Together, Rollins And Howard Are The Heart Of Phillies

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Thu, January 29, 2009 08:00 AM | Comments: 130

Last night I stopped and thought: How did the Phillies get here? How did the Phillies become the best team in baseball? It didn’t happen overnight; this team has been on an upswing for years.

The story itself starts in 2004, as the gates to Citizens Bank Park opened for the first time. Larry Bowa had been removed as manager of a team that closed Veterans Stadium with an 86-76 record. Charlie Manuel entered, leading his team to the same record. That book read like the 2003 edition — great offense, OK bullpen, bad starting pitching. Youthful energy gave the 2005 team a spark, but an 88-74 record wasn’t enough to win the division. The team constructed by Ed Wade just didn’t have it — Wade was relieved, Pat Gillick came in.

The 2006 Phillies ended July with a paltry 49-55 record. That’s when Gillick pulled his trigger on a couple deals that dissolved the Wade era. The largest, of course, was the trade of Bobby Abreu to the Yankees. That was the beginning — the true beginning of the world championship run.

The first game after the Abreu trade was July 31, a 15-2 drubbing by the Marlins. With that series out of the way, the Phillies traveled to Saint Louis, and the team started to fly. One player took the reins hard: Jimmy Rollins.

Aug. 1, 2006-Oct. 1, 2006: .303 AVG / 16 2B / 5 3B / 13 HR / 47 RBI / 14 SB

And there was another big contributor: Ryan Howard.

Aug. 1, 2006-Oct. 1, 2006: .365 AVG / 23 HR / 62 RBI / 58 BB

Together, Rollins and Howard willed the 2006 Phillies to a respectable finish, though they lost out on the Wild Card. But their run three years ago was the indicator of what has made this team so good. The Phillies go as far as Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard take them. They’re different in their mannerisms: Rollins runs his mouth, makes flashy plays on the field and swaggers around like he owns the joint; Howard keeps quiet, makes flashy plays at the plate and uses a soft trot to show his power.

I still find it amazing that despite Rollins’ admission of fans as “frontrunners,” he wasn’t really booed that badly. And after a couple games of abuse, the fans completely ended the jeers. After making the comment, Rollins’ team went 24-12 to win the National League East. And Howard backed his leader, slowly building to a terror run that began in Chicago and ended with the 2008 flag in his beastly hand.

Rollins’ first days in Philadelphia signaled the start of a promising career and the start of a potential playoff run. He was the first piece in a foundation that took a decade to become a skyscraper. Howard, meanwhile, was the first piece of the post-Wade era, the new blood that usurped Jim Thome and began a new, thrilling period for the Phillies. Both men have desired to be jaw-droppingly elite players, and both have hit their goals. Together, they’ve brought a title to Philadelphia.

Back when Rollins made his immortal comments, I nicknamed Rollins and Howard “The Frontrunner Bros.” Pop red and green overalls on these guys and watch them stomp on flowers and throw fireballs at Venus fly traps. They’re joined at the hip — the teddy-bear and the rat, the George and Lenny, the big kid and the little kid. In late 2006 they solidified their correlation to the team’s success. And in 2008, the Frontrunner Bros. stormed the castle, beat that last level and became legends. Together.

Avatar of Tim Malcolm

About Tim Malcolm

Tim Malcolm has written 1947 articles on Phillies Nation.

  • Posts: 0 Ryan

    Great story. Completely wrong.
    One look at statistics will tell you that if there are two players that are most responsible for this team it is not Jimmy and Rhyno.
    Its some guy named Chase and Cole.
    Seriously, one look.

  • Posts: 0 Jim

    Great story.

    I think you can’t name the leaders of this team without atleast mentioning cole hamels.

    That is just my opinion though and we could argue for days the two guys who are the “heart” of the phillies

  • Posts: 0 Bill

    Hamels is a big part of this. The nice part of this team is it is a standard of leadership and winning that is held by mulitiple leaders including Rollins, Howard, Utley, Hamels, and even Victorino. Put a gun to my head and I say Jimmy is the leader of this team but overall this team has a stable of leaders.

    Bowa was the manager the first season at CBP.


