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Why Jimmy Rollins Belongs in the Hall of Fame

In this week's Five-Tool Newsletter, we make the Cooperstown case for the Phillies icon. Plus, the latest on the lockout, trivia and Emma Baccellieri's mailbag!
Jun 12, 2009; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins (11) throws to first base in the ninth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Citizens Bank Park. The Boston Red Sox defeated the Philadelphia Phillies 5-2 in 13 innings.

Editor's note: You may have received a previous edition of the Five-Tool Newsletter earlier this week, which covered Mookie Betts's already impressive Hall of Fame case. While the column is worth reading twice, in my opinion, the repeat email was sent mistakenly. Below, you'll find this week's brand-new edition. As always, if you have questions or feedback on SI's newsletters, send a note to josh.rosenblat@si.com.

There are three shortstops on this year’s BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot. Only one of them has a compelling Hall of Fame case.

It’s not Alex Rodriguez, who is eligible for the first time. He botched that chance when he was suspended for 162 games (reduced from 211) for his use of performance-enhancing drugs. He also admitted to using PEDs from the 2001 to '03 seasons, and it’s hard to believe those were the only years in which he was cheating.

It’s also not Omar Vizquel, whose support for the Hall is cratering among the writers who so far have released their ballots publicly. Of the 28 public ballots tracked by Ryan Thibodaux (@NotMrTibbs on Twitter) as of Friday morning, Vizquel has appeared on only five of them, and so far eight writers have decided not to vote for him after doing so last year. The main reasons for Vizquel’s losing support are for off-the-field transgressions. One year ago from yesterday, The Athletic’s Katie Strang and Ken Rosenthal reported on the domestic abuse allegations against Vizquel, and then in August he was sued for sexual harassment of a minor league batboy. That said, Vizquel’s career wasn’t worthy of induction, anyway, especially because advanced metrics indicate the 11-time Gold Glove winner’s defense was good, but not as good as we thought.

Instead, if I had a Hall of Fame vote, Jimmy Rollins is the only shortstop on this ballot I’d choose. I don’t want to spend this entire time comparing him to Vizquel, because to reiterate, I don’t think Vizquel had an HOF career. But, since they are the two non-PED shortstops on this ballot, I’ll do a quick run-through.

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Rollins was by far the superior hitter and baserunner. Vizquel was the better fielder. Based on value, 17 seasons of Rollins was worth more than 24 of Vizquel. Now, let’s move on to Rollins’s case apart from Vizquel.

Rollins spent 15 of his 17 years with the Phillies, including his brief 14-game debut in 2000, and was a core member of their dominant run from '07 to '11. During that stretch, Philadelphia won five straight NL East titles, two NL pennants ('08, '09) and the World Series ('08). A three-time All-Star, Rollins won the '07 MVP Award, four Gold Gloves and a Silver Slugger.

The best way to view Rollins is in the context of his peers. Over his 14 full seasons in Philadelphia (2001–14), he was the best shortstop in the National League and, quite possibly, in the majors.

Rollins, 2001–14

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Minimum 50% games played at SS

Of course, the careers of Rollins and his peers don’t exactly line up. For example, Derek Jeter won the AL Rookie of the Year in 1996, so while he was one of the game’s top shortstops from 2001 to '14, the leader boards for this span do not factor in his excellent first five seasons.

That said, if you want to widen this lens to cover the entire careers of players who debuted in the 15 years from 1995 to 2009, a period that begins with baseball’s return after the '94 strike, Rollins is still the best NL shortstop and second-best in MLB.

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Rollins, Ranks, 1995–2009

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Minimum 50% games played at SS

Sorted by WAR, here are the top five players who made their MLB debuts from 1995 to 2009 and played at least 50% of their career games at shortstop.

