PHILADELPHIA — Four aces and still a bust.
Armed with the best rotation in baseball, the Philadelphia Phillies watched their dream season end well short of a World Series with a 1-0 loss to Chris Carpenter and the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 5 of their NL playoff Friday night.
Roy Halladay did his part under pressure. It was the bats that flopped with the season on the line.
The fizzlin' Phillies came up empty in the clutch and have all winter to wonder how their championship-or-nothing season ended at home with their No. 1 pitcher on the mound.
Carpenter was the one dealing all the right cards, tossing a three-hitter to send the 102-win Phillies packing.
Expected to peak in October, the Phillies instead simply flopped — the latest disappointment for a team that has turned into the second-biggest spender in the majors.
They followed their 2008 World Series title with a loss to the New York Yankees in the 2009 World Series. A year ago, it was a surprising NL championship series loss against San Francisco.
Now comes the biggest heartache of 'em all — losing to the Cardinals in the NL division series.
Before Game 1, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel proclaimed, "We're going to win the series."
He needed plenty more help from an uptight lineup.
Ryan Howard was 2 for 19 in the series and flied out in the seventh on a 3-0 pitch. He grounded out to end the game and hurt himself while breaking out of the batter's box, crumpling to the ground before he was helped off the field by the training staff.
Howard grabbed his left ankle and went to the turf as the Cardinals celebrated behind him.
Placido Polanco was 2 for 19. Carlos Ruiz was 1 for 17.
Even Chase Utley, who had a solid series, was caught stealing for the first time this season when he was nailed at second in the sixth. When Hunter Pence ended the inning with a weak grounder, boos, an almost-extinct noise in Philly these days, could be heard at Citizens Bank Park.
Fans were distraught, most standing in silence with their hands in their pockets for the final out. Then, they glumly filed out for the last time this season.
Halladay tossed six-hit ball and threw 126 pitches over eight innings, striking out seven with one intentional walk. He had his second straight shaky first inning, allowing a triple and a run-scoring double to open the game, before settling down and keeping the Phillies in the game.
Led by Halladay, the Phillies cruised to their fifth straight NL East title and their franchise-record 102 wins led the majors for the second straight season.
This year at Citizens Bank Park was never about regular-season achievement.
Anything less than a World Series title will be considered a failure by fans, players and management.
They can pin this one on the lineup.
Shane Victorino was stranded at second after a one-out double in the second inning. Victorino, who had two of their three hits, singled in the fourth to give Philadelphia runners at the corners with two outs. Raul Ibanez flied out to right to end the rally.
Utley gave the ball a ride to deep center to open the ninth, but was out. Pence grounded out to third.
Howard ended it — like last season when Giants closer Brian Wilson struck him out looking with the tying run at second base to end Game 6 of the NLCS.
Halladay beat the Cardinals in the opener, despite a shaky start. He allowed a three-run homer to Lance Berkman in the first inning, but dominated the rest of the way.
The Cardinals tagged him in the first again. Rafael Furcal led off the game with a triple and scored on Skip Schumaker's double.
Somehow, that was enough.
What hurts worse for the rally-towel waving die-hards was that St. Louis wouldn't even be here without help from the Phillies.
The Cardinals trailed the Braves by 10½ games on Aug. 25, but went 23-8 the rest of the way and earned a wild-card berth after game No. 162 when Philadelphia completed a three-game sweep in Atlanta.
NOTES: Philadelphia's postseason record is 49-54. ... The Phillies hadn't played a decisive postseason game since losing Game 5 of the division series against Montreal in the strike-shortened 1981 season. -- (AP)
Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins has made a big impression with his play on the field. Now, Rollins seems to be getting some recognition for what he has done in the community.
Major League Baseball and Chevrolet has recently announced that Rollins was named the Phillies nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award. The award was established by MLB to honor Clemente’s legacy and to recognize the local club nominees of the Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevrolet.
Rollins is one of 30 club finalists for the annual award, which recognizes a MLB player who best represents the game of baseball through positive contributions on and off the field, including sportsmanship and community involvement.
