms of what was done in a Phillies uniform, you could make the case that Howard, Utley and Rollins are three of the 10 best Phillies ever. 2008 World Series MVP Cole Hamels is in that conversation too.
Perhaps some of the most important members of the 2007-2011 run deserve to become parts of exclusive franchise clubs, even if the Hall of Fame doesn’t ultimately recognize them.
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