Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins, who evidently still thinks the Phillies are the defending National League East champions, declared at a charity event Monday night that the Phillies are still the team to beat in the NL East.
“[The division] still runs through Philly. [Washington] had one year to win it. It was just like when the Mets took it from Atlanta, it was still up for grabs. I’m sure Atlanta felt it was still theirs, but fortunately we were able to come in and take it the next five years.”
The Nationals (and Braves for that matter) could be excused for feeling not only a little bit slighted, but also a bit annoyed by the 33-year-old’s comments, especially considering they won 98 games in 2012 compared to the Phils’ 81, have the reigning NL Rookie of the Year in Bryce Harper, and three Silver Slugger winners, 1B Adam LaRoche, P Steven Strasburg, and SS Ian Desmond.
But you know, those are just annoying little facts, and facts can have a nasty habit of getting in the way of a good story.
“We were undermanned,” Rollins said, pinning all of the Phils’ problems in 2012 on injuries. “It was written — you’d write the lineup every single day and we’re undermanned against a lot of teams. As soon we got healthy, you start to see us turn back around and catch our rhythm.”
Of course, Rollins is partially correct. The Phillies do need their $20 million superstars, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Roy Halladay, to return to form for a full season. They need to stay healthy and productive.
And it is true that after Utley and Howard returned for a full second-half, the Phillies went 44-31. That is a definite improvement. But to extrapolate that half season and proclaim that the division still runs through Philadelphia doesn’t make Rollins sound brash or confident.
It makes him sound out of touch and delusional.
Look, I like Jimmy Rollins. When he started his whole “team to beat” thing before the start of the 2007 season, he was trying to pump up a young team that hadn’t won anything. And he was tweaking the overconfident Mets, which I think everyone enjoyed immensely.
However, this Phillies team is stocked with veterans. There is no need for artificial bravado anymore. The humiliation of being toppled by the Nationals, a team the Phils used to own, should be enough of a wake-up call. Winning just 81 games and failing to make the playoffs for the first time since 2006 should be motivation enough.
The Phillies simply don’t need Jimmy Rollins to do his “Jimmy Rollins thing” anymore, because all Rollins is doing now is hurting his credibility.
Still, hopefully Jimmy was right about one thing…
“Everyone’s a little angry,” Rollins said, “which is good to get a chip on your shoulder and just go back out there and prove that this is still our division, but not only that, but that we’re still World Champions.”
That would be a good thing. This team needs a little fire in their belly. Charlie Manuel has complained on numerous occasions over the last three years that his team has gotten complacent.
That complacency, if it indeed existed, should be wiped away now.
Right now, the Washington Nationals are the best team in the division. Watching these two teams play each other last year made this an obvious reality.
Can the Phils catch the Nats? Of course they can. But Ruben Amaro needs to make smart moves this offseason and the Phils’ injured Big Three need to stay healthy.
Simply put, the Nats and Braves both have fewer “ifs” heading into the 2013 season than the Phillies.
As for Rollins’ comments, it’s good that he’s a confident guy. No one is saying he should go into the season thinking the Phillies are losers. Players should be confident about their chances.
But right now, Jimmy sounds like a guy who is living in the past and out of touch with reality.
It’s OK to give the other guys credit and put the bulls-eye on them. It doesn’t make you weak.
Jimmy, it’s time to embrace your team’s new role as the hunter.
And now, it’s hunting season.