The award pays tribute to Clemente’s achievement and character by recognizing current players who clearly understand the importance of helping others. The award is named for the 15-time MLB all-star and Hall of Famer who died in a plane crash on New Year’s Eve 1972 while attempting to deliver supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.
The Jimmy Rollins Family Foundation, which began in 2009, strives to help children and young adults living with arthritis by providing funds and awareness about the disease. The foundation also supports families that are struggling financially to help their children in extracurricular activities.
In an effort to raise awareness and funds to benefit the Rollins Family Foundation and the Arthritis Foundation, Rollins and his wife, Johari, host an annual Celebrity BaseBOWL Tournament at Lucky Strike Bowling Lanes in Philadelphia. The event, which raised more than $178,000 in August and nearly $1 million since 2006, has helped send children to Camp JRA (Juveniles Reaching Achievement), a week-long camp for kids ages 8-18 with arthritis and other rheumatic diseases.
The foundation hosted its first offseason fundraiser called Havana Nights in November 2011 to benefit Prevent Child Abuse Pennsylvania. The Cuban-themed evening featured Rollins and celebrity guests, a Cuban Salsa Band, dancing and other entertainment including a silent auction. The event raised more than $175,000.
Rollins developed JRoll’s Aces in 2007 to reward children in disadvantaged areas excelling in the classroom. Rollins meets with groups on the field during batting practice, answers questions and signs autographs. He also provides each participant with a game ticket, a t-shirt and a food voucher.
In addition to his other efforts, Rollins has honored top readers since 2002 with the JRoll’s readers program for their dedication to literacy during the summer months. He annually helps the Phillies salute Jackie Robinson’s legacy as well as honors the surviving members of the Philadelphia Stars Negro League team.
Rollins will be recognized before the Phillies play the Atlanta Braves on Sept. 23 on the field at Citizens Bank Park. In addition to being honored as the club’s nominee, he will receive the Phillies Community Service Award.
“It is a real honor to be the 2012 Phillies’ Roberto Clemente Award nominee,” Rollins said in a statement. “Just to be considered for this award means so much to me when I think about the man named for it and all he stood for. I hope that the efforts of my foundation will help continue the tradition of ballplayers giving back to the community for many years to come.”
For the first time since Jimmy Rollins declared the Philadelphia Phillies were the team to beat in the division before they even won anything, they'll open spring training with something to prove.
The Phillies' streak of five consecutive NL East titles that began with Rollins' bold declaration in 2007 ended last year when they finished 81-81 and in third place behind Washington and Atlanta.
Since winning the franchise's second World Series championship in 2008, the Phillies have taken one step backward each season. They lost the 2009 World Series, the 2010 NLCS, and were eliminated in the NLDS in 2011.
After missing out on the postseason in 2012, the Phillies hope to make another run. The quest begins Wednesday when pitchers and catchers report to Clearwater, Fla.
Here are five top questions facing the Phillies this spring:
1. Are the injured stars healthy?
Injuries to Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Roy Halladay were a major reason why the Phillies slumped last year. Utley and Howard, the team's Nos. 3-4 hitters, combined to miss 160 games to start the season. Halladay, the No. 1 starter, missed a two-month stretch in the middle.
Utley hasn't played a Grapefruit League game since 2010 because of chronic knee problems. He was more active this offseason and is expected to be ready for Opening Day, barring any setbacks. But, Utley's production began to decline before the injuries. His batting average has dropped every year since he hit a career-high .332 in 2007. His power numbers also are trending downward.
Utley averaged .301 with 29 homers and 101 RBIs between 2005-09 and made five straight All-Star teams. Since 2010, he's averaged .264, 13 and 51. The 34-year-old Utley is entering the final year of his contract, so he needs a solid year to get another lucrative deal.
Howard returned to the lineup right before the All-Star break last season after recovering from surgery on a torn Achilles' tendon. He hit just .219 and struck out 99 times in 260 at-bats. But the three-time All-Star first baseman also had 14 homers and drove in 56 runs in only 71 games.
Howard is entering the second season of a $125 million, five-year extension. The Phillies need the former NL MVP to be the player who averaged 44 homers and 133 RBIs between 2006-11.
