After the loss on Friday night, the Phillies told reporters that Jimmy Rollins would hold a media session at some point this week. Last night, on Twitter, J-Roll™ hinted that it might be on Tuesday… or at least not Monday. Why? [UPDATE: Tomorrow at noon]
Ah, a showman. J-Roll™ wants maximum coverage for his presser. Plus, he's golfing today.
Here’s the deal: Rollins told SI.com’s Jon Heyman that he wants a five-year contract, something the Phillies would be foolish to give him. Not totally unlike Derek Jeter, Rollins and his agent are probably going to draw on a number of ancillary factors when they try to demonstrate J-Roll’s™ value to the organization as a whole. They’ll likely bring up the fact that Rollins is the longest tenured Phillie and played a pivotal role in the team’s recent success. Rollins demonstrated these talking points when he told Marshall Harris, on CSN, that his 2007 “team to beat” statement may have been the single most important factor in helping the Phillies achieve five straight division titles.
If you don’t think this is all part of a plan for Rollins and his agent, you’re wrong. A few weeks ago, Rollins asked fans to tell him when they became such "fantastic" fans. A number of “team to beat” answers filtered in.
Then his PR folks had fans take part in this weird We Love You, Jimmy video (which is pretty much the only video on “JimmyRollinsTV” that hasn’t been promoted in some fashion) outside of Citi Field in New York last month.
There’s a reason for all of this.
Rollins is 32 and his been injured in each of the last two seasons. His .344/.531/.875 and .349/.437/.786 slash lines in 2007 and 2008 have taken a downturn in 2010 and 2011: .320/.374/.694 and .338/.399/.736, respectively. Not to mention that his doubles totals have gone from 38 in both 2007 and 2008 to 16 and 22 in the last two seasons. His triples? Even worse: from 20 and 9 in 2007 and 2008 to 3 and 2 in 2010 and 2011. Only his fielding can still be considered an attribute among the best in the league.
So, where to turn? Value.
Last year, Jeter got himself a substantial bonus because the Yankees basically had to keep him around- he was and is the face of their franchise. Ticket, jersey, and merchandise sales all roll up to make a guy like Jeter worth more to the bottom line than he is to the win column. Presumably, Rollins and his agent will try to build a similar case. Don’t think that “team to beat” comment won’t come up in negotiations. Don’t think that We Love You, Jimmy video won’t be played. Don’t think the notion of Rollins being owed some money for past success won’t play a part. And don’t think Rollins won’t point to sales of that ugly t-shirt and, yes, even his follower count on Twitter to demonstrate why the Phillies, as a business, can’t afford to lose him. Here’s the problem, though: as someone who does this whole sports blogging thing for a living, it’s pretty obvious to me that more than half of you don’t want to see Rollins return, if he carries with him a high price tag. And his value as a marketing asset is nowhere near the level of Halladay, Lee, Utley, or even Victorino, Howard, and Pence.
So, you can expect a lot of “here’s what I accomplished” talk tomorrow, but not too much discussion about his .268 batting average in 2011. Also, this will be “the Phillies’ decision”: