The World Baseball Classic is about to begin it’s third edition, and Phillies short stop Jimmy Rollins will be front and center for the action representing the good old US of A. The WBC is a long ways away from garnering the same attention as the World Cup, but it’s still fun to get ridiculously patriotic over sports no matter what the excuse. Rollins will be playing short stop for team USA for the second time, and if 2009 is any indication Rollins playing in the WBC spells disaster for the Phils.
Let’s take a trip back in time to 2009. The Phillies entered Spring Training as the defending world champs for the first time in 28 years. Everyone was on a huge high from that title (figuratively and literally). After all, what could have gone wrong?
Like most of the returning core of guys, J-Roll was riding the vindication of his wild predictions and wanted to show the rest of the league they weren’t a one hit wonder. But, before he and the rest of the Phils could get going on their title defense the WBC stood in their way. In only it’s second run, the WBC didn’t have the clout (nor does it now) to fend off the complaints of teams for having their players join up to play. Rollins was joined by Shane Victorino, with the two missing the bulk of spring training for the event.
The biggest worry was, and still is, that these guys will get hurt and be lost for their actual teams. Thankfully for the Phillies this didn’t happen. Just this week though the Reds announced they wouldn’t let ace pitcher Johnny Cueto pitch for the Dominican team (Take note Ruben!) Both Victorino, and particular Jimmy enjoyed a great deal of success during the tournament in 09. Rollins split time with Derek Jeter at short stop and DH, and raked at a .417 clip including 10 hits, 4 steals, and homer to boot.
Team USA finished in 4th, but who really cared? Rollins and Victorino made their country proud and escaped without any serious injuries. No harm done.
If the tale ended here, I would be the first cheering on Rollins in this years WBC. His performance at the last one was great, but it was his on the play for the Phillies that took a nose dive.
J-Roll’s 2009 season was, for lack of a better word, terrible. He struggled in nearly every offensive category. He hit .250 with an OBP under .300, and had an OPS+ of 87. To his credit, he never let his struggles carry over into the field as he earned another gold glove. His defense helped the Phils get back to the World Series, but his abysmal time at the plate all traces back to playing in the WBC.
The connection isn’t so obvious until you look at his monthly breakdowns. Rollins, like many Phillies, is a notoriously slow starter but 2009 took that to the extreme.
April, May, and June say it all. Whether he ramped it up to soon in March, or was just simply thrown out of his routine Rollins didn’t get right until midway through the year. A bad April could have been excused, but this catastrophic first half nearly derailed the Phillies title hopes. The 2013 Phillies aren’t nearly in as good shape as they were four years ago, and can’t afford to have Rollins suffer another WBC hangover.
Then again, the correlation between playing in the WBC and Rollins struggles could have just been coincidence. Not every player who played in the tournament had the same problems Rollins did. An extended playoff the year before could have been the root of the trouble, or an excessive celebration tour throughout the off-season. All I know is, I will feel a whole lot better about Rollins early prospects if he wisely decides to back out from playing in this years WBC. Don’t worry J-Roll, we’ll understand.