  • Posts: 0 Malcolm

    Ryan, you’re completely wrong. Jimmy is the fire starter. You want to look at statistics? See how connected the team’s record is to Rollins month to month productivity over the past couple of years. If we were to have a captain, that captain would most certainly be Jimmy. Cole is our ace, Rhyno is our monster and Chase is our best player. Weigh that out how you will, Jimmy is still the most important to our team and has established himself as our primary voice from the playing field.

  • Posts: 0 Malcolm

    And that’s not to take anything away from any of our many great players.

  • Posts: 0 Manny

    Too bad the “heart” has no heart with his ridiculous demands. (Rhyno)

  • Posts: 0 Don M

    Rollins is the longest tenured, and the leadoff hitter, and at SS – he’s the Captain of the Infield… add the hardward he’s one, Gold Glove and MVP.. and I find it hard to put up an arguement AGAINST him being the leader of the team.

    You could argue that Howard, Hamels, Utley, etc.. are .. and I’m sure there would be great stats, and great points made to back up those claims..

    But you can’t deny what Rollins means to this team.

    But that is also what worries me.. he walked around like God’s gift to the Phillies for a while after he won that MVP award.. I hope he doesn’t start the season this way after winning the World Series… That is when I said before they will miss Burrell in that lockerroom much more than they’ll miss him on the field or in the lineup

    Somebody needs to be the hands-down leader of this Team… in my mind its Rollins over Utley (especially since Utley doesn’t seem to want that role anyway)

  • Posts: 0 Don M

    Manny, does Ryan Howard deserve more money than Alphonso Soriano, Torii Hunter, and Carlos Lee?

    (I know that they all make too much, but throw that out for a minute, that’s not his fault, or his problem.. ) But does he deserve to be paid more money than those guys listed above?

  • Posts: 0 Griffin

    J-Roll seems to be the leader of the Phillies. That seems to be why he was the last one to speak after the parade.

  • Posts: 0 Geoff

    When I think of heart and soul I think of Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, & Brett Myers adn even Jamie Moyer for the mere fact that it must take heart to keep in the game that long. Those are the main engine type personalities in terms of “having heart.” I actually gained a lot of respect for Brett Myers for his effort to rediscover himself. Ibd be ok with getting him at a hometown discount and keeping him around for a few more years.

    Now, I do NOT think of Ryan Howard. Ryan Howard is MERELY another Eric Lindros. He has a wealth of talent btu absolutely no heart of mental toughness…this is why he is SO streaky and TOTALLY a homerun/rbi or strikeout guy. id kind of rather have a guy like berkman who hits .300 from either side…but i digress. i cannot deny howards numbers but to say that hes the heart & soul is fairly ridiculous…i mean, this guy has no heart, no character, & no mental toughness. I wouldnt dare put him in the same “heart & soul” group as the guys I mentioned….even Carlos Ruiz is more of a “heart” guy than ryan howard…

  • Posts: 0 Don M

    This is getting ridiculous.. Geoff, Im now 400% sure that you are two different people.. You’ve been saying all offseason that Myers is gone, trade him, he’s gone, no chance they’ll resign him, secret trade, etc..

    now, out of nowhere, you are ready to keep him around for a few more years? Because he was willing to go back to the minors to rediscover himself.. when before the mere fact that he got sent down was making you call for his immediate release. Im confused?

    Also, He’s so streaky, and totally a HR/RBI or Strikeout guy.. because “THAT’S WHAT A SLUGGER IS” as someone said two weeks ago

    What about Howard shows you that he doesn’t have heart? He plays everyday, and shows up for big games, carries his team when they need him most.. How you keep insisting he has no character or mental toughness doesn’t make any sense to me

  • Posts: 0 Matt S

    JRoll is absolutely the leader of the team, catalyst of the whole winning attitude, but we cannot forget the importance Jamie Moyer has had on that pitching staff…I would argue he is one of the most critical members of that team…

  • Posts: 0 Manny

    Don: 1. All those guys are in their 30s, they’re veterans.
    2. Of course they don’t deserve those huge amounts of money. To use your same argument, then it would be OK for Utley, Rollins, Hamels to start bitching and ask for 18M too… In my opinion, they “deserve” more money than guys like Torii Hunter.

