If you follow the Philadelphia Phillies, it goes without saying that shortstop Jimmy Rollins has had a roller coaster year. If he isn't climbing the historical ladder of the Phillies' record books, he's being ostracized for his occasional lack of alacrity when it comes to running out balls. If he isn't being lauded for his run producing numbers out of the shortstop position, a position devoid of many players with pop, he's being castigated by the fan base for his boundless pop-up totals.
The praise is fair. The admonishment is as well.
Tuesday night in Cincinnati, Rollins collected his 2,000th hit in the Phils' 2-1 loss to the Reds. The irony of the hit comes in the fact that he beat the ball hard into the ground and chopped it down the right field line for a double. He reached the milestone by doing the exact thing he's is often brow beaten for not doing.
Rollins' prowess as a lead off hitter often comes into question. He'll work an occasional count, but he's a first ball fastball hitter and he's never tried to pretend that he wasn't. He idolizes Ricky Henderson, perhaps the consummate lead off man, but doesn't pattern his game after him, which drives purists and folks who read newspapers for their baseball knowledge crazy.
No matter your opinion of Rollins, who is quickly becoming the town's next Donovan McNabb in terms of polarizing sports figures, there's no denying that as he nears his mid-30s, he's launching an assault on the Phillies franchise record books.
Rollins is fourth on the Phillies' all-time hit list, trailing only Hall of Famers Mike Schmidt, Richie Ashburn and Ed Delahanty. Barring injury or trade, Rollins will blow by Schmidt's 2,234 hits to take the franchise lead sometime in 2014.
At 33, he's second in franchise history with 420 doubles and will more than likely take that franchise record from Delahanty next season. He's currently 11th in home runs and will likely jump easily to seventh before the end of next year. He's 4th in triples with 105, two away from taking over 3rd. He's 7th in striking out. Too much for a lead off hitter, right? He's also 8th in walks, four away from 7th. Better?
When Rollins steals two more bases, he'll become the 11th player in major league history with more than 2,000 hits, 150 home runs and 400 stolen bases. He will join a list of players that includes: Barry Bonds, Ricky Henderson, Tim Raines, Joe Morgan, Cesar Cedeno, Paul Molitor, Roberto Alomar, Marquis Grissom, Craig Biggio and Johnny Damon. Most of those players have a plaque in Cooperstown. Don't freak, I'm not saying that for Rollins. He would need to play five more seasons at minimally the level he is playing now to get serious consideration. But don't discount his merits as a shortstop if he is able to do that, because Cooperstown will factor it in.
There's no excuse for Rollins not running everything out, no matter how many other major leaguers do the same thing. There's no excuse for 60 pop-ups in a season, whether he's hitting first or 8th. But you have to acknowledge the good with the bad, and Rollins is cementing his place in Philadelphia baseball lore with every knock.
Pete Lieber is a freelance writer and a Philadelphia sports enthusiast. Follow him on Twitter at @Lieber14.
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