With the free agency period officially underway, baseball fans everywhere are celebrating the beginning of another exciting off-season with a Christmas-like jubilation, and as free agents became eligible to sign with other teams at the stroke of midnight in the wee hours of Thursday morning, with most fans tucked into their beds and fast asleep, not a creature was stirring—except for Jimmy Rollins, who is about to get paid.
The longtime Philadelphia Phillies' shortstop if officially a free agent, and though the club would love to have him back, as Cliff Lee proved last season—anything is possible. With few talented shortstops available, Rollins is sure to make a splash in the free agent pool, and though most believe he will eventually return to the club that drafted him nearly two decades ago, no one is certain.
So many fans have only known Rollins as the Phillies' shortstop, and to be quite honest, watching anyone aside from him playing the position moving forward is going to be different. Whether it was the youngster with dreads that made his debut wearing number 29 or the veteran with the shaved head that has made a name for himself wearing number 11, it wouldn't be normal to see the man who helped guide this franchise to success wear another team's colors in 2012.
Rollins is more than just a familiar face at shortstop, however. He's also one of the organization's all-time great.
Now that his future with the Phillies is uncertain, what better time to reflect on the career of the Phillies' longtime shortstop than now? Though many shortstops have come through the organization, it is hard to believe that any have had a larger impact on the franchise than Rollins. So with that in mind, let's take a look at the 10 best shortstops in Phillies history.
Maybe, by the end of this list, we will have a better understanding of what Rollins means to the Phillies, and the history of shortstops that have come before him. Is he the greatest of all time?
Time to find out.
Because this ranking is only taking into consideration the top 10 Philadelphia Phillies shortstops of all time, there were quite a few names left over who deserve, at the least, an honorable mention. So, here are those that couldn't quite crack the ranking, in no particular order.
-Ivan de Jesus
The Philadelphia Phillies drafted Kevin Stocker in the second round of the 1991 amateur draft, but he never quite lived up to that potential—a common theme among the team's draft picks over much of the next decade.
He was dreadful on the defensive side of the ball, but he had some of the best offensive numbers out of any Phillies' shortstop that was eligible for the list. He spent five seasons with the Phillies, finishing sixth in Rookie of the Year voting for the 1993 season. He posted an OPS right around .700 and hit 82 doubles.
Perhaps his greatest contribution to the Phillies, Stocker was traded to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 1997 for future All-Star and Phillies' great, Bobby Abreu.
Bobby Wine signed as an amateur free agent with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1957 and in total, spent eight seasons with the club. Known for his defensive abilities above all else, he was rewarded with a Gold Glove for his work following the 1963 seasons. All in all, he never contributed much offensively but was an above average defensive shortstop that contributed in that manner.
Wine was snatched away from the Phillies following the 1969 season, when the Montreal Expos selected him in the expansion draft.
Photo Credit: www.fanbase.com
Looking to upgrade at shortstop prior to the 1940 season, the Philadelphia Phillies inquired on Pittsburgh Pirates' shortstop, Dick Bartell, and the two sides were able to reach an agreement on a trade, the Phillies receiving Bartell and sending Tommy Thevenow and Claude Willoughby across the state.
Batell spent four seasons in Philadelphia, and like many of his shortstop brethren featured on this list, was known primarily for his defensive abilities. He received MVP votes twice while with the Phillies, and was an excellent "slap hitter"—small ball was his game. He drew walks and hit .295, posting an OPS of .737 with the Phillies—among the best offensive numbers you'll see on this list.
The Phillies traded him to the New York Giants prior to the 1935 season for four players and cash, though none of the players the Phillies received are household names.
Bob Allen signed on to play shortstop with the Philadelphia Phillies not long after they ditched the "Quakers" moniker, so if you haven't head of him I certainly won't hold it against you. Add to the fact that he played with the team more than a century ago the fact that he spent just five seasons with the Phils and you have the perfect storm of ambiguity.
What you should know about Allen is that he was one of the best defensive shortstops in the history of the franchise, and as is becoming a recurring theme on this list, his defense was much more memorable than his work at the plate. He never hit better than .268 but still managed to post an OPS of .664 in his Phillies career.
Plus, check out that awesome mustache!
Heinie Sand played his first game with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1923, but may be most notorious for an incident that happened off the field. With no statistical shot of his team making the postseason in 1924, Sand was offered $500 by Jimmy O'Connell of the New York Giants to "go easy" on the New York squad, vying for the postseason. He accepted, but the event came to public attention. In the end, O'Connell, who also implicated his coach, Cozy Dolan, in the incident, would be banned from the sport of baseball.