    Back on topic, you know who’s the heart of the Phillies? Charlie Manuel: “Sit down, J-Roll, you’re not playing today.”

  • Posts: 0 Don M

    being in their 30′s has nothing to do with anything… Howard with all the hardware, playoff experience, and now a World Series crown, you wouldn’t call him a veteran at this point?

    Utley, Rollins, Hamels all chose to sign for Millions to give them financial stability, Howard felt he could make more money going to arbitration each year, since he feels the Phillies held him in the minors longer than they needed too, and so its now his right to either sign a long term deal or go to arbitration..

    And if we agree that Howard deserves more money.. or “deserves money more” than some other guys getting paid $x Million, why is that heartless, and a ridiculous demand? Its ridiculous that players get paid that much, but its not ridiclous to also ASK for that much if you deserve it more than others

  • Posts: 0 Manny

    Sure, Don, Howard IS a veteran… he was Rookie of the Year 2 years ago for god’s sake!

  • Posts: 0 Richie Allen

    Not only do I totally agree with Manny about Charlie….But I also think that there is no ONE or TWO players who are the HEART of this team.(On the field,that is ).

    Its the WHOLE CREW……COLE JROLL UTLEY HOWARD VICTORINO MOYER..and how about Lidge?I think they feed off each other every day.
    Like Charlie said last night,they come to play ,and they play hard.

    Also more about Charlie….If anybody saw the Phils on comcast last night…I for one wanted to hear more Charlie.He was so revved up and ready to talk,and it was great.

  • Posts: 0 Georgie

    I’m convinced that there has to be a player on every Philly team who the fans can hate and pick on, and it seems to be the big guy for this team. What on Earth has he done to become so unpopular with the fans? Don’t give me that crap about his outrageous salary demands, it’s not like he’s become Manny Ramirez or something, his agent’s asking 18M, we’re offering 14M, SO WHAT? Why does that bug people so much?

    And, honestly, will this town EVER lay off of Eric Lindros? That was ages ago, I’m so sick of Flyers fans blaming everything negative that has happened on Lindros, I will never bad-mouth him and don’t understand why people can’t let it go!

  • Posts: 0 Geoff

    Now…let me repeat…he showed up for TWO games in the ENTIRE postseason against Matt Garza and Andy Sonnanstine, but not against..yknow…james shields or scott kazmir….or derek lowe or kuroda….

    dude, of course people are going to get angry at the time that myers was playing bad…he was terrible…thats totally natural. being all numb about it is kind of strange actually. to just be like “oh well hes gotta do better” is this sort of ho-hum way is almost zombie-like. show a little fire once in a while. when ryan howard goes 6 games without a hit, its OK to be angry. when brett myers got smoked down in Arlington that night it was ok to be upset…its quite acceptable.

    besides…everybody knows theyre not going to just get rid of him…its ok to say it thoguh when youre angry. thats a natural fan reaction in any city except the mindless zombienoid subdued peoples of the midwest…so i have no worries about doing things like that.
    but yeah if brett myers is consistent this year why not bring him back at an affordable rate?

    finally…come on man..ryan howard is one of the most gutless heartless players ive ever seen in ANY sport….EVER. seeing him walk back to the dugout TIME AND TIME AGAIN with that arrogant smirk on his face is almost as bad as seeing mcnabb laugh off season-ending interceptions like its just a funny accident. eric lindros was the same way.

    those types of athletes are NEVER the driving force of a team. theyre just that overpaid overhyped superstar that NOONE else in the locker room really considers a friend…

    i mean ive been mad at j-roll before, but the guy is undoubtedly the engine of this team – along with shane victorino – someone who i was mad at for a shorter period of time until the manager pulled him aside and got him to focus…thats the guy who still needs more credit for all of this – charlie manuel – for getting some of these guys to focus on their role.

  • Posts: 0 Memphis

    We may be splitting hairs with “heart” and “leadership.” If there had to be one guy, one captain, if you will, I think it would have to be Rollins, and it’s as much about his swagger, mouth, and tenure as it is about his on-field performance. He has given this team its identity as it evolved from contender to “team to beat” to champion. He just *seems* to care about winning more than most of the other players.

