We Philadelphia fans have a long history of getting attached to players, only to see them go. It happens so often, I can't even grieve about it anymore. In the past decade, we have seen the departure of the following Philadelphia Sports Heroes: Allen Iverson, Simon Gagne, Brian Westbrook, Brian Dawkins, David Akers, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Donovan McNabb, Jeremiah Trotter and Pat Burrell (and to a lesser extent - Brett Myers and J.A. Happ). It also appears we will be losing Andre Iguodala, if the NBA ever ends its lockout. And even though some of the above mentioned players came back, it was never the same. In the era of free agency, it is not uncommon to see players come and go and our attachments and sentiments change. But if you're like me, you always have a special place in your heart for the homegrown talent. I get attached to our draft picks, because we see them develop and we form bonds with them. And when they leave, via trade or free agency, it hurts. I was a wreck when the Sixers traded Iverson. I was a wreck when the Flyers traded Gagne. I was a wreck when Dawkins signed with the Broncos. And if Rollins is let go, I will be inconsolable.
I am focusing more on Rollins because the likelihood of Hamels being dealt is slim and he still has a year of arbitration remaining. Rollins, however, does not. Say what you will about his declining offensive numbers, he is still our best option at SS. His fielding is still on par with the rest of the top-tier SS in the league, his hitting, while declining, is still good enough to justify his spot in the lineup and his speed is still second to only Victorino (and maybe Martinez) in the roster. But he is so much more than that. He is our vocal leader. He is the longest tenured Phillie. And he loves it in Philadelphia. We know he does. He criticizes the fans and we still love him, because he gives everything he has when he is on the field. He is currently the longest tenured Philadelphia athlete. And to hear RAJ talk about him, you'd think he was just a role player. This is my concern, dude. RAJ needs to know the importance of Rollins in Philadelphia. Not just to the Phillies, but to every Philadelphia team. He is beloved by us fans. He is beloved by his peers. He is beloved by hi coaches. And if he leaves, the heart of the Phillies goes with him. And a piece of every Philadelphian's heart goes with him.
I'm not just writing this piece because Rollins is my favorite player, and has been ever since 2001 when he stole 46 bases and the hearts of us Phans. And it isn't because he stuck with the Phillies despite the constant 2nd place finishes. If you'll notice, the season Rollins first came to the big leagues(2001) was the first year the Phillies had a winning record since 1993. And I don't think anyone can question he had a big role in that transition. And he continues to play a big role in every Phillies season, despite the injuries. He is still clutch. He is still fast. He is still a great fielder and good hitter. And he is still the leader, the voice, and the heart of this team. And he will be until the day he leaves. Please, RAJ, don't let that happen.