Can We Stop Bothering Jimmy Rollins? Please?

Ryne Sandberg doesn’t think Jimmy Rollins hustles enough. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News noted yesterday that Rollins was out of the starting lineup for the third consecutive game. He isn’t in today’s lineup against the Yankees, either. Rollins had been sick with the flu, but Sandberg said Rollins was “fine” when asked if the shortstop’s health was the reason behind his absence.

Sandberg then went out of his way to praise Freddy Galvis, who had been starting in Rollins’ place at shortstop:

“Freddy’s a guy that will get playing time at various positions. He’s a guy that I like in the lineup. I feel good about what he brings to the table. The biggest thing, I like his energy and his positive influence that he sets out there. He’s a positive influence on everybody around him.”Ryne Sandberg, via Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News

When asked about Rollins on that same subject, Sandberg offered up a “no comment”.

Rollins was diplomatic when pressed for a response on the subject.

It wouldn’t shock anyone if we learned that Rollins was coasting a bit in spring training. It also wouldn’t shock anyone if this is a particular pet peeve of Sandberg’s, who is cut from the same old school cloth as Larry Bowa, the type that views hustle as a key to everything. Sandberg is taking over a veteran team that has been experiencing its first taste of adversity, and maybe this is his way of sending a message to the team, to motivate them. Rollins is used to this criticism, so it’s less of a potential issue than if he had gone after Domonic Brown, for instance.

Still, it’s patently dumb to expect your 35-year-old shortstop, who has suffered from ankle, calf, knee, groin, and hip problems over the last four seasons, to exert 100 percent effort 100 percent of the time during exhibition games and during workouts. Even if Sandberg holds everyone else to the 100 percent effort standard, Rollins should be exempted because of his health issues.

Last season, Rollins posted an 85 adjusted OPS, tied for the worst mark in his 14-year career. His strikeout rate rose to a ten-year high at 14 percent; his isolated power fell to a career low at .097. His defense, according to most metrics, was as bad as it has ever been. A healthy Rollins could be one positive step towards improvement over last season’s 73-89 record — their worst finish since the start of the millennium. Forcing him to risk injury by needlessly running out a routine grounder in an exhibition game doesn’t help the team be any more competitive.

One convenient benefit of forcing Rollins into risking injury is that makes it less likely he racks up the 434 plate appearances necessary for his $11 million option for 2015 to vest. Additionally, creating a hostile environment gives him reason to potentially waive his no-trade clause once he logs the 60 hits necessary to take over the franchise record from Mike Schmidt. Michael Baumann covered this possibility at the end of Crash Bag Vol. 89, so I shall quote him:

Jacking with a player’s playing time so he doesn’t reach a performance-based incentive is an extremely shitty thing to do. I’d go so far as to say if the Phillies benched Rollins just to pressure him into waiving his no-trade clause, that’d be morally reprehensible, even by the standards of corporate labor practices, and even by the standards of professional sports ownership. And if Rollins is anywhere close to a respectable batting line–say, 90 OPS+ or something–and they bench him so he won’t get to 434 plate appearances, the union would have a coronary, because it’s okay to stand up for its non-A-Rod members.Michael Baumann in Crash Bag Vol. 89

I wouldn’t go so far as to say the Phillies are actively trying to sabotage Rollins, but if he were to get hurt or decide he wants out of Philadelphia, they wouldn’t exactly be upset about it.

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38 comments

  1. Renmiked

    March 13, 2014 12:07 PM

    I’m not a big fan of the hustle argument, and on that part I will disagree with Sandberg. It does seen though this is much more about Rollins saying “who cares” about the spring training performance so far. He may not care about the results of spring but a 35 yr SS, coming of a barely mediocre year, might want to show he’s getting back in form.

    To me, they are both acting ridiculous. Sandberg should be communicating with his players and Rollins should have more urgency about his role on this team. Neither of them look great in this.

    • Mark66

      March 13, 2014 03:40 PM

      -
      -11

      Do you really understand how the game is played ?

  2. tom b

    March 13, 2014 01:09 PM

    your defense doesn’t hold water in my opinion. His last manager was certainly not cut of the sames cloth as bowa, and yet he repeatedly butted heads with rollins. Also it’s not like this started lately after all the injuries,more like for as long as i can remember. Lastly i don’t know if you have kids but the phrase “who cares” is just about the most infuriating thing to have to listen to.

