Jimmy Rollins Wasn’t Disappointed with Team’s Play in L.A.

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.

Shortstop Jimmy Rollins, though, wasn’t disappointed by his team’s play in Los Angeles. Via Jim Salisbury:

“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:

twitter.com/FelskeFiles/statuses/351663720470020097

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.

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25 comments

  1. Richard

    July 01, 2013 08:20 AM

    I would say firstly Rollins is completely right. The team, as a whole, did not play poorly, especially on offense. He’s exactly right that they had good at bats. People.

  2. JM

    July 01, 2013 09:23 AM

    BB, this is extremely close to an optimistic posting full of hope. What I’m reading is you Want to Believe the Phillies will turn it around. I share the same hope, and am glad, sabre-metrics analysis aside, we all hope that. But to Rollins, it would be nice if he would at least tout the “every loss sucks” line, even while keeping the perspective of an entire season foremost in mind.

  3. GB

    July 01, 2013 09:24 AM

    Well, then I must be watching different games because I saw alot of the same…Howard flailing at balls, large numbers of RISP left stranded, hitters continuing with a poor approach at the plate, Ruiz scuffling offensively, DYoung swinging at anything in the local zip code, strange managerial decisions, inconsistent bullpen, balks, walking opposing hitters, baserunning issues and defensive mistakes…

    The reality is the teams of 2006, 2007, 2008 etc. are NOT here anymore…the team last season and this season were/are highly flawed units patched together with seemingly little understanding of how/why those past teams won.

    So while I totally agree with the media/fans double standard regarding player’s honesty in interviews/quotes and appreciate Jimmy’s boundless optimism and focus on not panicing (and his understanding one cannot give the impression of panic publicly), I think its crystal clear to many this team has stagnated and the organization needs to revamp.

    They’ve waited too long already and the longer they deny reality the harder it will be to revamp quickly and successfully…it will hurt to see some guys go, but its better than continuing to watch them flatline before our eyes

  4. David

    July 01, 2013 09:32 AM

    The key sentence in your post is this: “He is 34 years old playing in his 14th Major League season.” He knows how to get himself through a long season. And for him, it’s being upbeat and positive at a moment like this. Tomorrow, he may say something different, but right now, he’s feeling this way, and this is how he gets through. 162 games when you think your team is horrible and has no chance is not an easy way to get through life.

  5. Richard

    July 01, 2013 09:50 AM

    GB, you’re right that the bullpen was characteristically frustrating, and the defense continues to be a problem, but on balance, aside from Delmon Young, who indeed swings at everything (yet it’s hard to complain too much about that in this series, given how many hits he ended up with), yes, you must have been watching different games if you think it’s accurate to say “hitters continuing with a poor approach at the plate”.

    I’m all about criticizing the team, but I think it’s important to be as accurate as possible and not just flail about and say they do nothing well.

  6. Andrew Cleveland Alexander

    July 01, 2013 10:05 AM

    I’ve now watched Rollins for 14 seasons too, and I know this: he is smart in how he deals with the media. He doesn’t say something unless it has a purpose, and often that purpose appears to be acting as sponge to absorb criticism that might otherwise be heaped on others. Especially, in this case, his pal Ryan Howard, who is getting to be downright painful to watch.

    If Rollins decides he wants to stick around the game, I think he’s going to make a great manager–or perhaps more likely, general manager–one day.

  7. Phillie697

    July 01, 2013 10:09 AM

    Exactly what purpose would it serve for J-Roll to trash the team? I think the last few times someone did that around the league, they got their asses handed to them by the media. This is ONLY a story because mofos think there is a “hustle” problem with Rollins, and he literally can’t say anything without someone jumping down his throat. Stay classy J-Roll, you’re my man. And I meant that seriously, not as a sarcasm.

  8. joecatz

    July 01, 2013 10:15 AM

    anyone who would expect Rollins to say anything different than what he did obviously hasn’t followed HIM or the team very closeley for the past decade, OR they’re so wrapped up in the wuestions that they let a little thing explode.

    Jimmy, for all his faults, and all his attributes has, as far as I can remember been constant on one thing. He NEVER says anything negative about the team, the teams play, or the staff.

    he’ll take blame on himself, admit his own faults, comment on his play, etc.. But Jimmy Rollins doesn’t say anything but positive things about the team, sometimes going to extremes about his optimism.

