To all those defending Jimmy Rollins, shielding him from criticism and declaring his antics are no big deal, I have just one small request.
Please stop talking.
During Thursday’s 3-2 win over the Mets, Rollins’ failure once again to run out a pop up that was dropped by the Mets’ infield resulted in manager Charlie Manuel benching the one-time MVP for the second time in two weeks.
In baseball, there are a million things a player cannot control. He can’t control the quality of pitches being thrown by the pitcher. He largely can’t control where a ball is going to be hit once he makes contact. He can’t control the home plate umpire, he can’t control the weather and he can’t control luck.
The only thing a player can control is the level of preparation he devotes to the game and the amount of effort he exerts on the field, i.e., hustle.
And contrary to what the Jimmy Rollins apologists will tell you, that DOES affect winning.
Unfortunately, unless they can quantify something like Rollins’ lack of hustle with an algorithm that would confound Mark Zuckerberg, the sabermatricians who are defending Jimmy’s actions as no big deal simply cannot understand one immutable truth about sports, and adult life in general.
Sometimes what goes on between the ears is as important as what goes on inside the lines.
Did Jimmy Rollins’ failure to run out a pop-up in yesterday’s game cost the Phillies the win? No, it didn’t. The Phils still won.
Did his failure to run out a pop-up two weeks ago against the Brewers cost the Phillies a win? No, there were bigger factors that cost the Phils that game.
And did his failure to run out multiple pop-ups in 2008, resulting in another benching from Manuel, cost the Phillies? Nope, they won a world title that same year.
But the reason Rollins’ laziness is such a big deal this time is simple. It was a personal slap to the face of Charlie Manuel. And if you’re the boss, you cannot allow one of your employees to deliberately do that to you in front of your other employees.
If you’ve never been in charge of a staff, perhaps you can’t understand this concept. Manuel has to maintain control of the clubhouse and show the rest of the players that insubordination won’t be tolerated from anyone.
Look at the Red Sox, a team in total chaos. Last year’s fried chicken and beer controversy with Sox pitchers was apparently just the tip of the iceberg. This year, players of that team have met with team officials trying to run their manager out of town. The team is in disarray, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that their play on the field hasn’t been the same since.
But the fact that Manuel had this exact conversation with Rollins just two weeks ago makes Jimmy’s actions all the more intolerable.
If this was an isolated incident, I could understand cutting Rollins some slack. After all, as Todd Zolecki noted, the guy does lead the Majors in pop-ups, constituting 21% of the balls he puts in play. A person can understand that hitting an infield pop-up on a fastball right down the middle of the plate is frustrating. Even more so in the middle of a long season going nowhere.
But this is about more than that.
One of the issues the Phillies front office has had with Rollins over the years is that he’s always been “on his own program,” meaning he comes and goes as he pleases. He’s been scratched from games in past years for showing up late to the stadium. Zolecki says Rollins’ lack of hustle and chronic lateness has irked teammates in the past and was one of the things the Phils considered when deciding whether to bring Jimmy back this offseason.
In the end, they decided Rollins’ play on the field and his past performance with the club was worth a three-year, $33 million contract.
They were wrong.
And let’s be honest about what Rollins is really worth. He’s still a plus-defender and provides decent pop for a shortstop. But his OPS of .714 is only 12th out of 24 qualifying shortstops in the Majors (stat courtesy of Zolecki), and his .304 on base percentage is horrific for a leadoff hitter.
Jimmy’s a fine player who ideally should be hitting 6th or 7th in a lineup. But he’s no star anymore. He’s not good enough to pull this crap and get away with it any longer.
And now, for the second time in two weeks, the one-time “straw that stirs the drink” has poked Charlie Manuel in the eye. Again. And Manuel cannot let it stand. Not if he wants to be taken seriously in the clubhouse by the other players.
So to all the Jimmy Rollins apologists who think this is no big deal, the simple truth is this.
If you were Charlie Manuel, and one of your players made you look like a fool, you wouldn’t be so quick to blow this off.
The Phillies are not a good enough team to have players slacking off during games. They’ve made enough mental mistakes this year to last three seasons. And as sure as I’m writing this, you can bet that a lazy attitude on the field leads to a lazy approach at the plate and a lazy approach to preparing for games, leading to those same mental mistakes as well as scores of poor at bats.
They’re all connected, and that DOES show up in the results on the field.
Even if you can’t figure out an algorithm to quantify it.