    • Scott G

      March 13, 2014 01:38 PM

      Did you just equate Jimmy Rollins with a kid?

      Maybe you don’t want to have your most tenured player saying things like “who cares” to the media, but he’s right. No one should really care about the spring training numbers. They don’t matter. And once you understand that they don’t matter, responses like “who cares” really shouldn’t provoke much of a response from you.

  3. Murph

    March 13, 2014 01:49 PM

    I don’t really know what Sandberg hopes to accomplish here. You would think that with a team that hasn’t hit the ball yet, he would want to get his regulars some at bats. The idea that running out every ground ball or showing great enthusiasm with each pitch equates to winning baseball is an old wives tale. Sandberg played hard all the time with Chicago (I live there and watched his entire career closely) but he knows a lot less about winning baseball than Rollins does. Should JImmy sometimes show a little more interest? Sure. Is that going to make a difference in the Phils won-loss percentage if he does? Not likely. Ryno needs to quitting wasting his time marking his turf, and get around to preparing his team for the season.

    • Mark66

      March 13, 2014 03:42 PM

      -
      -11

      You definitely don’t understand the game of baseball.

  4. Bob

    March 13, 2014 02:16 PM

    The “who cares” comment is so overblown. Spring Training is meant to get reps for the players and to get into game shape. Winning, losing, and spring stats are irrelevant. The benching is preventing Jimmy from getting reps and seeing live pitching, which will hurt the team. If Sandberg did it because of that comment, Ryne needs to get over it.

  5. TH

    March 13, 2014 02:32 PM

    great, I root for the scuzziest, least-likable team in Major League Baseball

  6. Boo-urns

    March 13, 2014 02:46 PM

    Rollins is the same lazy, selfish, arrogant guy he’s always been, but he’s still one of the best defensive shortstops in the game. As his skills slowly diminish, however, he needs to face the reality that he has much younger guys who are hungry for playing time and gunning for a starting role. You know he has the skills to hold them all at bay for quite some time to come, but does he have the drive and determination? IMO, doubtful.

    • Scott G

      March 13, 2014 02:57 PM

      At least he’s not as selfish as guys like Pujols and Miguel Cabrera who insist on knocking themselves in all the time and not letting anyone else have any fun by knocking them in. I’m so glad Ryan Howard has gotten progressively less selfish over the last several years so some other guys can have some fun and be more selfish.

  7. Mark66

    March 13, 2014 03:37 PM

    Rollins knows why he is on the bench. He just doesn’t want others to know, he’s not stupid. It’s all a PR game. Produce or shut up, simple enough.

  8. Kevin H

    March 13, 2014 05:39 PM

    I’m certain Sandberg sees Rollins as a toxic albatross who is just putting in time in pursuit of some personal stats. I doubt anyone expects Rollins to run through walls, but they should expect a little leadership. Team success is much more likely with a “win the day” culture. It’s definitely a line of dominos. If ST doesn’t matter, then April doesn’t matter, or May, June, July…until the games truly do not matter.

  9. Devils Advocate

    March 13, 2014 06:00 PM

    Do you even watch games? He doesn’t dive for playable grounders anymore. He doesn’t hustle to first. His attitude is a cancer. Prima Donnas like Rollins do not get you any closer to a championship. He deserves to get benched based on performance and attitude.

    We all saw where lack of practice gets you. Ask Allen Iverson.

    I’d still take Bird over Iverson any day of the week. I would take a shortstop hitting slightly less with a better attitude any day.

    This is why the A’s finish and the Phillies suck.

      • hk

        March 13, 2014 07:09 PM

        The play linked to above came in the next-to-last game of a 73-89 season. It is literally the last defensive play I have seen Jimmy Rollins make as I did not watch the finale and have not watched any Spring Training.

      • TomG

        March 14, 2014 07:33 AM

        Yeah, but other than that one – and possibly the countless others you could point to to refute the “Lazy Jimmy” meme – what other proof do you have? If your answer is “none”, which it must be, given how the question is posed, that means Jimmy is lazy and doesn’t hustle. QED.

      • Devils Advocate

        March 14, 2014 07:56 AM

        That is the last one I can remember too. Because it meant something. On a day to day basis you will not see him make a play for that ball. I have seats right behind the Phillies dugout. I watch it all of the time.

