You may recall that I have told athletes to STFU in the past, and that I am not Jimmy Rollins’ biggest supporter. I called him overrated as recently as July (by the way, that statement on a Phillies forum spawned about a 10-page debate). However, I feel justified for telling Rollins to sit down and shut his mouth, considering what he said in his appearance on The Best Damn Sports Show Period, and the lack of justification thereof.
Before I get into it, I’d just like to make perfectly clear that this is not really an issue. I, along with plenty of others, are making a bigger deal out of what Rollins said than it really is. However, there’s somewhat of a point to be made, and it’s that Rollins may be the defending NL MVP, but his 2008 season has given him absolutely no leverage to be critical of boo birds.
Here’s what he said on Best Damn (keep an eye on how Chris Rose tries to keep Rollins from tripping over his own words):
Rose: It’s not that bad, is it?
Ryan Howard: In Philly?
Jimmy Rollins: It can be. (Howard assents) I mean, there are times, you know, like, one of those cities, they, you know, you might catch some flack for this, but you know, they’re front-runners. You know, when you’re doing good, they’re on your side. When you’re doing bad, they’re completely against you.
Rose: But that’s a lot of cities [that are like that].
Rollins: (After some cross-talk) I’m with you, but I mean, for example, Ryan’s from St. Louis. You know, St. Louis, it seems like they support their team. They’re out there, and they’re encouraging. And in Philly, you can’t be no punk.
Rose: Wait a second — where are you from?
Rollins: I’m from Oakland.
Rollins: And they just don’t show up.
Not only does he bash Phillies fans, he bashes Athletics fans as well. Rollins has no justification for saying this, especially since he was given nothing but wholehearted support last season en route to a 20×4 (20 2B, 3B, HR, and SB) season and an (undeserved) NL MVP award. This season, he’s en route to finish with his worst rate statistics (OBP, SLG, ISO, RC/27; ignore counting statistics since he missed about 20 games, which skews the data) since 2005. He’s a big reason why the Phillies’ offense is so mundane.
He has no right to criticize Phillies fans, especially when he’s failed to give 100% on two notable occasions.
- June 5, 2008: Manager Charlie Manuel benched Rollins for failing to run out a fly ball that was misplayed by Cincinnati Reds shortstop Paul Janish. He would have been on second base easily with effort, but Rollins dogged it and only got one base on the error.
- July 24, 2008: Rollins showed up late to Shea Stadium for the series finale (and rubber match) against the New York Mets, the Phillies’ division rival and biggest obstacle between them and the playoffs. He was benched again by Manuel, only this time, he took it upon himself to publicly contradict his manager, saying “We’re going to disagree on this one.”
Rollins doesn’t really back-track or apologize. Essentially, he uses rhetoric to dance his way out of the issue and does a poor job of it. Consider his opener:
“The way, I guess, what front-runner means and the way I think about it is completely different from what they’re using it.”
Ignoring the complete assassination of the English language, he says that the real definition of “front-runner” differs from how he uses it. So, it’s the culture’s fault for defining a word differently than what Rollins would like it to mean.
Wikipedia defines a front-runner as:
[...] a type of sports fan who likes only the team that is winning. Also known as a fairweather fan, the person will quickly,and repeatedly change allegiance with athletes and teams as teams and players become “good” or “bad” based on records.
That’s pretty much how Rollins defined it during his appearance on Best Damn, even though he wasn’t insinuating that Phillies fans become Mets or Marlins or Twins fans when the Phillies are struggling. In fact, he did clarify it further:
“Front-runners is like people who only show up when you’re winning.“
Of course, he then goes on to contradict himself by mentioning the Phillies’ strong attendance figures.
Rollins slips up elsewhere in his clarification as well:
But, as passionate as they are about us going out there and winning and playing well, that’s the same passion I feel about them giving us support. Don’t get on us when we’re down this time of the year, come out and support us.