    But, for me, the true heart of this team is Utley. He’s a baseball equivalent of a gym rat. You need a home run, a stolen base, taking an extra base, a big play in the field to change a game’s momentum, Utley provided it time and time again. He’s relentless. Doesn’t care about the media. Just wants to play ball. Just wants to beat you.

    Howard, as good as he can be, just strikes me as a big kid. I can’t say he doesn’t have heart, but he doesn’t strike me as irreplaceable. Replace Howard with Tex, or Berkman or Derek Lee, for instance, and I don’t think we miss Howard that much. Rollins and Utley, however, for the many things they bring to the table, are much harder to replace. And they just happen to play in the heart of the diamond.

  • Posts: 0 Georgie

    Geoff, Eric Lindros was absolutely NOT like that, I never, ever saw him smirk when things were going bad. Just because he doesn’t shout and scream and jump up and down does not mean he didn’t care. Eric was a quiet, introspective type of guy, misled by his dad, no doubt, but it WOULD be kinda tough to fire your dad as your agent. I can’t get into this on here, so this is all I’m gonna say on the subject, but I will defend Eric with all the strength this old lady can muster!

  • Posts: 0 Manny

    I definitely agree with your last post, Memphis. (That is, if you’re talking just about players, not including Charlie)

  • Posts: 0 Don M

    Manny, for the sake of your arguement… we’ll make it official that Howard isn’t a verteran, and isn’t in his 30s. So we’ve got that cleared up now.

  • Posts: 0 Georgie

    Oh, yeah, and if McNabb had some receivers who could actually catch a football….

  • Posts: 0 Don M

    You are really comparing Ryan Howard with Donovan McNabb….and Eric Lindros really?? Seriously?? … Didn’t Howard just lead us to the postseason, where we just won the CHAMPIONSHIP ???

    Gutless, Heartless, and Arrogant… alright..

    This is my biggest problem.. I understand people getting mad and saying things about players when they don’t perform.. I understood the outrage with Myers THEN.. but I didn’t understand your stance two weeks, nor what made you switch your stance on him today.. and then why this assault on Ryan Howard.. are you really THAT angry at him for wanting to get paid a lot of money?

  • Posts: 0 Don M

    I’ve said all offseason that I fully expect Myers to be with the team for the entire season..

    If he pitches well enough to have good trade value, you’ll want to keep him and resign him because he’s then that valuable to have on your own team.

    If he pitches poorly, he won’t have any trade value, so why get rid of him when you know that at any point he could be good again..

    He’s frustrating as hell sometimes, but I can’t see them getting rid of him this season, for the reasons above

  • Posts: 0 Chuck P

    There is no doubt that Jimmy Rollins is the engine that gets this team going. He is the guy that will say what needs to be said to get the guys going and he has the tools to back it up on the field. But when the game begins, Ryan Howard is the most valuable player on this team.

    Our fans have one flaw; unreasonable expectations for players that aren’t “Philadelphia” guys. Ryan Howard is a perfect example of that. Not known for his grit or determination or coachability, Howard thrives on his larger than life persona and it is ultimately his self-motivation that is going to get Ryan Howard out of a funk (not spending three extra hours in the batting cages). He is supremely confident but when he’s in a funk, he has no one to blame but himself and that manifests itself in the way he carries himself… and we hate it.

    But the guy is worth every penny…

    Sure, Howard is mildly inconsistent… still, in my opinion, a career .279 is not too shabby. Last year was his worst year, in terms of batting average, but if his primary goal is to drive in runs, you cannot argue with 146 RBI. The guy does his job… he does his best in the field (seen him fumble a few easy ones and make a few tough ones) and in the end, nobody is really worried about his fielding.

    So why don’t we appreciate what he does?

    His personality bothers us… when he has an ugly strikeout and casually walks off the field shaking his head, it agitates us. We want to see him dust it off but we also expect him to show emotion (which he rarely does). He’s a bit of an introvert; it seems like he doesn’t care at times but I think he really does. I think that it eats him up… when he’s hitting well, he’s a media darling. When he’s not hitting well, you don’t get much out of Howard. Unfortunately, when Howard’s not doing well, the team is not doing well. When the team is under duress, we expect him to step up and give us something to cling onto but he’s just not that guy (some players, regardless of their individual performances can say the right things, in the right manner to make us feel better… Howard is not that guy). Rowand only batted .262 in that season he went face-first into the wall and yet we treated him like royalty because he said the right things and played with grit. Say what you want, Howard is not the guy that’s gonna change the culture of the clubhouse but without him, we don’t even make it into the playoffs in 2008.

