At only 33 years of age, Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins should have at least five years of MLB service left. If he continues to put up numbers like this year (22 HR, 30 SB, 66 RBI) he will one day share a seat with the greatest shortstops of all time.
Beside pitching, shortstop is the arguably the most important position in the game. Catchers can put up a strong argument that their position is the most important, but a team that does not have a shortstop who can anchor the defense will lose more than its share of games.
The top three shortstops with the best fielding percentage in the history of the game are active players. They are Troy Tulowitzki (.985), Omar Visquel (.985) and Jimmy Rollins (.983). Tulowitzki, if he can stay healthy, could one day make the hall. Vizquel's entry to the hall is up for debate, but Jimmy Rollins should be a first-vote entry.
In the 70s, we had scrappy defenders like Dave Concepcion, Larry Bowa, and Bud Harrelson. All three have a World Series ring like Rollins but are not Hall of Famers. Later in the decade, hall member Robin Yount made his debut and put up impressive numbers on offense (251 HR, .285 BA, 1,406 RBI) in a career that also saw him play center field. His fielding percentage was .964 at shortstop.
In the 1980s, Yount was followed by the "Iron Man" 6'4" Cal Ripken. Ripken not only hit 431 HR with 1,695 RBI, his fielding percentage was .979. Even if he didn't get to the balls that the scrappy guys did, that percentage is phenomenal for a guy his size.
In the 90s Alex Rodriguez put up outstanding numbers at short, but his steroid use will forever taint his numbers. Derek Jeter's numbers are "off the chain," and the lanky shortstop will be an instant entry into the hall.
Hall of Famer Phil Rizzuto has less than stellar numbers (38 HR, .273 BA, 563 RBI, a .968 fielding percentage), but he had seven World Series rings, and that cannot be overlooked. Ozzie Smith, the "Wizard," has an impressive .978 fielding percentage, 2,460 hits and 580 SB. Smith made plays that others could only dream about making. He was not only a dazzling fielder but a charming and charismatic personality.
Jimmy Rollins, besides that .983 fielding percentage, also has a charismatic personality and makes dazzling plays. Watching him every day, he has to be the most consistent defensive shortstop ever. He makes everything look easy. With his .983 percentage, he has not been given enough credit for his excellent defense.
Rollins' on-base percentage is not the greatest (.328), but you can make a strong argument that he would be an even better hitter out of the fifth or sixth hole in the batting order. Charlie Manuel has been unbending in keeping him as a leadoff hitter.
But "J-Roll" has 192 HR, 791 RBI, 403 SB, 1177 runs and a slugging percentage of .432. He has more than 2,018 hits. Rizzuto has 1,588 hits with a .355 slugging percentage, and Smith has 2,460 hits with a .328 slugging percentage. With his 2,018 hits, Rollins should be able to catch Smith's 2,460 hits if he stays healthy.
If you can look at the big picture, Rollins has a better fielding percentage than any Hall of Famer. His offensive numbers are much better than Rizzuto and Smith. He has been an NL MVP and an All-Star three times. He is only 33 years old, and his numbers will only increase in the next few years. He should be an automatic for the Hall of Fame.
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