Examining The Hall Of Fame Case For Jimmy Rollins

I did an article a few months back discussing the very solid Hall of Fame case for Cole Hamels. Hamels has had a very long, highly consistent career and is closing in on some surefire Hall of Fame milestones, including 3,000 strikeouts. Of all the members of the 08′ squad, Hamels has the best chance at Cooperstown. That said, there is certainly a case for both Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley.

Utley’s path is much less straightforward given the amount of time he spent on the disabled list over his career. Utley’s career numbers fall well short, but his peak truly was something to behold. If he gets in, I think it will be via the Veterans Committee.

As for Jimmy Rollins, his career numbers are certainly better than Utley’s since he largely stayed healthy. J Roll’s numbers still may not leap off the page in the national sense, but his standing as one of the best players to play for one of the league’s oldest clubs is certainly worth mentioning. Drafted in the second round of the 1996 MLB Draft, Jimmy Rollins spent 15 seasons with the Phillies from 2000-2014. Whether he makes the Hall of Fame cut remains to be seen, but there is certainly a case to be evaluated. Let’s get into it.

Rollins is the all-time hit leader in Philly

As eluded to before, one of the big things that will work in J Roll’s favor is his legendary status in Philly. Rollins of course surpassed Mike Schmidt to become the team’s all time hit leader in 2014, his final season in Philly before being traded to LA in a deal that netted Zach Eflin. All told, Rollins recorded 2,306 hits with the Phillies and will likely remain the hit king for quite some time.

He is also first in doubles with 479, second in games played with 2,090, second in stolen bases with 453, third in runs scored with 1,325, eighth in RBI’s with 887 and ninth in home-runs with 216. As for the postseason, J-Roll is tied with Shane Victorino for the most hits with 47, has the most steals with 11, and is also tied for the lead in games played with 46.

Rollins was also a crucial team leader while the team was coming up and during the World Series run. Without Rollins (or any of the core), the team would still likely only have one World Series. The fact that Rollins was such a key leader during the franchise’s best run in history will likely help his Hall of Fame case when all is said and done, as will his postseason work overall.

Rollins has similar career numbers to Barry Larkin, who is in the Hall of Fame

The most commonly cited player when it comes to the Hall of Fame chances of Jimmy Rollins is Barry Larkin. Rollins has more hits, home-runs, runs scored and more steals. Career offensive numbers are quite comparable, but there are some notable discrepancies.

For one, Barry Larkin won 9 Silver Sluggers at shortstop to J Roll’s one. Larkin was also selected to 12 All Star games where as Rollins was selected to four. Rollins does have a slight edge in Gold Gloves won, however, with four to Larkin’s three. So in terms of overall career accolades, Larkin certainly has Rollins beat. Larkin also has more RBI’s, a higher OBP and a higher slugging percentage. There is also quite a large gap in career WAR, with Larkin having compiled 70.4 lifetime to J Roll’s 46.3.

So when analyzing the comparison between Larkin and Rollins from a more in depth perspective, it’s hard to say their career numbers are identical, but they also aren’t far off. Larkin is still as good a baseline as any when talking about Jimmy Rollins and the Hall of Fame. He wasn’t first ballot, but he made it. The case will be very similar for Rollins if he gets in.

He won the 2007 MVP

The most important accolade Rollins has on his resume is of course the 2007 MVP award. 2007 was far and away Jimmy’s best season statistically, a campaign in which he slashed .296/.344/.531, led the league in runs scored, stole 41 bases and hit a career high 30 home runs. J Roll became the first player in MLB history to record 200 hits, 20 triples, 30 home runs, and 30 stolen bases in a season. Rollins was also instrumental in the team’s late season playoff run, famously labeling the Phillies as “the team to beat” prior to the season.

An MVP award is something that could make up for where J Roll’s lifetime numbers and other achievements fall short. Though there are many who argue that Matt Holliday was a more deserving candidate in 2007, Rollins still had an MVP caliber season and the record books acknowledge him, not Holliday. If Rollins gets in, his MVP award will be a huge factor.

Rollins is active in MLB media, is well respected across the sport

Finally, it is important to view Jimmy Rollins the person when considering his hall chances. As I said with regards to Cole Hamels, Hall of Fame voting is still a political process that requires a human element. We’ve seen players unpopular with the writers such as Roberto Alomar have to wait a long time to get enshrined and in some cases, such as Curt Schilling, the question is still looming. Jimmy Rollins will not have to worry about any of these issues.

Throughout his career, he was seen as an upstanding leader and role model in the league. This was certainly true during 11’s time with the Phillies and it continued during his time with the Dodgers. This has only continued after his career. Rollins has been featured on postseason panels and has recently done some color commentary with the Phillies.

Maybe it shouldn’t matter, but the fact is that Rollins remaining active with baseball – especially in a media capacity – can only help his chances. I mean, does it hurt to be friendly with the people who are eventually going to be making these decisions? It certainly doesn’t. Rollins is also lucky enough to have played in two enormous sports markets in Philly and LA. When it comes to decision time, the human element of the process can only help Jimmy Rollins. It sure seemed to help Harold Baines.

In conclusion

It’s honestly incredibly hard to say whether or not Jimmy Rollins will receive a plaque in the Hall of Fame. If there was ever a borderline candidate, J Roll fits that mold.

One of the main things working against Rollins is the fact that he was never truly the most dominant shortstop of his era. He was often overshadowed by Derek Jeter, Troy Tulowitzki and Hanley Ramirez at points in his career. Typically Hall of Famers are players who were far and away the best at their position for a period of time and it’s tough to label a 3-5 year stretch where that was the case for J Roll. However, he was always right there and had a consistent career throughout the 2000’s.

Ultimately, it’s hard not to say Rollins was an all decade caliber player. He may not get in at first, but with multiple routes such as the Veterans Committee, I don’t think it’s out of the question to say that Rollins will eventually find his way in.

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