  • Posts: 0 Don M

    Chuck P, uhmmm that’s one of the best posts i’ve read on here, maybe EVER..

    good work

  • Posts: 0 Chuck P

    Wow… my posts are getting longer and longer. I need to do some real actual work. I was a little bit fired up; I didn’t even get to read half of these posts but now that I did, I see that everyone is heading down the same road that I traveled.

  • Posts: 0 maxhole

    what, you do not like my analogee? maybe you like a lamb and tuna fish?

  • Posts: 0 Chuck P

    Thanks, Don.

  • Posts: 0 Richie Allen

    Chuck P for president!

  • Posts: 0 Chuck P

    Thanks, but no thanks… who in their right mind would want that job right now?

    By the way, I meant to comment on what you said about the state of the nation… I was thinking about how remarkable it is that the stuff that gets said on here inevitably always ends up on CSN/ESPN. Great job, everyone… especially Tim, Rob and co.

  • Posts: 0 John Fire

    Not related, but rumor has it the Cubs are looking to trade lefty Rich Hill. It wasn’t too long ago (one year ago, in fact) that Rich Hill was considered to be very close to Cole Hamels in terms of talent. He’s older – 29 – and “lost is feel” for pitching last year… still, worthy of taking a flyer on him maybe, depending on what the Cubbies are looking to get in return, right?

    Only started 5 games last year, was 1-0 with a 4.12 and 15/18 k/bb ratio. Still held batters to a .191 average. Look back one year and you’ll see those Hamels-like numbers: 11-8, 195 IP, 183K / 63BB, 1.19 WHIP, .235 BAA…

  • Posts: 0 Don M

    I’d imagine that they have to be asking more than the Phillies would be willing to pay..

    Anyone see this yet, more from the Torre book:

    “The story comes courtesy of Yankee trainer Steve Donahue who told Verducci about what Roger Clemens did as part of his usual routine to get ready for facing the Mets in Game 2 of the 2000 World Series. Donahue said Clemens’ usual pregame preparation included taking a whirlpool bath at the hottest temperature possible.

    “He’d come out looking like a lobster,” Donahue said.

    But here’s the money quote:

    Then Donahue would rub the hottest possible liniment on his testicles.
    “He’d start snorting like a bull,” the trainer said. “That’s when he was ready to pitch.”

    Man, talk about way too much information. That must be why Roger was such a crotchety bastard on the mound. Well, that and the steroids.”

    That is priceless!

  • Posts: 0 Chuck P

    I like Rich Hill. I think that young pitchers probably have a difficult time dealing with Piniella and Wrigley’s a tough place to pitch and a change of scenery might be just what he needs. I also think that he’s one of the key components of the Peavy deal.

  • Posts: 0 Chuck P

    WHAAAATTT!!!! That is one of the craziest things that I have ever heard.

  • Posts: 0 Kev

    How can you call Howard, “Gutless and Heartless?” Just because hes not the vocal leader like Rollins and Hamels, does not mean he is heartless and doesn’t give his all. Burrell never was the outspoken leader, but if you talk to any1 on the team they would say he is looked up upon as a team leader along with JRoll.

    Im sick and tired of hearing people bitch about the money “Howard” is asking for. People don’t realize that he has an agent, and other people that work with the agent to analyze the situation, compare him to other players that have put up the same numbers he has, in the amount of time, and thats how they come up with the number. It’s not like he walks into the room and says, i want 18 million, and if i dont get it, im not going to work my ass off this spring/summer. How can you diss a person because he wants the money he believes he deserves.
    For his career, he averages a .279 BA, 144 RBIs, and 51 HRs since he has been a full time starter at First Base for the phillies.

    Now try and tell me he doesn’t deserve the money that Alfonso Soriano, Torrii Hunter, Carlos Lee make, when last time i checked, they haven’t one a World Series, or carried their team to the playoffs, give me a break. Now yeah say he doesnt deserve the money, trade him to some garbage team, for some slop minor leaguers who more often then not, will never become a player in the MLB, let alone the caliber of player Howard is.

