I knew the Phillies lost 9-2 today long before I left work. The nature of things makes people want to find me and report to me the Phillies score. Keep in mind I usually already know this information, but people like to be helpful. So, armed with the knowledge that the Phillies had missed out on a chance to sweep Florida, I got ready for my usual punishment–listening to sports talk on the ride home. Instead of the usual laments like: how can the Phillies start 4 guys who have more AAA at-bats this year than MLB at-bats (an actual stat), the hosts and callers were lighting up Jimmy Rollins. I still don’t know exactly what happened, but the bottom line is, Jimmy didn’t run out a ground ball. This happens all the time.
Unless there is a chance of an extra base hit, unless he knows he may have to beat out a double play in a clutch spot, unless he hits a swinging bunt down the 3rd base line, you’ll almost never get 100% from Jimmy Rollins to first. If Jimmy hits a ground ball directly at an infielder, he makes no attempt to hide his jogging. On occasion he doesn’t even bother running through the bag. It is, without a doubt, the thing about Rollins that drives people crazy. The popups, the lack of patience, these are things attributable to Jimmy’s style of hitting. The running is just plain lack of effort, or some deep-seated feeling inside J-Roll that hustling ain’t cool. When Cliff Lee runs out every ball 100%, when Roy Halladay busts it (baby giraffe style) down to first–you’d like to think your leadoff hitter would run balls out. But, Rollins never has.
The practice has gotten him benched, and it’s something that drives Charlie Manuel crazy too. When you heard Manuel talk about Bryce Harper earlier in the year, you could tell it was his maniacal obsession with hustling that Manuel liked the most. Charlie said Harper embarrassed veterans with how hard he played. You can direct that comment right at Rollins. But, Jimmy isn’t changing. The Phillies have won too much. He’s gotten away with it for too long. Rollins will never run every ball out. And, that should give you an idea about how hard it would be to change Jimmy’s approach at the plate.
The truth is there are a lot of people who feel like Jimmy. Hustling has always been something that’s been looked down on to a certain extent. The nickname “Charlie Hustle,” was not given lovingly to Pete Rose. But, there’s room between someone like Rose, or Bryce Harper and the effort Jimmy Rollins gives. Does Rollins need to run full-out through the bag on a two-hopper to 1st? Not really, but the problem with thinking you know when you need to turn it on is that there will always be a handful of times each year where you end up looking like an ass. Today was one of those days for Rollins. Given how the season’s gone, he’s probably looking at unprecedented backlash.
The criticism was coming from all sides. The in-game announcers immediately highlighted the lack of effort. Talk show hosts, callers, and even Darren Daulton during his radio show were disappointed in Rollins. You could tell that Daulton and even Sarge aren’t necessarily comfortable criticizing players, but the move was so egregious that they would have looked foolish to back Jimmy. The question is, where is the accountability? What are the consequences? Daulton alluded to a self-policing environment that would usually deal with this type of incident. The team’s leaders are the ones who have to get the message across to Jimmy. Does this team have anyone to step up? Is there any chance an Utley, Halladay or Lee had a word with Jimmy after the game?
Even if they did, you have to think it’s not going to work, because like I said, this has happened before. The question that arises for me is, do these guys really care about playing for one another? Is there any sense of team? We know that after a game-winning hit, or on a team that wins a World Series, everyone is buddy-buddy. But, back in the day, camaraderie wasn’t something that was saved for a walk-off hit. A caller mentioned the Kangaroo Court to Darren Daulton on the radio tonight, and it made me think of the 1987 Phillies Season Highlights video. I watched this video countless times in my youth. I don’t know why. We didn’t have cable. That’s my only defense.
In this video, you get a glimpse of the Phillies’ camaraderie. There’s one scene where the bus breaks down during Spring Training, that is especially amusing thanks to Jeff Stone and Mike Schmidt’s “walk around money.” You also get to see a bit of Kangaroo Court, though. Players were generally fined for, “embarrassing the ball club,” or “impersonating a baseball player.” One coach was fined for being heard saying, “Von either swings at the first pitch, or takes it.” In a season where the Phillies disappointed and started what would become an epic losing trend, it was easy to watch this hour-long video and see why anyone would want to be a big-leaguer. Even on a 2nd division team with hideous polyester uniforms. They still were a team. The modern baseball team seems to be populated by a lot of islands.
Teams now seem to come together when everything is easy (oh, we won 100 games) or when it serves some purpose–see Boston unifying in their hatred of Bobby Valentine for the sake of explaining away their disappointing season. Rollins would fit right in with that Boston clubhouse. The bottom line is, a clubhouse that gets along has started to become the exception. The rule is now, cover your own ass, get yours, get paid and clock out at the end of the night. I could vomit.