    Great piece Bill.

  9. Bob

    July 01, 2013 10:19 AM

    Completely unsurprising that Bill defends Rollins. Those late season runs came half a decade ago and the sun is setting on this season already. Rollins hasn’t given a crap for years, and, this time, the Mets aren’t there for us to cough up the lead. The Braves aren’t going anywhere, and the Nationals are still a better team. Sure, he shouldn’t simply bash the team, but it would be nice to hear a little bit more concern in his voice.

  10. EricL

    July 01, 2013 10:44 AM

    Joe, Jimmy did take a bit of a negative tone regarding the organization a month or so ago, when talking about how the Phillies had handled Domonic Brown’s development.


    “…when the organization isn’t showing you any confidence, it doesn’t matter if you motivate yourself. You go down there after being sent down the first time, you [hit]. After they send you down the second time, you go down and [hit]. What the heck do I keep getting sent down for? I come down here, hit .300. I go up there, play once a week and they say I can’t play. It’s hard to be motivated when you can only do so much.”

    “When you don’t have to battle the organization, I think you become that way,” Rollins said of playing relaxed. “He was never playing against anyone. It was just the organization thinking he’s ready or not. Every organization has players like that, that they like, but, their fear is he’s not ready. I’m the complete opposite. There’s only one way to find out. Your opinion doesn’t matter to me. Let me go out there, see if I can do it or if I can’t. The numbers will show if you give me a fair shot.”

    That’s Jimmy standing up for his teammates by taking a position that is critical of the front office. As the guy with three first names above said above, there’s a good chance Jimmy is more than willing to take the heat for the team in order to spare the rest of the guys in the locker room, but I wouldn’t go so far to say that he never says anything critical.

  11. Steve

    July 01, 2013 11:01 AM

    So Bill, my question is this, DO YOU have any hope that RAJ will make the moves necessary to make this team relevant between now and September? What moves could they be? Really, if they had a mediocre bullpen, defence and manager, they would have been 5-2 on this trip. Now they fly to Pitt to play the hottest team in the NL. 3-7 on this road trip is a real possibility.

    Interesting article concerning DY and 150 plate attempts, if he can follow through with his hitting, he might actually be worth something to an AL team. No NL team in their right mind would play him consistently but the Phils are all in on DY at this point. We will continue to suffer and cringe on every ball to RF.

    MY to the Red Sox, I like that idea.

    CU is showing something and as much as I can’t be excited of them trading him, If they can receive worthwhile players in return, I’d consider it….If RAJ is throwing in the towel, this is the move that will signal it for me.

    4th of July and no real relevant baseball unless they make some drastic moves that actually pan out. I would love to see them move just the Young brothers, bring up Martin, Asche, stick someone from the Young trades in RF and see how the season plays out.

  12. GB

    July 01, 2013 11:21 AM

    Richard, not sure how you can argue they’ve been disciplined/patient at the plate when our team OBP is ranked 20th in the ML at .311. One of the best, albeit unheralded by the media & the Phils themselves, attributes of those winning teams was working the pitcher, walks and crushing mistake pitches. Howard, Utley, Werth, Abreu, Burrell etc. were all excellent in this regard and it made it really hard to play against. They went up to the plate with a plan; now most of them go up guessing/hacking instead.

    Howard has really either lost or forgotten this skill set, his OBP dropped 4 straight seasons (2009-2012) and while he’s had a small bounce this year he sits at .317 right now which is mediocre at best. Plus I’m sure you’ve watched his AB the last several seasons; he really is guessing most of the time and flailing at pitches he has no way of hitting.

    DYoung has never been a patient hitter…he sits at .311 right now which is not good and since 2008 has 1 season where he had any higher OBP (.333 in 2010). The guy swings at everything and rarely walks/works the count.

    Rollins is what he has always been, ok, but prone to funks due to his guessing and lack of strike zone awareness…

    MYoung has a pretty good OBP and is one of our better options, but even he and also Ruiz have been guessing more than normal and getting themselves out. In May, MYoung had an OBP of .280 for example where he was really hacking…Ruiz is mired at .316 while other years he has been consistently .350+

    We know about Revere, but he has improved since his rough start…only Utley and Brown at times are consistent disciplined hitters in the lineup

  13. Jeff

    July 01, 2013 12:34 PM

    FWIW, Phillies were 25th in swinging at pitches outside the strike zone past 7 days, dead last in swing% and 2nd to last in swinging strike%. Delmon Young saw 23(!) pitches on Sat. So possibly their plate discipline is improving.

