When Jimmy Rollins came to the Phillies in 2000, the team was on its way to losing 97 games. It was the nadir of a long journey through the wilderness for the team. His arrival was one of many that would ultimately result in one of the longest sustained periods of success in franchise history, including the "Team To Beat" pronouncement that he backed up with an MVP season, a World Series win in 2008, a whipping of Broxton at the Bank, the division-clinching double play -- so many memories.
In the fall of 2000, no Phillies team had lost as many as games in one year since the 1972 Phillies. That team had a skinny young rookie named Mike Schmidt. He turned that team around, too. He had help. So did Rollins. But the parallels are remarkable. Two remarkably talented young infielders arrived at the end of nightmarish losing seasons, and long periods of success were kickstarted. In neither case was the process smooth. In neither case were the fans always supportive.
Today, Rollins passed him and joined him. Rollins and Schmidt are the unquestioned best-ever Phillies at their positions during the long history of the franchise. In the "best ever Phillies" rosters we all imagine and talk about, Jimmy Rollins will always play alongside Mike Schmidt, both of them in their primes, forever young.
When Mike Schmidt held up Rollins' hand at first base, two eras of Phillies baseball came together. They are two eras that I lived through. The first as a kid at the side of my grandmother, who loved the game and introduced me to it. The second I lived through as a parent with a son who I introduced to it. He remembers Rollins' double play in 2008 that sent the team to the playoffs much the same way I remember Schmidt's homer off Stan Bahnsen in 1980.
Someday, the stories he tells his children about Rollins will be the stories I told him about Mike Schmidt. The hits. The great plays. The wins. The talent. The men who out-earned every contract they ever signed. The fans who didn't always appreciate them.
There was a baseball game today, folks. Rollins could not have broken the record without the Phillies playing. Here's some stuff about it. The Phillies won. They usually do when Jimmy Rollins plays for them.