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Friday, April 16, 2021

J-Roll's Departure Necessary for Failing Franchise

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Kevin Noonan
Kevin Noonan
Kevin Noonan has covered and commented on the Delaware sports scene for more than 30 years, everything from amateur recreation leagues and high schools to local colleges and the Philadelphia professional teams. He’s been voted Delaware Sportswriter of the Year multiple times and currently covers the Philadelphia Eagles for CBSSports.com and teaches creative writing courses at Wilmington University.

The rebuilding process has officially begun and that’s good news, even if it did start a couple of years too late. And now Jimmy Rollins, the spark that lit the fire that warmed Phillies fans for so many years, will be able to go out a winner, something that would never have happened if he had stayed with the Phils, who are going to be bad for a long time to come.

Finally, the Phillies mean business. The man who was the real heart and soul of the Phils is gone, and we can only hope others will follow, even though we acknowledge that this is a sad, albeit inevitable, time in franchise history.

It’s still hard to imagine Rollins wearing Dodgers blue instead of Phillies red, but it’s the best thing that’s happened to this franchise in a while, simply because it shows that Phillies management is finally serious about turning things around. The last couple of years, they fooled themselves into thinking that their core players – Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard – would magically become the players they once were, even though all the evidence indicated otherwise.

Rollins, of course, leaves behind an amazing legacy and he’s one of three players who can rightfully claim to be Mr. Phillies, along with Richie Ashburn and Mike Schmidt. Rollins ends his Phillies career as their all-time leader in hits, at-bats, doubles and stolen bases and second all-time in games played, extra-base hits, triples and total bases.

Throw in three All-Star appearances, four Gold Gloves, a National League MVP award and a World Series ring, and Rollins has one of the best resumes in team history, even if it’s not quite Hall of Fame material. And even though, at 36, Rollins isn’t the player he used to be offensively, he’s still one of the top defensive shortstops in baseball and he’ll be a perfect fit for the Dodgers, who don’t need him to be the dynamic player of the past.

And the Dodgers don’t need him to lead off, a role Rollins played for most of his career with the Phillies even though he didn’t walk enough or hit enough ground balls or simply wasn’t patient enough at the plate to satisfy purists, who want their lead-off hitter to set the table, not clear it. In his prime, Rollins made up for that with his extra-base power, but his bat doesn’t have the consistent sting that it used to, so he can bat anywhere in the Dodgers’ potent lineup and he won’t be expected to be the catalyst that he was in Philadelphia.

As for the Phillies and their Rollins-less future, slick-fielding Freddy Galvis will finally be the everyday shortstop, at least until prize prospect J.P. Crawford is ready. Crawford will probably start the 2015 season at Double-A Reading and Galvis will get every opportunity to show that he has a big-league bat to go with his major-league glove. And that will be one of the few things that will be interesting about the Phillies over the next few seasons (at least) — watching young players grow and develop. That won’t help the Phillies’ shrinking attendance, but at least the team’s management is finally being honest and letting people know that, yeah, we’re going to have to take some steps backward before we can more forward again.

How many steps backward remains to be seen and for Phillies fans it’s now just a matter of sitting back and seeing what happens next. Rollins was the first domino to fall and we can only hope that Ryan Howard is next, and then – who knows? If Jimmy Rollins can be traded then anybody can, and now it’s just a matter of time before there’s nobody left.

And then, sometime in the future, they’ll all get together again at a reunion, perhaps for an anniversary of their magical World Series journey. Then we can all remember what it was and not what it became.

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