Halladay, a two-time Cy Young Award winner and eight-time All-Star, was plagued by a shoulder problem last year. He'll be 36 in May and has thrown nearly 2,700 innings. So, his days as a dominant pitcher may be over.
Halladay won 40 games, and threw a perfect game and a postseason no-hitter in his first two seasons with the Phillies in 2010-11. He was 11-8 with a 4.49 ERA in 25 starts last year.
There may be no player in the majors with a stronger work ethic and more dedication to his craft than Halladay. He's determined to regain his old form, and those who know Halladay wouldn't bet against him.
2. Who plays the outfield?
The Phillies used to be loaded in the outfield with former All-Stars Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth, Raul Ibanez and Hunter Pence. They also had slugger Pat Burrell in '07 and '08. Now they'll have at least two and possibly three new starters.
Ben Revere was acquired from Minnesota to play center field. Delmon Young was signed as a free agent to play right field, though he hasn't played there regularly since 2007. Left field will be up for grabs between rookie Darin Ruf, former top prospect Domonic Brown and John Mayberry, Jr.
Ruf, the minor-league home run champion in 2012, is making the transition to the outfield after playing first base. He hit 38 homers in Double-A and Triple-A last season, and has potential to be a legitimate slugger in the big leagues.
Revere is a singles hitter, but his speed is an asset. Young could provide much-needed balance to a left-handed heavy lineup if he stays in shape and out of trouble. He hit .267 with 18 homers and 74 RBIs for Detroit last season, and was MVP of the ALCS against the New York Yankees.
3. Will Michael Young be a solution at third base?
The Phillies acquired the seven-time All-Star infielder from Texas to replace Placido Polanco at third base. Young, a former Gold Glove winner at shortstop, hasn't played third regularly since 2010. He's also coming off a down year at the plate by his standards (.277, 8, 67).
The team expects the 36-year-old Young to benefit from being able to concentrate on playing one position after filling a utility role the last two seasons. The peace of mind could not only help his defense, but his offense. From 2003-11, Young hit at least .300 seven times and averaged 17 homers and 90 RBIs.
4. Can pitching get the Phillies over the top?
The Phillies slugged their way to the postseason in 2007-09 and then relied on their aces and a strong bullpen in 2010-11. Their lineup clearly lacks the punch it once had, so the Phillies have to do it with pitching. Halladay, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee, if they're all healthy, are still as formidable as any top 3 on any staff. Kyle Kendrick and John Lannan round out the rotation, which has dropped off since Roy Oswalt was the No. 4 starter.
Closer Jonathan Papelbon is coming off an All-Star season in his first year in Philadelphia. Giving Papelbon leads to protect was the problem. The Phillies improved their late-inning situation by signing Mike Adams. The righty has been one of the best setup men for several years. If Antonio Bastardo pitches the way he did in 2011 and some of the young arms step up, the bullpen could be the team's biggest strength.
5. How will Charlie Manuel handle lame-duck status?
Manuel enters his ninth season as the team's manager. He's first on the franchise's all-time list in wins and is one of only two managers — Dallas Green was the other in 1980 — to lead the Phillies to a World Series title in 130 seasons. But Manuel is in the final year of his contract and his potential heir apparent — Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg — will be in the dugout this year.
The Phillies promoted Sandberg from Triple-A manager to third-base coach. Manuel's success gives him some leeway, but there certainly will be plenty of speculation about his job if the Phillies struggle early or endure a long losing streak. — (AP)
It’s been a rough week for Philadelphia fans. The St. Louis Cardinals eliminated the Phillies – who were supposed to give us a parade down Broad Street — in five games in the National League Division Series.
The Phillies had the best pitching staff in baseball with Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt. Moreover, they won a historic 102 games with just 60 losses. They finished the regular season with the best record in baseball, but couldn’t even score a run in the final elimination game at Citizens Bank Park, where they played in front of a sold-out crowd all season.
The Eagles are 1-4 coming off another disastrous loss, this time to the Buffalo Bills. The Eagles “Dream Team” is turning into a nightmare, dropping its fourth straight game. Michael Vick, Eagles quarterback, threw four interceptions, but did throw for 315 yards and two touchdowns. He had five carries for 90 yards. He also broke Randall Cunningham’s all-time rushing record with 4,948 yards. Nevertheless, it wasn’t enough. And now the Eagles will face divisional rival Washington on the road Sunday, October 16.
