NEW YORK - What do you get when you shove an ex-Wimbledon champion, an NBA Hall of Famer, an Olympic gymnast and an MVP shortstop into a crowded hallway in front of an elevator at New York University?
Just another day in the life of a World Series champion.
There Jimmy Rollins was, decked out in a Marc Ecko jacket, lavender tie, designer jeans, beautiful girlfriend at his side, navigating the underbelly of the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, exchanging pleasantries with Donald Trump and introducing John McEnroe to his tennis aficionado girlfriend. A superstar in every sense of the word, from the skills to the personality to the hardware, the Phillies shortstop seemed right at home Wednesday night among the bevy of stars who turned out for a year-end taping of the HBO talk show "Costas Now."
Think a world title would change any of that?
"I'm still the same handsome guy," Rollins said as he cracked his familiar smile. "I haven't even really thought about it much. In all honesty, I watched the World Series DVD the other day. I got a chance to smile a little bit. It was another game, albeit the biggest game of my life."
Already, it seems, the focus is on next season. And if the whirlwind reconstruction of the Phillies organization over the past 2 months wasn't a good enough indicator - New general manager? Check. New assistant general managers? Check. New bench coach? Check. New third-base coach? Check. - Rollins' words were.
Asked his opinion of the Phillies' chances of repeating a World Series title, he raised his eyebrows and dropped some philosophy.
"You don't repeat a World Series," Rollins said. "You don't repeat a game. You don't repeat a pitch. You don't really repeat a swing. You just try to do it again. And that's different."
Rollins was visibly excited about the Phillies' acquisition of former Mariners leftfielder Raul Ibanez, who will attempt to replace 9-year veteran and free agent Pat Burrell.
"For years, I have seen him on TV and said, 'I would love to have him on my team,' " Rollins said. "But we weren't looking for a lefthanded hitter at the time, which we've never been looking for a lefthanded hitter. He's a professional. You look at his numbers against lefthanded pitching, against righthanded pitching, especially over the last 4 years what he's done in Seattle."
Like general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., Rollins downplayed the fact that Ibanez hits lefthanded, giving the Phillies three such middle-of-the-order hitters, including first baseman Ryan Howard and second baseman Chase Utley, who could miss the first month or 2 of the season while recovering from hip surgery.
"It doesn't matter - he's just going to hit," Rollins said. "That's going to be the most important thing. Whether he bats in front of Ryan until Chase gets back into the lineup or after Ryan, depending on where Charlie hits him in the order, he can just hit. That's what you need. If you can have a guy who can hit, it doesn't matter if he is lefthanded or righthanded."
Howard, who joined Rollins on the set Wednesday night, concurred.
"I've heard that he's a good guy, a good locker-room guy, also," Howard said an hour before the start of the show. "We're always willing to take some of that."
For both Howard and Rollins, the offseason has been a time to recharge from the rigors of a season that lasted a month longer than either had ever endured. Howard has bounced around from his hometown of St. Louis to Atlanta and various places in Georgia, hanging with his twin brother Corey and, in his words, "flying under the radar."
As he did last offseason, Howard will travel to Florida early to work out with other major leaguers at Tampa-area Saddlebrook Resort in preparation for spring training. He also could end up back at the arbitration table, where he was awarded a record $10 million before the start of last season.
Howard, who won't be a free agent until after the 2011 season, avoided talk about his contract situation, but did say he hasn't heard anything from the Phillies about a possible deal. The club attempted to work out a long-term deal last season with Howard's agent, Casey Close, but the two sides never found common ground.
"You're talking to the wrong person right now," said Howard, whose power numbers have remained steady the past three seasons - 58, 47 and 48 home runs, with 149, 136 and 146 RBI - despite a precipitous drop in his batting average - .313, .268, .251 - and on base percentage - .425, .392, .339. "I don't think there's been anything. I haven't talked to them about anything."
For now, Rollins and Howard are focused on enjoying the spoils of the World Series run.
"I think the last three innings were better than the whole World Series itself," Rollins said. "All the drama itself. Everything on the line . . . That made it. I don't know what the ratings were, but if you didn't see games 1, 2, 3, 4, [first half of 5], and you just caught the last three innings of Game 5, you got enough. It felt like I played nine innings. It felt like, emotionally, I played nine innings. It was crazy, just those three innings."
With that, Rollins ducked into an elevator, enjoyed the brief ride to the street level, then walked through a set of double doors and out into the December cold, two flanks of cheering fans shouting his name.
It's good to be J-Roll.
And, for at least a few more months, it's good to be kings. *