Sand, of course, was not, and he was pretty good on the field with the Phillies. Most defensive metrics indicate that he was an absolute butcher with the glove, but he did turn three triple plays as a member of the Phillies. He was a little better than some of the shortstops behind him on this list offensively, hitting 145 doubles and 18 home runs, while drawing 382 walks, helping him to an OPS of .688.
He would later be traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for Tommy Thevenow, who of course, would later be dealt to acquire Dick Bartell.
Photo Credit: www.baseball-birthdays.com
Dave Bancroft is the only shortstop on this list currently in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, but certainly not for any of his achievements while under contract with the Philadelphia Phillies. Not even he was spectacular while manning shortstop in the "City of Brotherly Love."
After purchasing his contract from Portland of the Pacific Coast League for $5,000, Bancroft spent six seasons with the Phillies. He was an above average defender, but also handled the bat well. He drew 289 walks and smacked 89 doubles with the Phils, helping him to one of the better on-base percentages on this list at .330. Bancroft posted an OPS of .694 with the Phillies, and would spend his best days elsewhere.
He would later be traded to the New York Giants for Art Fletcher—a shortstop who just missed making this list—and Bill Hubbell, as well as cash considerations.
The Philadelphia Phillies drafted Mickey Doolan out of Jersey City of the Eastern League in 1904, and he would go on to play shortstop for them for the nine seasons. One would imagine that being one of the longest tenured players on this list would give him some advantages, but that wasn't entirely the case. He did manage to collect more than 1,000 hits as a Phillie and hit nearly 200 doubles, but posted an OPS of just .595 over that same span of time.
Of course, his offense wasn't what moved him up this list. Like many other shortstops the Phillies have employed, Doolan was a defensive wizard, and he scored some of the best defensive measures of any shortstop on this list.
The common argument about the greatest defensive shortstop in Phillies' history is often a battle fought between Larry Bowa and Jimmy Rollins, but Doolan would have something to say about that.
Granny Hamner was signed by the Philadelphia Phillies as an amateur free agent in 1944, and once he cracked the Major League roster, he became a staple there, playing for the Phillies in some capacity for the next 15 seasons—the longest tenure of any shortstop on this list.
He finished sixth in MVP voting during the 1950 season as a member of the Whiz Kids club that went to the World Series. Offensively, he has some of this list's better numbers. He collected more than 1,500 hits as a Phillie, hitting 103 home runs as well, but striking out (424) more than he walked (350.) Hamner batted .263 as a Phillie and posted an OPS of .689.
He also made a name for himself as a solid defensive shortstop, and for a while, I considered placing him second on this list, but in the long run, he was unable to top the heroics of...
Most of today's fans will probably remember Larry Bowa as the fiery, energetic manager that had a few relatively unsuccessful seasons at the helm of the Philadelphia Phillies, but once upon a time, Bowa was a slick-fielding, timely-hitting shortstops that helped bring the 1980 World Series trophy to the city of Philadelphia.
He was signed by the Phillies as an amateur free agent in 1965 and made his Major League debut in 1970, finishing third in Rookie of the Year voting. In total, he would spend 12 seasons with the Phils and become known for his great, smooth defense.
Bowa could hit a little bit too, however. A five-time All Star, he hit .264 and posted an OPS of .624 over his Phillies career. He hit just 13 home runs, but did have some power to the gaps, hitting more than 200 doubles. He also drew 359 walks and swiped 288 bases.
He would later be traded to the Chicago Cubs, along with future Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg, for the team's future shortstop, Ivan de Jesus—a deal that is to this day considered one of the worst of all times by the Phillies.
In the long run, no shortstop in the history of the Philadelphia Phillies' franchise even comes close to besting Jimmy Rollins.
Drafted in the second round of the 1996 amateur draft, Rollins has spent nearly two decades in the organization. He made his Major League debut in 2000 and has been the starting shortstop ever since, 12 seasons in total. He took home the MVP Award in 2007, made three trips to the All Star Game, and the owner of three Gold Gloves.
Rollins' defense is well known and speaks for itself. One of the best defenders in all of baseball, he is a slick fielder that rarely makes mistakes and has a strong, accurate throwing arm. Pitchers can rest easy knowing that he'll be playing defense behind them.
Compared to the rest of this list, his offensive numbers are overwhelming. At one point or another during his career he has led the league in games played, plate appearances, at-bats, runs, triples, and stolen bases. He's hit 170 home runs and has 388 doubles to his credit. Already having collected 568 walks, Rollins is a career .272 hitter and owns an OPS of .761.
Rollins is the best shortstop in the history of the organization, by far, and should shed a little light on why it would be such a mistake letting him walk in free agency. Even in the later years of his career, he has produced more than some of the best shortstops this organization has ever seen, and if ever there was a player who deserved to retire as a Phillie, Rollins is one.
Re-signing him is a must this off-season.