Support is not a right; it is earned. Rollins, my friend (this is the part where you imagine I am having a conversation with him), you have not earned any kind of support whatsoever. Not even pity. You and most of your teammates are millionaires, play a kid’s game for a living, are famous and wildly popular — you have nothing to complain about. This is part of your job. If you can’t handle some fans’ negativity, then go ahead and play in St. Louis, which former Phillie Scott Rolen formerly dubbed “heaven” (until Tony LaRussa, the devil, disagreed with him one too many times). They don’t boo you in “heaven.” In fact, they care so little about baseball that they give a utility outfielder with a career .718 OPS a standing ovation. That sounds like the perfect place for a shortstop with a career .772 OPS.
Criticism is part of the territory, James. Supermarket clerks, waiters and waitresses, and technical support operators have to deal with it from unsatisfied customers. The only difference between them and you, Mr. Shortstop, is that they are forced to work that job due to whatever financial situation or career path they have chosen or have found themselves in. And they don’t have the platform to whine about it. If you don’t like the criticism, stop playing baseball. Curl up in a fetal position and don’t leave your house. Or join a support group where the goal is to keep your self-esteem artificially inflated.
The whole thing was, look, here we are in the playoffs, we’re at home, we’re in first place. There’s really nothing to boo about.
The playoffs were last season, and ended quite abruptly. Yeah, there was kind of a sweep in the NLDS at the hands of the now 54-68 Colorado Rockies. And the Phillies aren’t in first place anymore, either, after a four-game sweep in Los Angeles. The Phillies haven’t hit well since May. There’s plenty of reasons to boo, and Rollins is a big part of it.
When [struggling catcher] Carlos Ruiz comes up to the plate, don’t boo him because you want [backup Chris] Coste in the game. This man has a job to do today. Encourage him to do his job to the best of his abilities.
While it’s not in the clip linked above, it is in the transcript and I wanted to respond to it. The fans have every right to boo a catcher with a .606 OPS and a SLG lower than his OBP (which is really hard to do, by the way). Chris Coste isn’t a great option but in comparison to Ruiz, he’s much better with his .782 OPS.
The fans paid for a good portion of the new stadium with their tax dollars, and continue to pay the players’ salaries with the money spent on tickets, concessions, merchandise, and by driving up ratings on TV and radio. If I’m spending $70 every time I watch a game at Citizens Bank Park, I have every right to demand that I see a lineup used to its fullest potential. It’s mind-boggling that Ruiz hasn’t been given a demotion or at least a significant cut in playing time. 25-year-old Jason Jaramillo is in AAA with a .709 OPS and 22-year-old Lou Marson is in AA with an .857 OPS. Even Ivan Rodriguez aside, a catcher could have been had at the trading deadline.
And when Ruiz is booed, they’re not booing Ruiz himself. I’m sure all of the fans would love to see him put up Mike Piazza numbers. They’re booing the ineptitude of the Phillies’ upper management for not realizing that Ruiz isn’t Major League-caliber and bringing up someone else who could give the Phillies a better chance to win. If the Phillies’ front office had their wits about them, they’d have DFA’ed Geoff Jenkins and So Taguchi at least a month and a half ago and sent Ruiz down or thrown him in a trade. It sounds like fan-speak, but I’m a fan and that’s what most of us (presumably) are booing when Carlos Ruiz comes to the plate.
From everything I’ve read and heard, Ruiz is a great person and extremely generous with fans, and that shouldn’t go unrewarded, but he’s not giving the Phillies a good chance to win with his presence in the lineup. His defense isn’t even that great, either — his CS% is near the bottom at 19.7%. Mike Piazza, chastised for his poor defense, had a 17.1 CS% in 2004. That’s how bad Ruiz has been defensively.
Finally, I’d just like to point out another contradiction:
“But there are a lot of times where it makes it harder to play at home when they’re against you — or it feels like they’re against you.”
“If they want to boo me, that’s fine. That’s fine. It’s not going to effect me from doing my job.”
Rollins needs to STFU and focus on raising that OPS of his, not crying about the boo birds in the stands at Citizens Bank Park. He’s deserved most of the criticism he’s received and has done nothing to change that. You silence the Negative Nancies by playing well, not by whining about it. Let your bat do the talking.
I’ve spent more time and written much more on the subject than I intended to on, in reality, a non-issue. I apologize for wasting your time if you’ve read this far.