Richard Justice

Rollins important to Phillies, city of Philadelphia

Justice: Rollins belongs with Phillies

Rollins important to Phillies, city of Philadelphia
It just feels right that Jimmy Rollins is staying with the Phillies. He's part of something special -- a huge part actually, one of the most important parts.

That's probably what members of the Phils' front office had in mind when they gave him a standing ovation this week when he arrived at Citizens Bank Park for the announcement he'd agreed to a new contract.

When you ask baseball people about the Phillies, they pretty much say the same things. They say the Phils play the game the right way.

That is, they compete each and every day and pride themselves on doing that from April to October. Every manager would love to have that certain intangible something the Phillies have.

Some of it is the environment created by manager Charlie Manuel, but plenty of it comes from having the right kind of people in the clubhouse.

Sure, Rollins could have signed someplace else, and he would have been appreciated for his blue-collar approach and his production and professionalism and all that stuff.

But it wouldn't have been the same. He helped do something in Philadelphia that will have him remembered forever.

We've become accustomed to seeing players, even iconic players, change teams. But the Phils and Jimmy Rollins belong together.

His arrival began a franchise's renaissance. When he took over at shortstop in 2001, the Phillies had a string of seven straight losing seasons. In 14 previous seasons, they'd had a winning record just once.

And then Rollins arrived. And Chase Utley. And Ryan Howard and Cole Hamels.

One day, we looked up, and the Phils had been transformed into one of baseball's toughest and best and most resilient teams.

Now they've won five straight National League East championships, and Rollins has become one of the faces of the franchise -- indeed one of the faces of his sport.

The Phils have had one losing season since Rollins arrived. They've played in the World Series twice and won it once. In a tough, demanding city, Rollins represents winning.

Philadelphia fans see some of themselves in him. He cares as much as they care. He's tough, confident and a little cocky. He may have the best winning percentage of any player the Phillies have had. As legacies go, that's a pretty sweet one.

These days, the Phils play in a ballpark that's packed and loud every night. They've got a great manager and a great clubhouse makeup. These are special times in Philadelphia, and I'm guessing Rollins had trouble seeing himself in another uniform.

He may never play in another. He signed what amounts to a four-year contract that will put him in a Phillies uniform beyond his 37th birthday.

Some will tell you Rollins, 33, isn't the player he once was, that he's in decline. Maybe that's true. But he still had 22 doubles and 16 home runs last season.

Beyond the production are things that can't be measured. He's a huge part of a winning culture, part of what makes the Phillies special.

Sometimes there are players whose influence extends far beyond the playing field. They're special to fans, not just because they're very good players, but because they become good citizens of the community.

Rollins is like that in Philadelphia. No athlete in the city is more active in the community. From buying tickets for needy kids to raising money for various charitable functions, Rollins has used his money and influence to make things better.

In short, he's important to both the franchise and the city. Few players in baseball are as relevant in both areas at a time when the team has been so wildly successful.

This is a special time to be a Phillies fan, and Rollins is the most recognizable face of the era. He belongs in this uniform. He just does.

Richard Justice is a columnist for Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.