One thing is for sure: the Phillies and Eagles are in for some interesting days ahead. With the Phillies season ending so abruptly, everything comes into question. This team has to wonder what next year is going to be like with first baseman Ryan Howard on the shelf with a rupture of the left Achilles tendon. He sustained the injury on the series’ final out as he tried to run out a ground ball.
Howard cannot have surgery until the swelling resolves. Recovery time won’t be known until after the surgery is complete and there is no guarantee he will be ready for spring training. Howard is a big man in the Phillies batting lineup with his home run and RBI power. He hit .253 with 33 home runs and 116 RBI in 2011. But the Phillies slugger really struggled against the Cardinals, hitting just .105 with one home run and six RBI. If Howard isn’t ready when the season begins in April, the team will have a big hole to fill.
The Phillies could have a big hole at shortstop, too. Jimmy Rollins is a free agent. Rollins hit .268 with 16 home runs and 63 RBI during the regular season. He had great year with the glove and was the Phillies best player position player in the postseason. Although he went 0-for-4 in the last game, he did hit .450 for the series.
Rollins, the 5-foot-8, 170-pounder, led the Phillies to the 2008 World Series championship. He has been the team’s catalyst and is reportedly seeking a long-term contract. The Phillies need him, but will they give Rollins what he wants? This makes for a very unsettling offseason.
The Eagles situation appears to be shaky as well. There are only five teams who have started 1-4 and made the playoffs. The Eagles will have to go 9-2 the rest of the way to more than likely secure a playoff spot. With the way the way the Eagles have been playing defense, this seems very unlikely.
If the Eagles don’t make the playoffs, head coach Andy Reid should be on thin ice. He has been here for 13 years, been to a Super Bowl and has won a lot of games. But it’s time for a change. He has to take weight for this debacle. This is one of the most talented teams in the NFL. In spite of that, they have an offensive line that can’t protect the quarterback, a defense that struggles tackling and play calling that has been questionable. The coaching staff has been unable to make the right adjustments.
This was supposed to be an exciting time for the Philly fans. It’s been anything but.
When the Philadelphia Phillies open the regular season on Thursday, April 5 against the host Pittsburgh Pirates at 1:30 p.m., it’s going to be interesting to see how well the team plays without second baseman Chase Utley and first baseman Ryan Howard. Utley and Howard are two key players who have been a part of the 2008 World Series championship as well as the five consecutive National League East title teams.
Both players have been major run producers for the Phillies. Without the power of Utley and Ryan who are both nursing knee and Achilles injuries respectively, the Phillies will need some production from several places in the batting lineup. Rightfielder Hunter Pence and shortstop Jimmy Rollins are capable of stepping up.
However, it will be interesting to see what leftfielder John Mayberry Jr. does as the season gets started. Mayberry really struggled in spring training, hitting just .192. He recently broke a 0-for-19 slump with a home run.
Despite the slow beginning, this could be a big year for him. He will be in the starting lineup against the Pirates. Mayberry should get plenty of swings at the plate.
A year ago, Mayberry showed everybody what he could do right off the bat. He came in as a pinch hitter in the ninth inning and nailed a single to drive in the winning run to give the Phillies a 5-4 victory over the Houston Astros. He hit .273 with 15 home runs in 104 games. He also drove in 49 RBIs and scored 37 runs. It was a very productive season for him.
The Phillies are going to rely on him a little more this year particularly when it comes to his versatility. He’s capable of playing all three outfield positions as well as first base. The 6-foot-6, 234-pounder, has the range and the quickness to cover a lot of ground in the outfield. At first base, he has good instincts. He knows how to cover the bag.
Mayberry is the son of former major league first baseman John Mayberry Sr. His dad could really play the position. With Howard rehabbing, Jim Thome should get a lot of work at first base. But if needed, Mayberry should be able to step in and play some games.
Mayberry, 28, is one of the best athletes on the team. He was a great scholastic baseball and basketball player at Rockhurst High School in Kansas City, Mo. In 2002, Mayberry was chosen by the Seattle Mariners in the Major League Baseball Draft. He decided to play college baseball instead of signing a baseball contract. He played baseball for Stanford University where he was an All-Pac-10 selection.
