ABOVE PHOTO: Jimmy Rollins
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Thanks to a three-year, $33 million dollar deal, Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins will be in the only baseball home he’s ever known for just a little while longer.
By Chris Murray
For the Sunday Sun
Ten years ago, the three biggest names in Philadelphia Sports were Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, Sixers superstar guard Allen Iverson, and Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins.
Of those three, only Rollins was able to bring to the city the one thing it had always wanted: another championship. By the time that Rollins and the Phillies led the World Series Parade down Broad Street in 2008, Rollins had emerged as a sports figure more popular in this town than McNabb and Iverson were in their Philly sports heydays.
From telling the world that the Phillies were the team to beat in 2007, a boast he backed up with an MVP season, to helping the team become playoff perennials, Rollins has been a team leader in the truest sense.
So when Rollins inked a three-year, $33 million deal with an option for a fourth year on Tuesday, many in the City of Brotherly Love heaved a sigh of relief that unlike McNabb and Iverson, Rollins will probably finish his career in the only uniform he’s ever worn: the red and white pinstripes of the Phillies.
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. made it clear throughout the off-season that keeping Rollins in the Phillies family was the organization’s top priority because what he brings to the team both on and off the field is hard to replace, he said.
“I think the biggest thing that Jimmy does is that he brings kind of calming influence to our group,” Amaro said. “He’s always been a high energy guy, but I think he’s brought more of a calming influence to our club because there’s a quiet confidence about Jimmy that is sometimes not as quiet. But I think that influence that he has helps a lot.”
Rollins said coming back to the Phillies was simply a good fit for him and that he likes being a part of a team that has been a perennial contender for the last five years. In other words, winning is more important than the money.
“From the first day I got here in the big leagues, it was about making this team a contender and eventually a champion and those things have been accomplished,” Rollins said. “Obviously, when the money on the table and its guaranteed it’s tempting, but you think of everything else you’ve done and what you’re able to do going forward and where it would make sense to do those things and for me it was here.”
Last season, Rollins had a solid year for the Phillies batting .268 with 63 runs batted in, 30 stolen bases and 87 runs scored. He also had a .998 fielding percentage and committed just seven errors in 138 games. In the 2011 National League Division Series, Rollins batted .450 (9-for-20) and scored six runs for a Phillies offense that had trouble putting together runs and hits against the eventual World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals.
“I’m glad he’s with us. I think he’s got a lot to give us still and I’m looking forward to having Charlie Manuel pencil him into the starting for a long time,” Amaro said.
Throughout last season, there were times that Rollins wasn’t hitting at the lead-off spot for the Phillies, which had mixed results. Rollins said he expects to be hitting in the top spot in the Phils starting lineup for the rest of his time in Philadelphia.
“Over the course of this contract as long as I am able to steal bases and have an impact on the game and change the way the pitcher delivers the ball to the plate, I’ll be at the top,” Rollins said.
Rollins hopes to finish out the remainder of his career with the Phillies. He will be 37 at the end of his contract. But he also realizes that the day is going to come when his skills are going to erode and the organization will have to bring up the next hot prospect.
“When it’s time to make a move, they’ll do what’s necessary, “Rollins said. “You can’t play forever. I’ve seen Joe Montana switch teams, I’ve seen Jerry Rice switch teams and you know how great they were. It wouldn’t mean they didn’t love me anymore, it would mean that it was time to move on.”
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