PHILADELPHIA — There are so many ways Jimmy Rollins can make his case for a bronze plaque in Cooperstown, N.Y.
It starts with his career connections to several Hall of Fame players. Cal Ripken Jr., Derek Jeter, Robin Yount, Miguel Tejada and Rollins are the only shortstops in baseball history (with a minimum of 51 percent of their career games at shortstop) with at least 2,000 hits and 200 home runs. Barry Bonds, Rickey Henderson, Joe Morgan, Paul Molitor, Roberto Alomar and Rollins are the only players in history with 200 homers, 2,000 hits and 450 stolen bases.
Rollins slashed .264/.324/.418 with 2,455 hits, 511 doubles, 115 triples, 231 home runs, 936 RBIs, 1,421 runs scored and 470 stolen bases in his 17-year career. He is the Phillies’ all-time hits leader. He won four Gold Gloves, one Silver Slugger and made three NL All-Star appearances. He helped the Phillies win the 2008 World Series, the 2009 National League pennant and five consecutive NL East titles from 2007-11. He kickstarted that run with his 2007 NL MVP campaign, one of the most iconic seasons in Phillies history.
You remember it. It started in January at a typically uneventful media luncheon at Citizens Bank Park.
Uneventful, until J-Roll spoke.
“I think we are the team to beat in the NL East. Finally,” he told reporters.
He added, “You look at the Mets’ staff. When I look at them, I’m like, ‘They’re getting older.’ We have the young guns. Everybody is in their prime.”
J-Roll’s words reached New York in minutes. The Mets, after all, won the 2006 NL East by 12 games over the Phillies.
The Phillies, meanwhile, hadn’t won anything since 1993.
But Rollins backed up his words. He batted .296 with 38 doubles, 20 triples, 30 home runs, 94 RBIs, 41 stolen bases, 212 hits and 139 runs scored. He started all 162 games in the regular season. He played every inning in 154 of them. He remains the only player in baseball history to have 200 hits, 15 triples, 25 home runs and 25 stolen bases in a season. He is one of only four shortstops to have 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases in a season, joining Barry Larkin (1996), Alex Rodriguez (1998) and Hanley Ramirez (2008). He is one of only four players to have 20 doubles, 20 triples, 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases in a season, joining Frank Schulte (1911), Willie Mays (1957) and Curtis Granderson (2007).
Rollins not only picked up the slack when Chase Utley broke his hand in late July and missed nearly a month, but he also handled the season-long pressures that came with his January comments. He got booed mercilessly every time he stepped to the plate in New York. He took heat in Philadelphia in April when the Phillies started 4-11.
But Rollins proved his mettle.
“That hit solidified his MVP,” Jayson Werth told The Philadelphia Inquirer in 2017. “I remember we were all like, ‘That’s it. That did it. He has to get it now.’”
“You know, Jimmy is one of those guys you wanted at the plate in crunch time,” Aaron Rowand said. “When he needed to get something done, he got it done. You talk about the great ones who played the game and were good in pressure situations. The game slows down for them.”
It was a historic season, capped by the MVP Award in November.
But Rollins’ comments in January made everything bigger, sweeter and more fun along the way.
It made 2007 unforgettable.
“If I say something, it’s because I believe in it,” Rollins said the night he won MVP. “I don’t try to say things to bring attention to myself or my team. If that’s the way I feel, I’m going to say it.”
Did he have any predictions for 2008?
“There’s going to be plenty of fireworks between us and the rest of the division,” he said. “It’s been like that for years. If you want anything more than that, I guess you’ll have to wait until January.”