After his junior year, he was selected by the Texas Rangers as the 19th pick overall in the 2005 draft. Mayberry spent three years in the Rangers minor league system before the Phillies acquired him. In 2008, the Phillies traded outfielder Greg Golson to the Rangers for Mayberry. He spent a good part of the next three years on the Phillies AA and AAA minor league teams.
This will be his first full year as a starter. The Phillies have the pitching staff with Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Vance Worley and relief pitcher Jonathan Papelbon to keep the games close.
They’re going to need some timely hitting to move the runners as well as score some big runs. Mayberry should be able to give the Phillies a lift with his bat and base running.
The Phillies will open the season with two of their major stars, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, on the sideline. Howard, Phillies first baseman, is still nursing a postseason Achilles injury while Utley, Phillies second baseman, has been dealing with chronic knee problems.
Howard and Utley are two key players who helped bring the Phillies a World Series championship in 2008. They were also part of the team’s fifth consecutive National League East championship in 2011.
With these two players out for some time, the Phillies will need some timely hitting, good fielding and great pitching. In addition, they’re going to need leadership. That’s where shortstop Jimmy Rollins comes into the picture. Rollins, 33, has had a way of giving the Phillies a lift with his confidence, swagger and style of play over the years.
If you remember, he was the player who said “we are the team to beat,” a few years ago. Nobody is expecting Rollins to make that statement this year. However, the Phillies could use somebody to set a tone at the beginning of the season. Rollins has a way of stepping up and making big plays. The Phillies organization has seen that over his major league career, which goes back to 2000. That’s how long he’s been in Philly.
Rollins has the credentials. He’s a 2007 National League MVP and three-time Gold Glove winner. He’s played in three all-star games. He was a key player on the World Series championship team. He has a career .272 batting average with 170 home runs, 725 RBIs and 373 stolen bases.
In 2011 the Phillies had a historic year, winning 102 regular season games. They won more games than any team in the majors. The team really stumbled in the playoffs losing in the first round in five games to the St. Louis Cardinals, the eventual World Series champion.
Rollins hit .268 with 87 runs scored, to go with 63 RBIs and 30 stolen bases in 2011. That’s nice, but when the lights came on in the playoffs, Rollins took his game to the next level. He hit .450 with nine hits and six runs scored against the Cardinals.
The Phillies have acquired some veterans in the offseason like reliever Jonathan Papelbon, Jim Thome (first baseman), Ty Wigginton (utility player) and outfielder Juan Pierre. The Phillies have rookie infielder Freddy Galvis, who could receive some playing time with the injury to Utley. Of course, the Phillies have a great player in outfielder Hunter Pence along with a tremendous pitching staff that includes Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Vance Worley.
But Rollins is the glue. He makes them go. If he gets off to a good start, the Phillies should be able to tread water until Howard and Utley return.
A year ago, Rollins was a big story. He was a free agent. There was some talk about whether or not the Phillies would re-sign him. That question was answered when he signed a reported three-year $33 million deal which includes an option for a fourth year.
It’s a good thing the Phillies made this deal. They need experience and leadership that only Jimmy Rollins can provide.
Harold Gould, Philadelphia Stars baseball legend, will be honored on Friday, Nov. 11 at the Centerton Country Club in Pittsgrove, N.J. at an event titled “Grand Slam for A Hometown Hero,” which is a fundraiser for the Bridgeton Police Athletic League. This is an opportunity for fans to support Gould; he and Mahlon Ducket, are the only living members of the Philadelphia Stars from the Negro League. The event begins at 6 p.m. For more information, call (856) 451-6653.
Davis fund will recognize Buddy Ryan
The Otho Davis Scholarship Foundation will hold its 13th annual scholarship dinner Nov. 8 at the Sheraton Society Hill, Second and Walnut streets.. The event will honor former Philadelphia Eagles head coach Buddy Ryan. This is the 25th anniversary of Ryan’s coming to Philadelphia to coach the Eagles. More than 40 players who played for him during his years with the Eagles have been invited, such as Seth Joyner, Keith Jackson, Mike Quick, Eric Allen, Clyde Simmons and Keith Byars. Invitations have also been extended to former NFL coaches Mike Ditka and Dick Vermeil.
