In the Phillies' 2-1 win over the Marlins on Tuesday night, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley started their 1,068th game together as double-play partners.
So at age 34, the Rollins-Utley connection is still kickin' ... actually, it’s still kickin' quite well.
The longtime Phils are both closing 2013 on high notes as the team finishes its first losing season since 2002.
Manager Ryne Sandberg challenged Rollins to adjust his approach at the plate, level his swing and reach base more frequently. Since Sandberg took over Aug. 16, Rollins' on-base percentage has risen from .306 to .321. Over his last 13 games, Rollins is hitting .367 (18 for 49) with 11 runs scored, six doubles and seven walks.
Utley’s been just as good. In his last 18 games, he’s hitting .354 (23 for 65) with 16 RBIs. Utley’s 18 homers, 68 RBIs, 49 extra-base hits and 220 total bases this season are his most since 2009, and he currently owns the third-best OPS (.823) among MLB second basemen.
Words like "rebuild, revamp, turnover" are popular ones during this organization's time of uncertainty following such a proud run.
But why not reshape around Rollins and Utley? That's the vision of GM Ruben Amaro Jr. and what’s wrong with it?
Baseball today is so statistically driven that experience so often becomes grossly overlooked.
No, Rollins isn’t the same player from 2007 that won NL MVP, nor is Utley the same player that slugged 22-30 homers and knocked in 93-105 runs for five straight seasons from 2005-09. But the two do bring a world championship, two World Series appearances and five division crowns to the table.
Utley is the model of work ethic and Rollins is a constant vocal example. Those types of presences could be invaluable to the Phillies’ youngsters of the future.
The double-play combo since 2004 is still producing — an added bonus to coincide with intangibles that are just as important.
Both Rollins and Utley will be 35 when 2014 spring training rolls around. But as Utley said prior to this season, "Age is a number — it depends on how you treat your body and how you take care of it."
Rollins and Utley are still the faces of this franchise, and building another nucleus around them may not be a bad idea.
It could go a long way in bringing another parade down Broad Street.