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After taking two of three in a hard-fought series against the Padres in San Diego, the Phillies wrapped up their West coast road trip by dropping three of four to the Dodgers. Despite winning one game by a 16-1 score, it was a frustrating series for the Phillies, who lost games in the clumsiest of ways. They are now 9.5 games out of first place in the NL East as we enter July, and the more the Phillies play mediocre baseball, the more likely it is they will emerge as sellers after the All-Star break.
“No,” he said. “I’m not disappointed at all. This series could have been 3-1 in either direction or 2-2. They played a little better. They got the job done and that’s all that matters.”
“It’s a journey,” he said. “You jump on that plane and enjoy the ride. As long as that plane is in the air, you have a chance to do something. Last I checked, we haven’t made it to the All-Star break. We’ve been in tougher positions with much less time.”
Rather than offer up your typical platter of cliches, Rollins — as he often is — was honest about the situation. Unfortunately, that has opened him up to criticism. His lack of anger about the results of the road trip gave some fans the impression he doesn’t care, or isn’t motivated. Andrew Kulp said as much at The 700 Level:
Whether they realize it or don’t, we can all see the Phillies are in trouble. Their record is 8-14 over the last 22 games, and potentially franchise-altering decisions are on the horizon. We like J-Roll, and realize at the heart of what he’s saying there is wisdom – that until you are mathematically eliminated, you play ‘em out and see what happens.
All the same, a little desperation probably couldn’t hurt, either. Hell, let’s start small. Just be upset when you lose. Everybody else is.
John Stolnis offered this on Twitter:
I'm not saying it's right, but when people question Jimmy Rollins effort and/or attitude, that's the kind of stuff they're talking about.
— John Stolnis (@FelskeFiles) July 1, 2013
This is why athletes are told to say as little as possible to the media. Fans beg for athletes to be more open and honest, but when the athletes offer up a perspective the fans don’t appreciate, they harangue them for it. Their names get smeared on talk radio and in angry blog posts and Twitter rants. Thus, they clam up and other athletes are shown no incentive to share any more than the bare minimum.
Furthermore, I completely understand Rollins’ lack of concern. He is 34 years old playing in his 14th Major League season. He saw his team left for dead in 2006 after trading Bobby Abreu to the Yankees only to surge in the final two months. He saw his team overcome an impossible seven-game deficit in the final three weeks of the 2007 season. And again in 2008, the Phillies turned a late-season deficit into a division title by season’s end. Rollins has seen lengthy losing streaks and lengthy winning streaks; good results, bad results, and mixed results. Asking Rollins to be upset after a 3-4 road trip is like asking someone to be stumped by the plot of Inception after seeing it for the 15th time.
Lastly, Rollins is completely right. The Phillies could have easily left Los Angeles having taken three of four rather than the other way around. If Yasiel Puig‘s two-run single in the seventh inning on Thursday was a few inches to the right, Rollins snags it and either makes a great throw to get the out at first, or holds on to the ball and the hit merely ties the game, rather than gives the Dodgers the 5-4 lead. Maybe the Phillies score a run the next inning and tie it, who knows. Maybe in the bottom of the ninth on Saturday, A.J. Ellis could have hit what ended up being a walk-off RBI single a few inches closer to the right field line within the range of Laynce Nix playing at first base, and it’s an easy out and the Phillies exit the inning unscathed. You can play this game ad nauseam.
It seems many assume the team’s failure against the Dodgers is entirely their fault and within their control, but the reality is that it isn’t. The players are certainly the navigators of their own fate but there are so many variables and figurative rolls of the dice that need to be taken into account, particularly in a handful of games. All Rollins is saying is that the margin of defeat wasn’t much and with a little better luck, we would be talking about the Phillies surging into July rather than beginning the month looking down the barrel of a gun.