  14. NickFromGermantown

    July 01, 2013 01:16 PM

    The only issue I see here is that Rollins is (correctly) remaining calm when everyone else is unreasonably freaking out that the team doesn’t have 20 more wins. It’s not his fault that people are unreasonable. Baseball has a long season. He probably should have caveated his response with “losing sucks”, but, as Bill Baer points out, he’s seen a lot and he’s used to it.

    Let’s face it. The Phillies have gaping holes at 4 (6 if you factor injuries) positions, the bullpen has been awful, and one of their key pieces of the rotation has been out all season. The Phillies can “try” and overachieve all they want, but they ultimately have major gaps in talent that keep them from being a true contender. The baseball season is too long to allow for a few hot streaks to mask their issues.

  15. Larry

    July 01, 2013 02:55 PM

    Jimmy has been out of position in the lineup for 4 seasons now. His OBP shows that he is not a lead off hitter anymore, but that’s Charlie’s fault. He still has a great glove, but would serve the team better in the 7th hole IMO.

    I’d rather Jimmy say positive things, instead of saying things like “You’ll have to ask someone else if we are a playoff team Or I can’t wait til next season to have a fresh start.”
    This Pirates series should be interesting. We need good pitching as history shows Phillies – Pirates games are very low scoring. We shall see.

  16. #PhilliesTalk

    July 01, 2013 08:52 PM

    “He (Rollins)still has a great glove, but would serve the team better in the 7th hole IMO.”

    Sure he should be hitting 7th, or 8th. Rollins is at the top end of the lineup because the Phillies only have two bats – Brown and Utley – so the issue with Rollins is basically the same as with Howard. You move Brown ahead of Howard and now what?

  17. Brian

    July 01, 2013 09:26 PM

    “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.”

    Ummm… I’ve seen it a bunch of times, and I still haven’t figured it out. Did the top fall at the end? Because whether or not it was a dream is vitally important to the story, and the movie never answers that question. Com’on Bill!

  18. Kevin

    July 02, 2013 02:07 AM

    I guess it keeps Rollins happy, but he has thrown away far too many at bats in his career with his lack of urgency and focus. Every game counts and good teams win those tight games all season long, not just for short stretches.

  19. Scott G

    July 02, 2013 07:43 AM

    Brian,

    I thought the same thing when I read that. The top starts to wobble at the end. I don’t think it ever even wobbled in the dreams. So, I think it was reality.

  20. hk

    July 02, 2013 07:47 AM

    Kevin,

    What do you mean by “he has thrown away too many at bats”?

  21. EricL

    July 02, 2013 12:07 PM

    I guess it keeps Rollins happy, but he has thrown away far too many at bats in his career with his lack of urgency and focus. Every game counts and good teams win those tight games all season long, not just for short stretches.

    So that must be the explanation for why Jimmy Rollins has never been on a good team.

  22. KH

    July 02, 2013 12:56 PM

    Seems like Rollins threw around plenty of cliches or at the very least cliche like phrases. I think it would have been more honest for him to say we have not played this well this year and being 10 games out of first is not a good place to be. Just because they pulled that one division title out of there rears when the Mets collapsed doesn’t mean Rollins believes they can do it again. He knows this isn’t a good team. The players know it more then anybody.

  23. Marc Schneider

    July 02, 2013 03:14 PM

    In general, top-level athletes always think things will work out. That’s why they are where they are. Same with other professions-I don’t think General MacArthur was saying,at Bataan, this army sucks, let’s give up-even though that’s ultimately what happened. The better the player, the more unlikely they are, I think, to be “realistic.” Especially if they have been on good teams. Being realistic is not always consistent with being competitive. Non-athletes just have a different perspective; if I am losing in tennis, I just assume I’m going to lose. Roger Federer thinks he is going to win even if he is behind. Obviously, it doesn’t always work out that way but giving in to negativity is poisonous to an athlete. Now, the front office is something different; it obviously needs to be realistic even if they don’t express it. I can’t imagine that Jimmy Rollins would be the player he is if he didn’t care as some seem to think.

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