Phila. Sports Hall inducts new class
The Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame will hold its eighth induction ceremony on Nov. 10 at the Sheraton Society Hill, Second and Walnut streets. The event will recognize some major Philadelphia sports people.
The induction class includes: Bill Bergey, Biz Mackey, Curt Simmons, Dawn Staley, Ed and Steve Sabol, Jimmy Dykes, Joe McCarthy, Moses Malone, Mark Howe, Ora Washington, Ted Meredith, Wilbert Montgomery, Speedy Morris, Al Meltzer and the Penn Relays (special enshrinement).
For more information, go to http://www.phillyhall.org.
Rob Knox, a 1996 Lincoln University graduate, will be the master of ceremony for Lincoln University’s 2012 inaugural Athletic Hall of Fame ceremony. Knox, a Chester High product, currently works for ESPN in Bristol, Conn., as a statistics manager in the Statistics & Analysis department. He has been employed at ESPN since Oct. 2011.
Prior to working at ESPN, Knox distinguished himself as a sports information professional. He worked five years at his alma mater, Lincoln University, and two years at Kutztown University. Before entering into sports information, he was a full-time reporter at the Delaware County Daily Times.
Knox was named the 2011 College Sports Information Directors’ Association (CoSIDA) Rising Star Award winner. He was also a member of the CoSIDA Board of Directors as a college division representative and the president of the Black College Sports Information Directors’ Association (BC-SIDA).
The 2012 hall of fame class includes inductees Manuel Rivero, Dr. Frank “Tick” Coleman, Munford Merrill “Monte” Irvin, Ashley Parker, Clive Terronlonge, Dr. Tarron Richardson, Barrington “Barry” Fearon, Rhondale Jones, Tehma Hallie Stanton Smith, Robert Eugene Smith and Dr. Leonard L. Bethel. The class will be celebrated this weekend and the induction banquet is Friday, Sept. 28 at 7 p.m., in the Student Union Multi-purpose Room.
Temple-USF homecoming game set for noon
The Temple homecoming football game against South Florida on Oct. 6 will kick off at noon at Lincoln Financial Field. The Big East Network will televise the game as its Game of the Week. The Owls (1-2, 0-0 Big East) have a bye this week before hosting the USF Bulls (2-2, 0-1 Big East) in their Big East opener.
BBWAA Philadelphia Chapter announces 2012 Phillies award winners
Cole Hamels was the unanimous choice for the Steve Carlton Most Valuable Pitcher Award and Carlos Ruiz won the Mike Schmidt Most Valuable Player Award in voting by the Philadelphia chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
Jimmy Rollins and Juan Pierre also were honored by the writers. Rollins won the Dallas Green Special Achievement Award. Pierre won the Tug McGraw True pro Award.
Hamels is a three-time winner of the Carlton Award. He leads the Phillies in wins (16), ERA among starters (3.11), strikeouts (208) and shutouts (2).
Ruiz got all but three votes for the Schmidt Award. Hamels finished second and Rollins was third. Ruiz, who made his first NL All-Star team this season, leads the Phillies with a .327 batting average to go with career-highs in homers (16) and RBIs (65).
Rollins receives the Special Achievement Award for becoming the fourth player in team history to reach 2,000 career hits and the first shortstop in MLB history to have 2,000 hits, 400 stolen bases and 100 home runs, and also for surpassing Larry Bowa for most games played at shortstop (1,731) on the club’s all-time list.
Pierre gets the True pro Award given to the player who best exemplifies the Tugger’s good-natured personality and for his professional cooperation with beat writers. Ryan Howard finished second in the voting for the second straight year.
When the Philadelphia Phillies host the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Division Series (best of five) at Citizens Bank Park on Saturday, the Phillies will begin their postseason journey.
The Phillies have great pitching with Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels and although pitching is the key to success, it’s not the only important aspect.