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So yeah, it’s Jeter and then everyone else. You could very easily argue that this era had only one HOF-caliber shortstop if you don’t count A-Rod, who debuted in 1994 and played only 1,272 of his 2,468 career games there. Rollins was the most well-rounded of the four remaining shortstops here, and in terms of longevity, he’s the most deserving. Troy Tulowitzki and Nomar Garciaparra likely would have been Hall of Famers had injuries not cut short their careers, but they don’t have the volume for the HOF, even if you tend to favor higher-peak players. Miguel Tejada, who was a better hitter than Rollins, was not as good defensively or on the bases, and that’s before you consider Tejeda’s 105-game suspension for PEDs in 2013, which effectively ended his career.

If Rollins isn’t a Hall of Famer, then who is the next HOF shortstop after Jeter? Carlos Correa? Francisco Lindor? They both still have a lot more to accomplish before we can even consider them. But, let’s assume they do make it. They debuted in 2015, 20 years after Jeter. That would be the longest debut gap ever for HOF shortstops. It also would mean that MLB went two decades without producing a shortstop worthy of induction.

Another thing: Rollins spent his entire career as a shortstop. One of the reasons people vote for Vizquel is because of his longevity. While it’s true that Rollins didn’t play as long as Vizquel, he was still remarkably durable for someone at his position. He’s one of only 19 players in MLB history to have played at least 2,000 games at shortstop.

Many of the position’s best power hitters are moved elsewhere during the back half of their careers—either to keep them healthy or because they are no longer capable defenders—or they retire early because of injuries and/or a decline in production. Among the 19 who played at least 2,000 games at shortstop, Rollins ranks third in home runs, behind Cal Ripken Jr. (431) and Jeter (260). Fourth and fifth on the list? Barry Larkin (198) and Alan Trammell (185), both Hall of Famers.

Let’s look at Rollins beyond just his peers. Here are some other things to know about his career.

• He is one of 11 players, and the only shortstop, in MLB history to hit at least 200 home runs and steal more than 400 bases.

• He is one of 13 players with at least 500 doubles, 100 triples and 200 home runs. Eleven of them are in the HOF.

• He is one of only two players to record at least 30 doubles, 20 triples and 30 homers in the same season. Hall of Fame first baseman Jim Bottomley also did it, 79 years earlier. Willie Mays is the only other player to hit 20 triples and 30 home runs in a season.

• He is one of the four members of the 20/20/20/20 club—meaning 20-plus doubles, triples, homers and steals in a season. He is the only player to do that while also tallying 200 hits.

• He is one of only four players to hit at least 30 doubles and 20 home runs and steal at least 30 bases in four different seasons.

Quick programming note: We will be off next Friday for Christmas Eve but will be back in two weeks with our last edition of 2021.

As always, if you have any other questions or comments for our team, you can send us a note.

1. THE OPENER

“Some 10 hours after Major League Baseball locked out its players, commissioner Rob Manfred told reporters that a work stoppage is bad for business. ‘Let me finish by reiterating our willingness to bargain at any time,’ he added. Evidently he has changed his mind.

“According to two people familiar with the process, entering Thursday the league and the union had not met since the collective bargaining agreement expired at 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 1. At 12:01 a.m. on Dec. 2, the league imposed a lockout, baseball’s first work stoppage in 26 years. A handful of people are scheduled to talk on [Dec. 16] about issues other than the core economic ones, a broad category that could include such topics as the joint drug agreement. The conversation is inconsequential enough that lead negotiators Dan Halem, of MLB, and Bruce Meyer, of the players’ association, are not expected to attend.”

That’s how Stephanie Apstein begins her scathing column on the latest updates (or lack thereof) on the lockout negotiations.

Read Stephanie’s entire column here.

2. ICYMI

Didn't get a chance to see our new rankings and predictions for the remaining free agents? Here ya go! 

Reranking the Top-25 Free Agents by Will Laws and Nick Selbe
Just more than half of the players on the SI 50 signed before the lockout. How might things shake out for the best of the rest once a new CBA is signed?