    Don M:” Also, He’s so streaky, and totally a HR/RBI or Strikeout guy.. because “THAT’S WHAT A SLUGGER IS” as someone said two weeks ago”- that was me who said that lol, just pointing it out

    Thank You

  • Posts: 0 Geoff

    Correction: Howard led the charge into the playoffs with a big september, yes. But he didnt lead anybody to anything during the playoffs save two games. werth, victorino and the pitching staff were the driving forces there for much of the postseason…

  • Posts: 0 Geoff

    Thats crazy, roger clemens is a sick maniac…

  • Posts: 0 Monktavian

    We are really going to miss Howard when and if he leaves the Phils for another lucrative contract. In a market economy, despite my difficulties dealing with it, a player should get all they can get. This will be the case until the rules change. Howard is, put simply, the gold standard for home run sluggers. He can look awfully bad, just like Reggie Jackson and Jim Thome did, but when he’s hot, he is simply awesome. I always look forward to him coming to the plate.

  • Posts: 0 Kev

    But if it wasn’t for that “charge” in September, would the phillies be in the playoffs and have a chance to win that big trophy? NO, the defense rests your honor

  • Posts: 0 Kev

    Also, Howard is 29, and he probably wants to get his money now, because he is starting to get old, its not like he came into the league in his early 20s like Hamels, Rollins, Myers, Burrell.

  • Posts: 0 Geoff

    And yes I am legitimately mad at him for wanting that much money, its still not as bad as CC/tex/burnett but its bad. we. are. in. a. DEPRESSION. Were like “oh lets sign this guy or that guy for cheap because of the market”…and by “for cheap” you mean for 5 million dollars. five. million. dollars…FIVE MILLION DOLLARS..is CHEAP!!!! what is wrong with us that we even think that?

    from this point onward any player that becomes this difficult about money during this economic situation is ABSOLUTELY out of touch with the people who buy tickets to see him play…AND will all equally be disparaged by me because they are taking for granted things that most “real” people wouldnt even know what to do with….

    i mean…say howard “loses” arbitration. how totally apart from reality is baseball if a player considers a one year 14m deal “losing.”? what would you even do with 14m?

    i mean, ryan madson is a scott boras client and even HE signed a contract extension buying out TWO FA years…

  • Posts: 0 Geoff

    but is that “charge” worth 18M? 20m? absolutely not…EVER.

  • Posts: 0 Bruce

    I agree with the views of a few posters such as Don M and Chuck P on Howard and Rollins. I’m not sure why there is a need to debate and split hairs on the intangibles of heart vs leadership and apply to the two previous MVPs in Rollins and Howard. After all, Tim NEVER used the words “heart” or “leadership” in his latest blog. It’s all about their contributions ON the field that made the difference between a contender and also rans. As Tim pointed out, their personalities are put aside when it is time to give 100% of themselves on the playing field where it all counts.

  • Posts: 0 Kev

    Haha your out of your mind my man. Everyone goes on slumps and cold streaks, look at Rollins, Burrell, and even the Golden Boy (sarcasm, but everyone thinks he is immortal) Chase Utley. What did he do after the all star break? Bum hip or not, he never made it an issue, but he was slumping in the second half, when howard started to turn it on like late May/Early June. so basically your telling me he hit 48 homers and 149 RBIs all in september, stop hating on him, you sound like a moron

  • Posts: 0 Don M

    If Ryan Howard is hanging out with Snoop Dogg.. then you know Chase Utley has some Cali. chronic connections..


    And that means that our Phillies only smoke the stickiest of the icky.. fa sho. holla

  • Posts: 0 Kev

    I agree 150% Bruce

  • Posts: 0 Geoff

    they said the other day on hotestove that willie mays would command 30M a year as a free agent nowadays. If willie mays came into my office as a GM and asked for that much money a year…id tell him to get the hell out of my office IMMEDIATELY and that he should pack his bags because he is going to get traded by the end of the day.

  • Posts: 0 Kev

    Whats with your obsession of trading away great players? Howard, Mays?

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