What’s missing from the Philadelphia Phillies roster?
No, what Rollins thinks is holding the Phillies back is something that can’t exactly be bought: leadership. According to the former shortstop, the Phillies can have more talent than any other team and will continue to fail without a team leader.
Speaking to NBC Sports Philadelphia‘s John Clark at the end of January, Rollins discussed the absence of leadership on his former team:
"“They have the talent. I’m not sure who is the leader out there.We hear a lot about J.T. (Realmuto), obviously. I don’t know what he’s like in the clubhouse. Bryce (Harper) being the highest-paid player, that puts you in a light. But that person that comes out and — you don’t have to say, ‘We’re the team to beat’ — but that person that comes out and makes a statement and puts his team on alert.“That’s what’s needed. You need to face that pressure, you’re playing in Philadelphia. You’re already under pressure, scrutiny.”"
Rollins was already a veteran member of the Phillies when the 2007 squad returned to the playoffs for the first time in 13 years. That year, he won NL MVP, his first Gold Glove, and his only Silver Slugger. The following year, his Phillies were World Series champions for only the second time in franchise history.
However, veteran presence does not always translate to leadership. The 2021 Phillies had several players on the older end of the athlete spectrum, with 10 players over the age of 32. But the leadership wasn’t there, as evidenced by the struggles of younger players, like Alec Bohm, as well as the collective team, which missed the playoffs for the tenth consecutive season.
Yes, age brings experience. No, it doesn’t guarantee leadership qualities. Regardless, the Phillies sent most of their oldest players into free agency, including Matt Joyce, Ian Kennedy, and Andrew McCutchen.
Is Bryce Harper the leader the Phillies need?
A strong case can be made that Bryce Harper is on his way to becoming the Phillies’ leader. After 10 seasons in the Majors, he has the playing experience and has developed the mindset of a leader.
Harper is unaffected, nay motivated, by negative attention; he spent the entire 2021 season homering to silence booing crowds. When he won the NL MVP, he spoke about how “hungry” he was for collective glory, rather than individual achievement.
Ultimately, if the Phillies want to be winners again, someone needs to step up. According to Rollins, that’s the biggest change they have to make, which says a lot, given that the 2021 bullpen tied the MLB record for blown saves:
"“Who’s gonna come out and basically put the cape on, and be like, ‘I’m gonna take all the bullets, I’ll take all the punches, all the criticism, and you guys just go out there and play, let me answer the questions.’ Who’s gonna be that? I’m not talking about being mad in the clubhouse, mad in the dugout, not only just showing grit on the field, but who’s gonna be that spokesperson for the team, that tells the team which direction we’re going?”"
Will it be Harper? Zack Wheeler? J.T. Realmuto? Anyone? Anyone?