Jimmy Rollins’ All-Time Phillies Hit Record Leaves Lasting Legacy, HOF Debate

June 14, 2014 by  
Filed under Fan News

Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins is now the all-time hit king in franchise history, surpassing Mike Schmidt with career hit No. 2,235 on Saturday afternoon against Cubs starter Edwin Jackson. After 15 years of borderline Hall of Fame-caliber play, the best shortstop in the history of Philadelphia now has the number to cement his legacy.

Since arriving to Veterans Stadium as a dynamic, athletic and switch-hitting force in 2000, Rollins has been a model of consistency and durability as the Phillies franchise transformed from laughing stock to National League powerhouse. Along the way, Rollins racked up gaudy numbers, but was overshadowed at times by teammates like Ryan Howard and Chase Utley.

Now, as the Phillies’ run of excellence has ended, Rollins is back to where he was when his sterling career began: a standout in a sea of poor baseball.

While stars like Utley and Cole Hamels still remind Philadelphia baseball fans of winning days, the roster isn’t good enough to compete. By next month, a roster purge could commence around the July 31 trade deadline.

Yet, in this moment, Rollins deserves the attention that has somehow eluded a player that will one day be enshrined in the Phillies Wall of Fame at Citizens Bank Park. Perhaps, a trip to another hall of fame will also one day commence.  

As Jayson Stark of ESPN dutifully described, Rollins’ Hall of Fame case isn’t buoyed by becoming the all-time hit leader in Phillies history, but another credential certainly doesn’t hurt. With unique statistics—such as the 400 SB/200 HR club—each marquee moment left in Rollins’ career doubles as another reason for Hall of Fame consideration.

Upon breaking the record held by the legendary Schmidt, Rollins vaulted atop the all-important hits category in franchise history. As you can see from the following chart, it’s not the only area in which he’s excelled and rewritten the record books over the past 15 seasons.

Schmidt, the gold standard for Philadelphia baseball players and possibly the best third baseman in the history of the sport, recently talked about Rollins’ career statistics and the idea of misinterpretation around a player with a batting average of just .268, per Bob Brookover of The Philadelphia Inquirer

“We were kidding in the clubhouse that we have the same career batting average,” Schmidt said. “I think a lot of teams would like to have Jimmy Rollins as their shortstop.” 

Schmidt may have been talking about the present, but his assertion could work across the annals of baseball history. Time will tell if Rollins’ career deserves legitimate Cooperstown conversation, but there’s little denying that a special shortstop has been in Philadelphia for a long, long time.

The following chart shows where Rollins ranks among the most prolific shortstops ever, but it’s almost more remarkable to think about some of the names he’s ahead of on those respective lists, per Baseball-Reference (subscription required). 

With more home runs than Barry Larkin or Alan Trammell, Rollins brought power to Philadelphia’s lineup. By scoring more runs than Ozzie Smith or Joe Cronin, Rollins consistently did his duty as a leadoff hitter. In the midst of swiping more bases than Derek Jeter or Omar Vizquel, Rollins added a different dynamic to the offense. 

Of course, unlike many of the great shortstops in history, Rollins played at a time where Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Nomar Garciaparra, Troy Tulowitzki and Hanley Ramirez excelled. Upon breaking into the league, Cal Ripken Jr.—then a third baseman—still loomed over the position.

Perhaps in a different era, Rollins would have been a big fish in a small pond. In recent memory, however, his offensive exploits became mundane to contemporary baseball fans accustomed to productive shortstops.

Rollins’ legacy—both in Philadelphia and around the sport—has been subdued. This franchise hit chase, however, has rightly cast a spotlight on a player that teammates admire for work ethic and consistency.  

After a recent start against the San Diego Padres, A.J. Burnett spoke about Rollins’ path to the record and why his teammate deserves credit.

“You have to feel good for Jimmy during this chase,” Burnett said. “He’s been an incredible player for years and deserves credit for taking care of his body, staying consistent with his approach and aging well. It’s not easy to keep hitting or pitching at a high level as the years creep up. I’ll tell you what, I love playing with him.”

Closer Jonathan Papelbon, upon racking up his 300th career save, talked about how easy it is for individual numbers to get lost in the shuffle when a team is struggling to win games.

“Sometimes stats, like my saves or his hits, can get overlooked when the team isn’t performing as well as everyone hoped, but he deserves his moment,” Papelbon said. “To pass Mike Schmidt is amazing. I love watching him play and playing alongside him. Jimmy is special.”

As the years go on, Papelbon’s quote could become a prescient view on Rollins. Since 2000, words like “talented” and “brash” have been used frequently to describe the three-time NL All-Star and 2007 NL MVP, but rarely are fans or columnists willing to use the word “special” to describe this rare talent.

Now, after years of piling up games, plate appearances and hits, Rollins sits alone atop the Phillies franchise hit list. In time, future generations will look at Rollins and Schmidt alongside each other as the most prolific hit men in franchise history.

Beyond that? Memories of a special player will commence and the Cooperstown debate will rage on.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.comFanGraphs and ESPN, unless otherwise noted. All contract figures courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts. Roster projections via MLB Depth Charts. Burnett and Papelbon quotes obtained firsthand.

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