Jimmy Rollins was good at was baseball: hitting it, fielding it, running away from it, all the various components of the sport for which he was awarded the NL MVP as well as various all-star berths.
But while he was good at that, he was also good at talking to people, laughing with people, making them fill at ease or glad he was around, even if he was on base as a member of the opposing team.
TBS recognized this when they brought him on to be a post season commentator, and now the Phillies have as well, announcing today instead of a Bryce Harper signing that they have hired Rollins as a “special advisor” with
duties on both the baseball and business sides of the Phillies’ operation, including Spring Training coaching, meeting with sponsors and suite holders, fan engagement and community outreach.
I had basically assumed Jimmy Rollins was already doing something exactly like this, so it makes sense for him to be paid for doing so by the franchise he helped define in its last era of success. Imagine being some doe-eyed sponsor or upper class dandy, walking into a suite, and seeing Rollins’ sparkling smile waiting for you, champagne in hand; or perhaps he’s high-fiving kids outside an elementary school while the Phanatic thrusts enthusiastically. Either way, even at the post-playing part of his career, it’s clear the move with Rollins is what it’s always been: Get him off the bench.
This news brought with it a predictable wave of smiling and nodding from fans who have watched Rollins since he was a rookie and been utterly beguiled as he’s oozed natural charisma through their televisions for a decade. It also brought with it a far less seen, but all too predictable, mutter of negativity centered on the aspect of Rollins’ reputation that he is somehow lazy for not running out pop-outs while he was with the Phillies, which was five years ago.
Look, this doesn’t need to be addressed, but since we’re not talking about a Harper signing, I’ve got a little backed up energy to waste, so let’s go ahead and do so: If you do not like Jimmy Rollins, then you are either a Mets fan, or dumb, or both. Rollins not running out his pop-ups, a concept so cliche and boring that if it’s managed to hang around in your head this long then you’ve just decided to not like him forever and nothing is going to change your mind, was completely undone when he achieved any of his historic milestones such as, say, becoming the Phillies franchise leader in hits, something you can’t do without hustling for many years.
If only he’d run out his pop-ups, he’d have two or three more hits to add to his tally! Yes, Charlie Manuel benched him for exactly that reason, but why don’t you go ahead and ask Charlie Manuel what he thinks of Jimmy Rollins and see if the pop-ups come up once; see if it being an occasional issue throughout his career is a reason Manuel wouldn’t let him come through to serve as an example for young Phillies players.
How easy is it to imagine Manuel trashing his all-star shortstop like this:
“You know, Jimmy was a fierce competitor and beloved by all he met, but the thing I will remember most about him is when we were celebrating our World Series win and, with tears in his eyes, he turned to me and said, ‘We did it, Skip. We won the World Series, together.’ And I said, ‘Get your ass back on the bench, you idiot coward. The celebratory dog pile is for players who hustle on every play, because not doing so means they are patient zero of an infectious baseball-killing disease.’”
Anybody still chastising Rollins now has most certainly spent entire days of their life being more slothful and lazy than Rollins ever was when he jogged to first base. The only bad thing about the Phillies bringing him back into the organization in an official capacity is that they hadn’t done so until now.