There are other factors like experience, talent and confidence. Jimmy Rollins, Phillies shortstop, has all those ingredients. Rollins will be one of the keys in the Phillies playoff run that could bring the city another world championship.
Rollins, 32, has been here through thick and thin. This is his 11th season with the Phillies. When he started playing with the Phillies, he was wearing braids. In fact, Rollins and former Sixers all-star guard Allen Iverson were the city’s pro athletes with that style. The Phillies were still trying to get better. The team wasn’t selling out when he started his career in Philly.
A few years ago, he was the player who labeled the Phillies as “the team to beat.” He helped the Phillies win the 2008 World Series title. He played a huge role in getting them back to the 2009 World Series before losing to the New York Yankees. In 2010, he carried the Phillies to the National League championship series where they lost to the San Francisco Giants. The Phillies were eliminated by the Yankees and Giants; both teams won the World Series.
“I’ve been around here through transition,” said Rollins, 32, who this season batted .268 with 16 home runs and 63 RBI. “It’s been for the better obviously.
Rollins remembers those early days when there were too many empty seats when the Phillies took the field.
“If you sell out, it’s not 13,000 … [it’s] 23,000 on the big board, and everybody likes 23,000,” Rollins said. “That’s a good thing. But it’s the attitude towards us, the Phillies and baseball … the feeling around the city is a lot different.
“I think as far as sports in general football has always had the attention. The season is 16 games as opposed to 162. You can get together once every weekend as opposed to every single day. The excitement of the newness is still there with football.
“(With baseball) Everybody realizes it’s a grind. So, if I miss 10 (home) games. I still have 71 more games. That’s changed because [at] every single home game we have 44,000 (fans). That shows the product on the field along with the marketing and advertising. The most important element is winning.”
The Phillies have certainly done that. The team finished with an amazing 102-60 record. Now, they’re in a really good position to do something special again during this historic season where manager Charlie Manuel became the Phillies’ winningest manager with 646 wins. Rollins has been the catalyst for a lot of those victories.
“The team has evolved tremendously,” Rollins said. “Prior to the season in 2007, I made a firestorm out of a barnstorm (when he said the Phillies were the team to beat). I said it very casually in my response. The point I wanted to make was portrayed. I wanted people to recognize us for who we are. You’re our media covering us. We’re going to be that team. For years, they’ve always talked about the (Atlanta) Braves in spring training or the (New York) Mets. I’m not here to talk about them. I did that for five or six years now. I’m good.”
Rollins has been good throughout his career. He has been selected to three all-star games. He has won three Gold Glove Awards. In 2007, he was named the Most Valuable Player of the National League.
Rollins grew up in Oakland, Calif., where he was an All-American baseball player at Encinal High School, which happens to be the same high school where Dontrelle Willis attended who pitches for the Cincinnati Reds this season. Rickey Henderson was his favorite baseball player. He watched him play during his career with the Oakland Athletics. Rollins was recruited by Arizona State before he decided to play professional baseball.
Rollins hails from a sports family. His brother, Antwon, played minor league baseball with the Texas Rangers and the Montreal Expos. His sister, Shay, played college basketball at the University of San Francisco. Baseball wasn’t the only sport he played as a youngster. He played football and basketball, too.
“I played Pop Warner football,” Rollins said. “I played all the way up to high school. I played from 9 to 14. I was playing football, basketball and baseball year round. I never had a break. I said to my mother (Gigi) that if we win the championship I wouldn’t play high school football. I was tired. So, low and behold we win the championship.
“I go to practice one day with my dad (James Sr.) at Encinal High School. We were on the baseball field. The football coach, who was the baseball coach, asked me if I was going to play football. I started smelling the grass. I went and got my permission slip. I went to my mother and asked her if I could play football. Then, she sent me to my dad. He sent me back to her. My mother said, ‘Remember, you told me that you would not play football if you won the championship.’ So, that was the end of my football career.
“I was a big (San Francisco) 49ers fan. They had Jerry Rice, John Taylor, Roger Craig, Ronnie Lott and Steve Young. I played quarterback. I played running back, too, but mostly quarterback.
