(left) is greeted at first base by Mike Schmidt, the man whose hit record he broke. (Gavin Baker/Icon SMI)
He grew up in Alameda, California. “The tough side,” he likes to say. He has survived 15 years in the toughest sports city in America. He is cherished, and he is underappreciated. He can be exhilarating to watch, and he can be maddening. Jimmy Rollins is so many things, and on Saturday, he cemented his status as one of the greatest figures in Philly sports history.
In the fifth inning of the Phillies-Cubs game at Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies’ shortstop, a switch-hitter batting from the left side of the plate, ripped a 3-1 single off Edwin Jackson to right field to pass Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt as Philadelphia’s all-time hits leader. Schmidt was at the park — he’s a TV analyst for the team — and retrieved Rollins’ bat after the single, before high-fiving and hugging Rollins at first base. Schmidt raised Rollins’ hand into the air as the ballpark swelled with cheers and fireworks went off from the left field video board.
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It was 18 years ago that the Phillies drafted Rollins out of Encinal High School in Alameda. He made his debut on Sept. 17, 2000 at Veterans Stadium, to begin a 15-year career that included four Gold Gloves, three All-Star teams, and an MVP award in 2007. He helped lead the Phillies to a World Series win in 2008. Rollins also ranks first on the Phillies’ all-time list in doubles (466), and is second in games (2,015), extra-base hits (782), total bases (3,540) and is third in steala (436), triples (109) and runs scored (1,281).
Saturday was a day to celebrate J-Roll. It also might have been the beginning of his Philly farewell.
Will Philadelphia’s new hit king finish the year as a Phillie? With the hit record out of the way, get ready for the Jimmy Rollins trade rumors to heat up. As a 10-and-5 player, Rollins can invoke a no-trade clause and veto any deal, and last July as the trade deadline loomed, Rollins declined to waive his no-trade clause. But now with the Phillies looking like they’re headed for another losing season, Rollins may change his mind. He told CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury in March: “If we’re in absolutely last place with nowhere to go and change is obviously on the horizon, then at that point I’d think about it.” At 29-37 after Saturday’s win over the Cubs, the Phillies are tied with the Mets for last in the NL East, and five-and-a-half games behind first-place Atlanta.
Rollins is having a quietly productive year, hitting 249/.344/.402 with eight home runs and eleven stolen bases. He is 35, is owed $11 million this season and will be guaranteed another $11 million in 2015 if he reaches 434 plate appearances this season, and would be a very valuable trade chip for a team that desperately needs to get younger. An obvious fit for Rollins? Detroit, which has been searching for a shortstop since Jose Iglesias went down with an injury during spring training.
Jimmy Rollins’ summer might just get a lot more interesting.