Later this week, Jimmy Rollins is likely to surpass Mike Schmidt as the all-time hits leader in the long history of the Phillies’ franchise. J-Roll’s 2,230 career hits are just four shy of Schmidt’s 2,234.
That J-Roll may best Schmidt’s mark during the last-place Phils’ six-game homestand — in the formerly always sold-out Citizens Bank Park now often half-filled with grumpy Philadelphia fans he once called front-runners — brings his career full circle. The cocksure shortstop’s tenure with the team dates back to 2000, when the Phils finished tied with the Cubs for the worst record in baseball, and includes five straight National League East titles and a 2008 World Series championship.
Reports from 1996 show some scouts were skeptical of Rollins’ ability to stick at shortstop in the big leagues:
White Sox scout Joe Butler had the following observations of Rollins when he scouted the shortstop as a high school senior at Encinal H.S. in Almeda, Calif. in March of 1996 (see full report below).
• “Short, Well Prop Legs. Big Rear…Muscular Calfs.”
• “Short Arm Act…Lacks Pwr.”
• “Signed w/ASU, Full Ride. Dad Has Stated That Education Plus Money Will Get It Done.”
• “Must Move To 2B.”
ChiSox scout Ed Pebley saw Rollins a month after Butler and chimed in (see full report below):
• “Avg To Little Better Runner”
• “Think’s He Has Some Power. Small Guy But Has Some Strength, No Ray Durham.”
• “Arm Is Going To Be Fringe From SS.”
• “Chad Fonville Type Player”
Rollins has won four Gold Gloves at shortstop. He has 207 career homers in 8,312 at-bats. Ray Durham, who has better career stats than you might remember, finished with 192 HR and 2,054 hits in 7,408 at-bats.
And Chad Fonville? Well, other than being similar to Rollins’ height (5’6″ to 5’8″), the former Expo, Dodger, White Sox and Red Sox player was, um, no Jimmy Rollins.
Rollins probably needs to keep hitting — all the way to the magical 3,000 mark — to get enshrined in Cooperstown. He could wave his no-trade clause and find his way out of Philly, but he’s just 176 plate appearances short of having his $11 million option for 2015 become vested (provided he’s not on the DL at the end of this season).
Few athletes have handled Philadelphia sports fans’ fickle nature as well as Rollins has during his career. The diminutive shortstop is likely to graciously welcome their cheers for setting the hits record as well as he’ll deal with their boos at the aging ballclub’s frustrating play the rest of this season.