That MVP year
Like everyone, I really liked Rollins when he first came up in 2000 and thought that his efforts during the Larry Bowa years were generally solid. The time that he has spent under Charlie Manuel, since he was hired in 2005, has been mixed. Clearly, every aging player isn't going to remain who he once was. But, desire isn't fully linked to someone's birth date.
Winning the 2007 National League Most Valuable Player Award and being part of the 2008 World Series team that beat the Tampa Bay Rays, represent the two gaudiest seasons of his career for both personal and group reasons. Since that championship year, he's played in 501 games, hit .252, produced a .718 OPS (on base plus slugging percentage) and has won one Gold Glove (2009).
Better than Bowa
Rollins was at his normal spot on the field against the Miami Marlins on Tuesday. He passed former mentor and manager Bowa as the all-time franchise leader in games played (1,731) at shortstop on that night. That accomplishment in both longevity and desire will be referenced again this season when Rollins gets another 19 hits, thereby reaching the 2,000 mark in that career category.
Rollins is statistically the best shortstop in franchise history, but elements within his 'J-'Roll' persona have helped to diminish his stature through the years.
What about J-Roll?
Rollins believes that he's a leadoff hitter because that's what the Phillies have primarily allowed him to be for the past 13 years.
Despite my admiration for what he accomplished in the past, I would not have re-signed him during the offseason. I also don't care how thin the free agent shortstop ranks were at that time, some type of new direction needed to be taken and wasn't. A guaranteed three-year $33 million contract (with a vesting option for 2015) didn't represent good business sense at the time and looks worse now.
Rollins refused to run hard after he hit a ground ball during Wednesday night's game in Miami. Similar incidents have caused him to be disciplined by Bowa and by Manuel in the past.
This still-solid defensive shortstop becomes a different person when he walks to the plate. Maybe that happens because the 33-year-old knows that his batting skills have only equaled his fielding prowess during a few seasons of his career. His immediate reaction to certain hitting 'failures' (as evidenced by not running out balls) seems to prove this common sense theory.
Many other players also face frustration in this part of their game, so no one is saying that Rollins is the only person to react as he does. What I'm asserting is that his actions have helped to affect the perception of the fan base by shifting focus from his strong career accomplishments. Despite flaws within their games, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard aren't thought of as behaving in an immature manner on the field.
While the Phillies and a variety of fans might have buyer's remorse, maybe Rollins believes that he shouldn't have re-signed with Philadelphia. Many more emotional demonstrations will need to be seen for that theory to be proven true.
Sean O'Brien's professional writing career began in 1990, when he first began working in the Philadelphia Phillies farm system. He was a freelance sports writer for five years and is currently a Featured Contributor for Yahoo! Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
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