IT WAS another amazing moment in New York Yankees lore.
On Saturday, Derek Jeter stepped to the plate at the new Yankee Stadium, only one hit from reaching 3,000.
With one majestic swing, Jeter sent a ball over the wall to become the first Yankee ever to get 3,000 hits and the second player ever to reach the milestone on a home run.
Only 27 other major leaguers have reached 3,000 hits.
It almost did not happen.
After 15 years as the Yankees shortstop, Jeter became a free agent after the 2010 season. Following an extremely testy and public spat about his worth, the Yankees signed Jeter to a 3-year contract with an option for a fourth.
But the Yankees saw the value in the bigger picture.
Jeter, now 37, was still going to play baseball. The Yankees knew they couldn't let one of the most beloved players in franchise history reach a career milestone like 3,000 hits in another uniform.
Milestone moments matter to the Yankees, who know they add to the franchise's lore. Babe Ruth and Roger Maris set single-season home run records as Yankees. Lou Gehrig set the original ironman streak as a Yankee. Joe DiMaggio set the all-time hitting streak as a Yankee.
Jeter's 3,000th hit was always going to happen with him wearing Yankee pinstripes.
With that, we make the long stretch to the Phillies and their longtime shortstop, Jimmy Rollins.
After starting for the Phillies for more than a decade, Rollins, 32, will become a free agent at the end of the season. He is playing under the $8.5 million option year in the 5-year, $40 million extension he signed in 2006.
There is no question that Rollins' skills are declining, but he is still a quality major league shortstop and should remain so for several seasons.
Rollins has 1,809 career hits, and the odds say that within the next three seasons or so, he will get the 426 hits he needs to break Mike Schmidt's franchise record of 2,234.
The Phillies should allow Rollins to make a run at Schmidt's hits record.
I'm not saying they should break the bank, especially given more than $100 million already committed to nine players for next year, but they should be pliable in the negotiations.
While this is not a milestone like 3,000 hits or 300 wins, the Phillies would be sending a clear message that they value what Rollins has accomplished.
Historically, the Phillies have seemed to have taken a "no big deal" approach to individual milestones.
The Phillies released Steve Carlton during the 1986 season, when he was only 18 strikeouts short of 4,000. He got it with the San Francisco Giants.
Pete Rose was in a Phillies uniform when he became a serious threat to pass Ty Cobb as the all-time hits leader. But the Phillies didn't keep Rose after the 1983 season. He signed a 1-year deal with the Montreal Expos and, on April 13, 1984, he became the second player to get 4,000 hits.
In 1985, Rose returned to the Cincinnati Reds and passed Cobb as the all-time hit king on Sept. 11.
Considering how much Rose was loved in Philadelphia, can you imagine how much Veterans Stadium would have rocked had Rose surpassed Cobb as a Phillie?
Obviously, Rollins' getting his 2,235 hits would not be a historic baseball milestone, but it would be special locally. It would be a reward for his longevity, and his productivity.
Schmidt is the standard-bearer for the Phillies. He became a Hall of Fame player and the greatest third baseman of all time while playing exclusively for the Phillies. He is the Hall of Fame player most associated with the Phillies.
A player making a run at one of Schmidt's records should mean something to the Phillies.
Rollins has spent just about his entire adult life as a member of the Phillies organization. He has been a National League Most Valuable Player and also helped the Phillies win a World Series. Schmidt and current first baseman Ryan Howard are the only other "lifetime" Phillies who accomplished both.
Since the advent of free agency, it is rare for an athlete to spend his entire career with one team.
Most of the Phillies' career records have stood for decades. Schmidt's records, which include hits, home runs and RBI, are the only ones held by a player who spent his entire career as a Phillie.
Rollins will not pass Schmidt unless he continues to play at a respectable level over the next 3 years.
The Phillies should factor that in when they decide whether to bring Rollins back. *
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