CLEARWATER, Fla. -- A few Phillies thoughts on the team’s one off day of the spring:
There’s more anti-Jimmy Rollins grist out there in the form of an ESPN story that says, “There’s strong sentiment within the organization that the Phillies would be better off trading him and establishing a new tone with a new shortstop.”
Well, let’s start with a few thoughts on this one:
• The passage from the ESPN story makes Phillies management look just as bad as Rollins. They’re the people who signed Rollins to a long-term contract in Dec. 2011 when they had said “new shortstop” Freddy Galvis percolating in Triple A.
The Phillies went ahead and signed Rollins even though they were intimately aware of all his pluses and minuses over a decade in the majors, and even though he was 33 and had already earned 10-and-5 no-trade rights.
Rollins is a Phillie because Phillies management wanted him. The next time they start floating organizational sentiment they should remember that sometimes it reflects poorly on themselves.
• The Phillies' desire to trade Rollins is nothing new. He was available at both of the last two trade deadlines and again this winter. He doesn’t want to leave Philly. His comments about wanting the team’s all-time hits record (he’s 60 away) do come across as self-centered, but I’d bet the majority of major leaguers would have the same feelings if they were in his position. They just wouldn’t be so honest in expressing them.
By the way, here’s a comment from Rollins from the first week of camp:
“I’m not planning on waiving my no-trade clause. My plan is to bring a championship back (to Philadelphia), to be honest.”
• One has to wonder if the ESPN story is the start of something, not necessarily a smear campaign, but some kind of antagonistic ploy by the organization to get Rollins to say yes to a trade so the Phillies can establish that new tone with a new shortstop, and, oh yeah, avoid giving him that $11 million for next season if he reaches 434 plate appearances this season.
If it is, it ain’t cool.
Got a problem with Rollins? Say it.
• A few months ago, I read Ryne Sandberg’s book. It’s called Second to Home and it’s very good. Even though it came out almost 20 years ago, it provides a nice portrait of who the guy is, especially as a baseball man, what makes him tick, what he likes and doesn’t like.
In the book, Sandberg talks about his reasons for abruptly walking away from the game in 1994. Basically, he was an “old-schooler” who didn’t like what the “modern” player had become.
“I was caught between two generations, the one I came up with, which still cared about the game, and the one I left behind, which hardly cared at all,” Sandberg wrote. “In the '90s, I saw too many guys having fun after losses because they got a few hits or did something good for themselves. That didn’t appeal to me at all. There’s a lack of respect today for the game and for each other.”
Sandberg wrote about players being more concerned with hitting the streets after games than the game itself. He complained about players being obsessed with personal stats. He explained that while he could have become a 30-homer, 30-stolen base guy, he never did because he did not care about personal stats.
This was 20 years ago. Many players are even more “modern” and “new school” now. And there’s a lot more of them than Rollins. How the “old-school” skipper meshes with “new school” players is an issue worth watching.
• Though Sandberg would not elaborate on Rollins’ three-game benching last week, it’s clear he was upset with Rollins’ responding, “Who cares?” to a reporter’s question about poor spring-training results. Sandberg used the incident to send a message that he wanted to see more urgency from a veteran player coming off a career-worst year and a clubhouse coming off its first losing season in a decade.
It appears Rollins has gotten the message. He has been taking extra batting practice in the cages almost daily since the benching. Sandberg lieutenant Larry Bowa likes the approach that Rollins has had over the last week.
“He’s been all-out in drills, full intensity,” Bowa said.
Moving on ...
You know the old cliché about baseball being a marathon and not a sprint?
Well, this Phillies season will have a sprint element to it. This team needs to come out of the gate strongly and be in contention in July or management could use Cliff Lee’s left arm to push the blow-up button.
That’s why Hamels’ ongoing recovery from shoulder tendinitis/fatigue is such an important issue.
Hamels is trying to build arm strength so he’ll be ready for the marathon of the season. He is taking a slow, methodical course and might not be ready until May 1.
But anything much past that could negatively impact the sprint.
And if the sprint doesn’t go well there will be no marathon.