Want to read our latest roundtable from this morning? We've got you covered!

MLB Roundtable: What Rules Must Be Changed in the Next CBA? by SI MLB staff
Should baseball implement a pitch clock, set roster limits and/or revise replay review?

If you missed last week's Five-Tool Newsletter (even though we accidentally sent it twice, whoops!) you can find that here.

Is Mookie Betts Already a Hall of Famer? by Matt Martell
We make the Cooperstown case for the Dodgers superstar.

3. WORTH NOTING from Stephanie Apstein

Baseball-Reference, perhaps the most valuable website on the internet for a baseball writer (and up there for a baseball fan—just behind si.com/mlb, of course), has released its “Sportify Wrapped.” The most fun feature is the map of the most popular player pages by state. Among the highlights: Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani carries 24 states, Tigers DH Miguel Cabrera is big in New Mexico and there are more Royals on the list than Yankees.

4. TRIVIA! from Matt Martell

Before we get into this week’s question, here is the answer to the one I asked last Friday.

Last Week’s Question: There are 22 position players in MLB history that accumulated at least 50 WAR over their first eight seasons. Mookie Betts is one of the four players in this group who are not in the Hall of Fame. Can you name the other three?

Answer: Mike Trout (64.6), Albert Pujols (64.1) and Barry Bonds (60.2)

This Week’s Question: No player has hit 20 triples in a season since 2007. That year, two players did it; Jimmy Rollins was one of them. Can you name the other? 

5. MAILBAG from Emma Baccellieri

Welcome to the first edition of the mailbag! Some great questions—if you have one you would like answered for next time, send it to mlb@si.com, or hit me up on Twitter @emmabaccellieri.

If the union and league won't discuss economic issues until sometime in January, is it unreal for me to expect a new CBA gets ratified by Feb.1? —from Joel

It’s certainly not a great sign! (See Steph’s column, mentioned above, for more.) But there’s still a general expectation around the game that it should likely get done before it really cuts into the season—both sides grasp the gravity of what it would mean to lose games to a work stoppage after two seasons that have been partially compromised by COVID-19. Given the timeline of what we’ve seen so far, though, Feb. 1 seems remarkably ambitious. Working backward from Opening Day on March 31, and accounting for the need for at least three weeks of spring training to ramp up players and minimize injury risk, consider the real make-or-break time here to be the beginning of March—and don’t be surprised if they go right up to it.

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Is Cleveland's outfield cursed by the ghost of Grady Sizemore's potential? —from Andrew

My gut answer on this: Yes, indubitably, a graveyard of broken dreams that Michael Brantley alone has been able to breach in the past decade. My numerical answer on this: The 85 players who have been Cleveland outfielders since 2012 have a collective WAR with the team of 53.5. Grady Sizemore’s WAR with Cleveland until his last season there in '11 was 27.7. He alone has been more than half as valuable as all the outfielders over a decade. Bleak!

I might be beating a dead horse here, but what do you think of PETA's suggestion to rename the Bullpen the Arm Barn? —from C. Funsters

Was this proposal ridiculous? Of course. Do I kind of love it and hope that “arm barn” finds a way into regular usage? Completely.

If you could ban one crossword answer forever, it would be: a) AROD, b) ALOU, c) OTT —from Sam Ezersky (who has some puzzle experience)

The important stuff! After mentioning "AROD" in the crossword as part of last week’s newsletter, here we have two of the other most common baseball clues … yet I must go not with any of these popular choices, but with “RBI,” which is typically the answer to something like “diamond stat.” It’s 2021! I think we can move on to “OBP” or “OPS.”

That’s all from us today. We’ll be back in your inbox in two weeks. In the meantime, share this newsletter with your friends and family, and tell them to sign up at SI.com/newsletters. If you have any questions or comments, shoot us an email at mlb@si.com. We'd like to wish all of you a Merry Christmas and a safe and Happy Holidays, and we'll see you back here once more before the new year.