Fueled by the fact that Jimmy Rollins is about to set the Philadelphia Phillies record for career hits, local sports talk show hosts have been bandying about the notion that Rollins should eventually be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. At first these hosts sound incredulous, but the more they consider it, the more reasonable it sounds. When callers and hosts at sports talk stations start discussing whether or not you are a Baseball Hall of Famer, then you know your candidacy has reached the serious stage.
Philadelphia Phillies hits leader
This season Rollins has passed Ed Delahanty and Richie Ashburn to move into second place on the all-time Phillies hit list. He trails only Mike Schmidt and, barring injury, should pass him over the next couple weeks. Schmidt set the mark in 1989, when he was 39 years old and only weeks away from retirement. Rollins is 35 and having a career revival season so far in 2014. Schmidt, Ashburn and Delahanty are all Hall of Famers, and Schmidt thinks Rollins should receive strong consideration for the honor as well.
“Barry Larkin’s election to the Hall of Fame opened up a lot of opportunity for other shortstops,” Schmidt said, according to philly.com. “Numbers don’t lie, and if you stack Jimmy Rollins next to Barry Larkin, they’re very, very similar, so why wouldn’t you consider Jimmy Rollins a Hall of Fame candidate?”
Excellent defensive shortstop
Rollins plays a middle-infield position where defensive prowess is as valued as offensive production. He has won four Gold Glove awards and is considered one of the best defensive shortstops of his era. It can be argued that only Omar Vizquel was a better glove man at shortstop over the last 15 years. Entering 2014, Rollins had a lifetime .983 fielding percentage and that compares favorably to Ozzie Smith, the “Wizard of Oz” who had a career fielding percentage of .978.
As Jimmy Rollins goes so go the Phillies
Rollins became such a catalyst at the top of the Phillies batting order that people in the Delaware Valley started saying that as Jimmy goes so go the Phillies. In many ways that was true. He was the sparkplug of a team that won five straight division crowns from 2007-11, two pennants and the 2008 World Series. When he was hitting and stealing bases the Phillies seemed to win and when he was slumping the Phillies seemed to lose. A three-time All-Star, Rollins earned MVP and Silver Slugger awards in 2007. If J-Roll remains healthy and plays another three or four years as an everyday shortstop, he is projected to conclude his career with over 2,500 hits, 500 stolen bases and 250 homers.
Cooperstown shortstop debate
Of the recent shortstops Derek Jeter is obviously a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Vizquel also should make the Hall. Alex Rodriguez is no longer considered because of PED issues. Nomar Garciaparra probably will fall short. Cal Ripken Jr. and Smith were clear Baseball Hall of Famers and Larkin squeaked in during a year when there were no overwhelming candidates to siphon votes away from him. Certainly Rollins’ credentials are as strong as Larkin’s. Compared to Larkin, Rollins has more home runs (205 to 198), stolen bases (431 to 379), doubles (464 to 441) and triples (109 to 76) in 185 fewer career games as of May 23. With 2,219 hits, Rollins is also likely to surpass Larkin’s 2,340 career hits. Larkin had a much higher batting average, .295 to Rollins .269. However, Larkin never led his league in any offensive category, whereas Rollins has led the National League in triples four times, and runs and stolen bases once each. When it comes to durability, Rollins led the NL in plate appearances three times and at bats four times.
It’s not easy to make the Hall of Fame. Just ask a worthy shortstop candidate like Alan Trammell. But Rollins is approaching the point where he has such strong qualifications that he should at least remain on the Hall of Fame ballot for the full 15 years of eligibility if he isn’t voted in before that.