“I was a two guard in basketball. I was a slasher. Some people thought I would stay outside and shoot the jumper all the time. I hit the jump shot. I shot some threes. But I was quicker than a lot of guys. I liked to take it to the basket. I remember watching Run TMC (Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin) with the (Golden State) Warriors. I enjoyed playing football and basketball, but baseball is my best sport.”
Rollins has been playing baseball for a long time. He will be a free agent after the season. According to SI.com, he would like to have a five-year contract with the Phillies. Rollins has been a crucial part of the Phillies’ success. His focus right now is on bringing another championship to Philly, and this could be the year.
“This team is solid,” Rollins said. “It’s definitely the best pitching staff we’ve had. Other than that, everybody is a year older and a year more seasoned.”
That could be enough to be a factor in the postseason.
CLEARWATER, Fla. — An older, wiser Jimmy Rollins has ditched his annual rite of spring: Trading trash talk with National League East counterparts.
But as the new-look Philadelphia Phillies prepare for the season after seeing their five-year reign atop the division end in 2012, Rollins isn't conceding anything either. The longtime shortstop remains confident in the talented nucleus assembled here.
"Everybody is in the right mind frame," Rollins said. "We're a complete team. We're not going out there with role players. We're going out there with everyday players, every game."
Rollins, 34, was drafted by the Phillies out of high school in 1996 in the midst of the organization's 13-year playoff drought. But prior to the 2007 season, Rollins famously declared a young-and-upcoming Phillies squad "the team to beat."
The Phillies made good on Rollins words. They chased down the New York Mets in September and won the division on the final day of the regular season. They then went on a tear that resulted in two World Series appearances, and one title.
Rollins, in 2007, won National League MVP, but that was six years ago. Many of the names in the clubhouse have changed since then. And those that remain — Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Carlos Ruiz and Cole Hamels — are not in the same point in their careers.
Last season offered proof. The Phillies finished 81-81, to post their first non-winning season in 10 years. But they also didn't play a single game in the first half with Howard, Utley and Roy Halladay healthy at the same time. All three missed large chunks of the season with injuries.
With all three healthy this year — and the additions the Phillies made this winter, too — Rollins thinks the team can once again be a contender.
"We did what we needed to do (in the offseason)," Rollins said. "We just needed to fill a couple of holes and get the other guys back healthy, and we've done that. (Relief pitcher Mike) Adams is going to be huge from what he's done, and being able to continue that, it's going to be great. Mikey Young, he's just a professional hitter. The little man out in center field, Tootsie Pop, Ben Revere, he's going to bring that energy. Shane (Victorino) left, and we've got a guy who can come in and steal bags, so we don't miss a beat there.
"It's different, but it's a great dynamic what we have now. It's a good feeling. As you can see, it's nice and calm. Last year, everybody was uncertain. There's a lot more certainty around here."
Rollins may have retired his panache for making bold statements. But it wasn't all that long ago that he made one worth remembering.
After the Phillies finished the 2012 season in Washington, Rollins said the Nationals, who won the division, would have been a second-place team if the Phillies were healthy. Rollins isn't reliving the past, but he's also hasn't lost faith in his team's ability to return to the top of the division.
"That was last year," Rollins said. "And this year is different. Nothing has changed in our mentality or my mentality about how I feel about where this team should be or will be. The players we have, I like it. I was talking to (manager) Charlie (Manuel), the bullpen is good. The lineup has an opportunity to be real deep.
"Play some good quality baseball on both sides, the mental side of the game, it's going to be a fun team."
NOTES: Utley, a second baseman, will play in Friday's intrasquad game and will also likely start in the Phillies' first Grapefruit League game Saturday, according to Manuel. Utley hasn't played in a spring exhibition game in each of the last two years while battling chronic knee pain. Hamels will start in the opener Saturday against the Houston Astros, with Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Kyle Kendrick and John Lannan scheduled to follow in the next week. Halladay will pitch opposite Justin Verlander in Sunday's game against the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland, Fla. If that rotational order holds up through the spring, Hamels could get the start on the regular season's opening day. ... Hall of Fame 3B Mike Schmidt arrived in Phillies camp on Wednesday for his annual work as a hitting instructor. . The Phillies' intrasquad game on Friday will begin at noon at Bright House Field and admission is free to the public. -- (AP)