By Chris Murray
For the Sunday Sun
Back in 2007 when Jimmy Rollins made the bold declaration that the Phillies were the team to beat, his words raised eyebrows and angered New York Mets fans.
As it turned out, Rollins was more than a little right.
For the last four years, the Phillies have ruled the National League, winning four straight NL East titles,titles two National League pennants and one World Series title.
And just for good measure, Rollins won a National League Most Valuable Player Award and three Gold Gloves along the way.
While the team has fed off his confidence over the years, Rollins himself has his own share of struggles on the field this season. He missed a career-high 74 games during the regular season because of injuries to his right calf and hamstring.
Not only is he coming off a regular-season in which he has career lows in batting average, runs batted in, stolen bases and runs scored, Rollins was moved from his traditional lead off spot in the Phillies lineup down to the sixth position. Rollins was batting .182 in the postseason coming into Game 5 of the 2010 National League Championship Series against the San Francisco Giants.
Even in the face of his regular season and postseason struggles, Rollins still has his swagger. In the Phillies Game 1 loss, Rollins was 0-for-4 and struck out three times. At that point, he was 1-for -15 in the postseason. When he met with a large throng of reporters after the game, Rollins wasn’t down on himself and wasn’t fazed by the events earlier in the evening.
A reporter then asked Rollins if he had lost his confidence. He calmly and with little emotion answered the question: “Confidence is unshakable. If you lose that, you don’t have a chance. Just execute. That’s the part that becomes difficult, but after the game I looked at some footage. I see what I’m doing, but now it’s just a matter of feeling it. When you feel it, you can make those corrections.”
The next night in Game 2 at Citizen’s Bank Park, the unflappable Rollins finally came through for his team in a big situation. With his team clinging to a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the seven, Rollins smacked a three-run double off the top of the right field fence to seal the game and even the series for the Phillies. The home crowd, in a frenzy, chanted: “J-Roll!”
Said first baseman Ryan Howard of Rollins confidence: “He knows how talented he is, he knows that this is a part of the game,” Howard said. “You have to take the good with the bad. When you’re in a slump, you’re bound to come out and when you come out, you just run with it.”
Rollins said the key for him is to maintain his swagger no matter how difficult or frustrating his situation. In the bottom of the seventh inning of the Game 4 with his team trailing by a run, Rollins booted a routine grounder that should have led to an inning-ending double play.
But when the next batter hit a ground ball to Utley, Rollins made up for his miscue by being the relay man on the double play, throwing on the ball on target to get the Phillies out of a jam while allowing them to tie the game in the next inning. No problem.
“Well, I’ve been the same for the last 10 years, and if you cover me every day, you know, you understand where I’m coming from,” Rollins said. “You figure out things. You solve problems. Sometimes there’s going to be confusion. But once you lose the confidence you’re not going to have a chance to play at this level.
“God gave me this talent, and I’m going to do something with it. That’s just the way it is. You lose confidence in that, like I said, you’ll be going home and I don’t plan on doing that anytime soon.”