After last week gave us a spat between Jimmy Rollins and Ryne Sandberg, recent quotes from both men made it seem like the situation had resolved itself. Leave it to that notorious troublemaker Buster Olney to stir things up again.
According to Olney’s recent article on ESPN.com, it seems that some members of the Phillies’ organization would prefer it if Rollins became an ex-Phillie:
However, sources indicate that some in influential positions in the organization want Rollins to be a leader by investing himself more thoroughly in daily work and setting a strong example for others. If Rollins isn’t going to do that, the sentiment of some is that the team would be better off moving him as soon as possible.
Leadership in sports is hard to identify. When a team succeeds, people love to talk about how it was due to having great leadership in the clubhouse. Conversely, when things fall apart, you’ll often hear that one of the reasons was because there wasn’t enough leadership.
Ultimately, I’m not sure how much leadership actually matters. For instance, Michael Vick was supposedly a tremendous leader for the Philadelphia Eagles, and yet he didn’t keep the team from suffering disappointing 2011 and 2012 seasons.
For the last few years, there have been concerns that the Phillies’ core has grown complacent. That’s a big reason why Sandberg is managing this year’s team instead of Charlie Manuel. Now that Manuel is gone, someone has apparently decided that Rollins is the main source of that complacency.
I suppose that it would be nice if Rollins set a good example for other players. As the longest tenured Phillie and a former MVP, it is reasonable to think that he holds a good deal of cachet in the clubhouse. If he truly has a “who cares?” attitude, then it’s only natural for others to follow suit.
On the other hand, Rollins has been in the league a long time, and he’s one of the franchise’s all-time great players. Shouldn’t he have earned a little bit of slack? I think Rollins has a pretty good idea of what he needs to do to get ready for the season by now.
The timing of this seems strange to me. The team spent the offseason making moves that clearly indicated some hopes of contending in 2014. So then why do they appear to be greasing the skids for Rollins’ exit?
I understand that Freddy Galvis would be a cheaper alternative at shortstop, but I am skeptical that Galvis has the bat of a major league regular. If they’re not happy with how the team’s offense has performed thus far this Spring, then switching from Rollins to Galvis probably isn’t going to improve matters.
Maybe this is part of a plan to make Rollins more willing to accept a trade if things fall apart. But to alienate one of your key players before a season just so they could potentially trade him at midseason seems insanely foolish.
Perhaps the injury to Cole Hamels and the team’s poor performance in exhibition games has tempered the optimism of the team’s front office. Perhaps they’ve begun to think that the team doesn’t really have a chance at competing in 2014, and they need to plan accordingly.
Of course, they can try to alienate Rollins all they want, but unless he is willing to waive his no-trade clause, he will continue to be a member of the Phillies organization. And despite everything that has happened so far this Spring, Rollins still doesn’t sound like he’s in much of a hurry to do that.