Welcome Home, Jimmy Rollins!


After welcoming some of the all-time Phillies greats back for Alumni Weekend, highlighted by the celebration in honor of former slugger Pat Burrell‘s enshrinement on the Phillies Wall of Fame, the Phils now welcome back their franchise all-time Hits leader, Jimmy Rollins, as the team begins a three-game set with the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday at Citizens Bank Park.

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“JRoll” played 2,090 games with the Phillies from 2000 to 2014 after being drafted by the team in the 2nd round of the 1996 MLB Amateur Draft out of Encinal High School in Alameda, Calif.

Making his MLB debut at the age of 21, Rollins had a stellar career in red pinstripes, some will eventually argue that it may be a Hall of Fame career. He earned three NL All-Star selections, four Gold Glove Awards, a Silver Slugger, and was the 2007 National League Most Valuable Player.

Traded by the Phillies last offseason in the twilight of his career for minor league pitchers Zach Eflin and Tom Windle, Rollins left the franchise near the top in nearly every offensive statistical category.

Rollins ranks 3rd in franchise history in Runs (1325) and Triples (111), and is 2nd in Steals (453) and Games played (2090). Last June, Rollins became the Phillies’ all-time Hits leader by passing Mike Schmidt, and finished his Phillies career with 2,306 hits.

For all the impressive accomplishments that Rollins produced on the field, it was incidents off the field, both good and bad, that often took up the headlines both locally and nationally.

Representative of the bad, Rollins called out the team’s fans on a few occasions, even going so far as to call them “front-runners” during the 2008 season. On the good side, Rollins famously proclaimed the Phillies as the “team to beat” in the NL East before the 2007 season.

The recognized leader of the team, JRoll would back his public pronouncement up during that MVP season. He sparked the team to rally from 7 games back in the division with 17 games to play to beat out the New York Mets and take the division crown on the final day of the season.

He’s done a lot of positive things in this city and helped bring this city a championship.” ~ Howard, on Rollins

While the team was ousted in the 2007 NLDS by the Colorado Rockies, Rollins and company came back in what was a magical 2008 season, as the Phillies beat the Tampa Bay Rays in the World Series for just the 2nd championship in the 125-year history of the franchise to that point. The title was a defining moment for Rollins and the core of homegrown talent which included Burrell, Carlos Ruiz, Ryan Madson, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Brett Myers, and Cole Hamels.

Rollins best moment with the Fightins’ may have come during the 2009 postseason in a backs-to-the-wall situation. Trailing 4-3 with two on and two outs in the bottom of the 9th inning in Game 4 of the NLCS, Rollins drove a fastball from Dodgers’ closer Jonathan Broxton into the right-center field gap, scoring Eric Bruntlett and Carlos Ruiz to give the Phils a walk-off 5-4 win. The team went on to take the series in Game 5 and clinched their second consecutive World Series appearance.

A closer look at Rollins’ stats shows just how valuable he was for the organization for a decade and a half. He led the National league in Triples four times and smacked double-digit home runs in 11 of his 15 Phillies seasons, impressive for a 5’7’’, 175-pound shortstop.

He also swiped 30 or more bags in 10 seasons, including a career-best 47 in 2008. Defensively, the slick-fielding shortstop posted a fielding percentage of .980 or higher in all but four seasons. In his prime, Rollins brought a rare power-speed-defense combo to the Phils’ lineup day in and day out.

When the Phillies traded Rollins last December, they were kicking off a public rebuilding effort. His trade helped replenish a depleted farm system by moving an aging veteran who wasn’t a part of the team’s future.

With shortstop prospect J.P. Crawford just a couple of seasons away from making an impact at the big league level, and the club wanting to give Freddy Galvis a chance to prove himself, they were able to get a pair of arms for the farm for Rollins. Meanwhile, JRoll himself would get an opportunity to win another World Series with a strong Dodgers club.

As he now returns to the city he called home for so many years, Rollins enters this series in the midst of a career-worst season. The 36-year-old is currently batting for just a .216 average. And while he has 11 home runs, Rollins also owns a .272 OBP. As a result, Rollins has only stolen 8 bases. He has been caught stealing almost as many (7) times.

His disappointing season has led to much criticism by Dodger fans, many of whom are pleading with Dodgers management to promote one of baseball’s top prospects, shortstop Corey Seager, who is currently hitting .276 with nine home runs and 38 RBIs in AAA ball.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly has continued to stick with Rollins, and the 16-year veteran has picked up his game recently. Rollins comes back to Philly having gone 8 for 26 (.308) in his last seven games, including a pair of home runs. He also has a .357 OBP during this span.

One part of his game that hasn’t declined this season is his usually stellar and sometimes spectacular defense. J-Roll ranks eighth among MLB shortstops with a .979 fielding percentage, and has committed the 8th fewest errors in baseball.

Rollins will attempt to continue his recent hot streak as he faces Jerome Williams on Tuesday, and then Aaron Harang and David Buchanan in the three game series. In a 4-game series between the teams at Dodgers Stadium last month, Rollins had five hits in 15 at-bats, including a home run. He also scored four runs and drove in five runs.

Rollins should be greeted with a nice ovation when his name is announced by Dan Baker as he steps to the plate Tuesday. At age 36 and with Seager likely taking over the shortstop position next year, Rollins is approaching the end of what could be a Hall of Fame career.

Hall of Famer and former Reds shortstop Barry Larkin believes Rollins is undoubtedly headed for Cooperstown, as he told John Gonzalez of CSNPhilly.com’s The700Level Show.

Hall of Fame shortstop? Absolutely, look at his numbers. His numbers are better than mine,” Larkin said. “Jimmy Rollins is a beast and people appreciate him. I’m sure people in Philadelphia appreciate him even more now that he’s not there, his ability. Jimmy Rollins is a great guy, great player, tremendous competitor, great numbers. He was the first to do a lot of stuff in the game.

With Burrell being honored this past weekend as the Phillies Wall of Fame inductee, the return of Rollins gives Phillies fans the chance to see another former Phillie who will without question also have his name on the wall in Ashburn Alley in the near future.

With the series beginning Tuesday night and Rollins likely leading off for the Dodgers, former teammate and Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard told Bill Evans of NJ.com that he believes Rollins will get a warm welcome from the Phillies’ faithful in his return.

It will be cool to see what kind of reception he gets when he comes back. I expect it will be good, I expect there will be a lot of cheers,” said Howard. “He’s done a lot of positive things in this city and helped bring this city a championship.”