WITH THE imminent departure of Jimmy Rollins, the reconstruction begins.
Rollins is set to take his Hollywood act to La-La Land, where, presumably, he will contend for a World Series title one last time.
No one who observes baseball can be surprised by this move, or others likely to come: perhaps, Cole Hamels; maybe, Chase Utley; certainly, Ryan Howard; hopefully, Jonathan Papelbon. The Phillies are staler than Christmas cookies in February, desperate for a makeover most extreme.
Trading Jimmy Rollins to the Dodgers is most extreme.
But for all of Howard's homers and Chase's hustle and Cole's cool-hand starts, no Phillie embodied Phillies baseball during Rollins tenure from 2001-2014 like Rollins. He was an All-Star as a rookie, an MVP the year the team broke its 14-year playoff drought, the leader when the club won its second World Series, the unfettered spokesman for a ballclub he dared to win.
A little dude with a big personality, Rollins played alongside a lot of big, stoic guys: Scott Rolen, Pat "The Bat" Burrell, Big Jim Thome and Roy Halladay.
He outlasted them all.
Rollins mentored awkward Ryan Howard into superstar status. Rollins combined with Utley in a dynamic doubleplay combination that produced a slew of runs at the top of a historically productive lineup. Rollins - and no one else - created a clubhouse atmosphere in which Hamels could develop into his wonderfully effective, existential self.
Rollins closed one ballpark and he opened another.
Rollins not only lasted through three managers, he lasted through three general managers.
His escape might draw a parallel from more than 8 years ago.
The trade of Bobby Abreu and a bunch of other veterans in the middle of the 2006 season marked the unlikely beginning of the golden era of Phillies baseball. That day, GM Pat Gillick remarked that he expected the Phillies to remain inconsequential for at least two seasons.
If the Phillies succeed in their deconstruction project, a 2-year projection will be most optimistic.
Gillick now is the team's acting president, in the wake of David Montgomery's ongoing illness. His assistant in 2006, Ruben Amaro Jr., is the general manager, and he engineered this deal that sends Rollins back to his home state. Raised in Oakland, Rollins always has been more Tinseltown than Oak Town.
When Rollins brought that glamour with him to Philadelphia, he was often despised as much as he was appreciated.
Larry Bowa, his manager in his first full season, called Rollins a "red-light player," a persona that craved the camera. At the same time, Bowa cringed at Rollins' love of the limelight.
Before Rollins, Bowa was considered the franchise's best shortstop, a defensive linchpin on the 1980 club. Three years into Rollins' career, Bowa conceded that title.
Rollins might never replace Bowa as the Phillies' best-loved shortstop, but that's because Bowa played every inning of every game with a desperation born of paranoia and respect.
Rollins often waited for the big moment to find him; witness his walkoff double against the Dodgers in the 2009 National League Championship Series.
Rollins twice was benched by manager Charlie Manuel for lack of hustle, which roiled the blood of fans in Philadelphia, which considers itself blue-collar.
Rollins often ignored suggestions that he minimize strikeouts, that he bunt more often, that he choke-and-poke with two strikes. That didn't sit real well with baseball purists, either.
Rollins was a child of the '90s. He wallowed in vanity, from his monogrammed glove and shoes to his special-order sunglasses and his just-so batting gloves. Narcissism thrives in baseball as in no other sport, and Rollins, with his beaming smile and his bubbly personality, gave narcissism a viable vehicle.
Rollins once even tried to change his nickname from "J-Roll" to "J-Smooth." Perhaps kindly anticipating the absurdity that comedian J.B. Smoove has become, fate never let "J-Smooth" gain traction.
Still, for all of his audacity, the Phillies could not have done better than him. They paid him nearly $87 million for his efforts.
They got a bargain.
A basestealing middle infielder, Rollins got hurt plenty and often played hurt, for which he gets little credit. He played through nagging leg injuries for at least half a season at least three different times. In an era of self-preserving dilettantes, only once in 14 full seasons did Rollins miss more than 25 games.
His dependability is the main reason Rollins leaves as the club's all-time leader in hits, doubles and steals in the modern era. Only Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt collected more total bases.
As significant, no player was a better shortstop for the duration of Rollins' run as a Phillie. He led the NL in fielding percentage four times, including this past season, at age 35. He ranks third among all shortstops in fielding percentage, 0.0022 of a point out of first place. That's not among Phillies; that's among every shortstop, ever.
If Rollins was a bat-flipping wannabe power hitter whose .267 career average is probably 10 points lower than it should be, credit him that he never sacrificed showmanship for efficiency in the field. He knew that excellent defense wins championships and keeps teams tight.
So does snagging an extra base.
He ranked among the top 10 in the NL in stolen bases 12 times - a remarkable testament to durability; doubly remarkable because he stole bases on a team predicated on power in an era when steals lost their luster. That is brilliant, considering the extra wear and tear of playing the second-toughest position on the field and batting leadoff.
Analytics devotees point to a player such as Rollins and sniff that his contributions are, quantifiably, overstated.
Players such as Rollins point to all of those wins.
The son of a weightlifter and a softball star, Rollins, at 5-8 (maybe) and 180 pounds combines outsized strength with athleticism - balance, speed, hands and arm strength - that the game has seldom seen. He is a special talent, and should be considered as such.
Accolades can be arbitrary. He went to three All-Star Games, which is about right. He won four Gold Gloves, which might be one or two too few.
But the MVP award and the World Series win will be the crux of the argument that gets Rollins into Cooperstown, if he manages the trip.
It is an argument worth making.
On Twitter: @inkstainedretch