09/30/07 8:28 PM ET
Rollins caps MVP-caliber campaign
Shortstop the catalyst throughout Phillies' NL East title run
By Andy Jasner / Special to MLB.com
It was clear the fans believe that Jimmy Rollins should win the coveted honor this season.
"I'm not worried about that type of stuff right now, but it is nice to hear," Rollins said. "It's overwhelming, really."
Rollins continued his MVP quest with yet another stellar performance in the Phillies' National League East Division-clinching 6-1 victory over the Nationals on Sunday. He opened the bottom of the first inning with a single and then proceeded to steal second base and third base before scoring on a sacrifice fly by Chase Utley.
Sparking the Phillies is nothing new for the shortstop, who incredibly didn't make the All-Star team. He's been setting the table all season.
"Jimmy is incredible because it seems like he hits every ball hard," center fielder Aaron Rowand said. "I mean, he just smokes the ball all over the field from both sides of the plate. The second half of the season especially, he's been that good."
Rollins started all 162 games this season, joining Bill Russell and Leo Cardenas as the only other NL shortstops to accomplish the feat. Russell did it for the Dodgers in 1973, while Cardenas achieved the mark for the Reds in 1964. Rollins also joined Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman and Braves right fielder Jeff Francoeur as the only NL players to start every game this season.
When Rollins tripled in the sixth inning, he became the fourth player in MLB history to accumulate 20 doubles, 20 triples, 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases in the same season, along with Wildfire Schulte (1911, Cubs), Willie Mays (1957, Giants) and Curtis Granderson (2007, Tigers). Rollins' 20th triple also set a new franchise record, snapping Juan Samuel's previous mark of 19 set in '84.
In addition, Rollins ripped 88 extra-base hits, which ranks him second among everyday shortstops. Only Alex Rodriguez had more in one season when he managed 91 in 1996.
MVP-caliber statistics, for sure.
"I'm not going to get into things like that because we made the playoffs and we have deeper goals of winning a World Series," Rollins said. "After the playoffs, I'll sit back and think about these types of things. I want to get ready for the playoffs. That's what I'm excited about."
Ask his teammates and they'll tell you what Rollins means to the team.
"Jimmy has been phenomenal," said first baseman Ryan Howard, who won the NL MVP award last season. "Not only does he do it at the plate, he does it in the field. He kind of goes unnoticed in the field, but he's smooth as can be at shortstop. He got so many big hits for us in clutch situations this season."
Utley said that Rollins' surge to MVP status should not come as a surprise.
"He's been consistent all season," Utley said. "It's just that he's been playing so ridiculously well that it's been noticed more. I think he deserves the MVP award. I hope he wins. If you know Jimmy, he's not worried about it. We're in the playoffs and we want to win. We've been a close team all season and now we'll try and carry it over into the playoffs."
Still, you can't help but gush over Rollins' offense, which also includes 30 home runs, 41 stolen bases, 94 RBIs, 212 hits, 139 runs scored and 716 at-bats.
"With all the injuries we had, Jimmy played through it all like a warrior," outfielder Jayson Werth said. "He did it from the first game through [Sunday]. What else can you say?"
The fans said it all with a number of banners in support of Rollins, not to mention the chants throughout the game.
An MVP trophy would be more enticing with a World Series ring.
"That's why," Rollins said, "you play the game."
Andy Jasner is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.