    • Devils Advocate

      March 14, 2014 10:45 AM

      In the simplest terms…attitude is contagious. If a leader of the team isn’t going to make an effort and pull a ‘Dorn” that message trickles down. Unless someone is trying to prove their worth in the upcoming free agent market you are going to get a whole lot of the same. Every time I see an outfielder run into the wall it gives me the chills. That is what we want to see. If Rollins’ ego is too large to realize it that is the root of the problem right there.

    • Eric Longenhagen

      March 14, 2014 11:20 AM

      There’s not a rational basketball fan on Earth who would rather have Allen Iverson than Larry Bird. Bird was way better, independent of attitude.

      • Devils Advocate

        March 14, 2014 12:48 PM

        Ok…maybe a bad comparison. But you get the idea.

  10. John

    March 13, 2014 06:52 PM

    In fairness, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t type countless words on the decline of Jimmy, highlighted by his atrocious 2013 season and his not-quite-Ryan-Howard-level-but-still-fairly-crippling contract and then turn around and defend his veteran right to coast through spring training.

    Is benching him for 3 days a bit childish? Maybe. I really don’t know. But respect Sandberg and Bowa for trying to enact a change and don’t make excuses for a mentaility that has helped contribute to a player’s decline.

    • Scott G

      March 14, 2014 12:17 PM

      1) you don’t know what his mentality is.
      2) Even if I grant that he has that mentality, do you have proof that it’s led to his decline? No.

  11. WayneKerrins

    March 13, 2014 07:40 PM

    Sandberg is playing poker with no hand (Non hitting Galvis and rank average infield hybrid Frandsen). Plus if he’s into example setting most of the audience are veterans with little to threaten them on the bench or in the minors.
    Heart overruling head Ryne.

    • Freddy

      March 14, 2014 07:59 AM

      Sorry but i’ll take a player that wants to be there and gives 100 percent every time he steps on the field as opposed to someone that tries when he feels it best suits him. We’ve seen the upside of Jimmy, we saw him win MVP, win a world series, and we’ve seen him decline every year since then. We know his ceiling and we know its getting lower. Galvis on the other hand continually improves his offense and is a blast to watch play defense. We dont know what his ceiling is, all i know is that he’s gotten better every year we’ve run him out there and he’s still young.

      • WayneKerrins

        March 14, 2014 06:59 PM

        Where we disagree is on Galvis’ offense: now or in the future. If you’re right bench the ageing has been egomaniac. If I’m right live with his foibles cos he’s the best we’ve got and we ain’t got the roster to be making examples of the starters.

  12. Renmiked

    March 14, 2014 05:31 AM

    Yesterday I was 50/50 on who was at fault. After reading what Sandberg’s explanation was, I’m mostly blaming him. You have to communicate with your players. There was no excuse for him to allow this to fester like he did. Just tell Rollins what the issue was and stop acting like a child by assuming the other person magically knows what you want. For Rollins’ part, he should he been a lot more interested in finding out what the issue was and should have went to Sandberg to find out. Sandberg has to be a better at communicating with his players, especially when there is no real competition at any position because of the roster RAJ put together.

    • WayneKerrins

      March 14, 2014 07:00 PM

      Agree. He’s playing hard with nothing.

  13. hk

    March 14, 2014 06:50 AM

    Is it possible that everyone is making more of this than really exists? Rollins played Monday and missed Tuesday because of the flu. Yes, Sandberg said he was fine yesterday, but isn’t it at least possible that Sandberg gave him Wednesday and Thursday off to fully recover from the flu while simultaneously getting an extended look at Galvis?

  14. PAMcDade

    March 14, 2014 07:00 AM

    I guess when your season is over in March, this is the kind of nonsense you worry about.
    Jimmy: Not able to say the right things and still make his tee time, or just keep his mouth shut and still make his tee time.
    Sandberg: Establishing an “I love this game SO MUCH…let’s play 2…work, work, work” managerial personality for his next job with a (hopefully) contending team…and still make his tee time.

    Or is it all a big plot by COMCAST to get some interest flowing in light of the Eagles’ free agency and draft news monopolizing the attention of Philly sports fans two weeks from Opening Day? I’m betting they’re wishing they’d fired Sarge and Wheels when the Fightin’s are 17 games out in the middle of the August doldrums instead of in November.

  15. Freddy

    March 14, 2014 08:01 AM

    Sorry but i’ll take a player that wants to be there and gives 100 percent every time he steps on the field as opposed to someone that tries when he feels it best suits him. We’ve seen the upside of Jimmy, we saw him win MVP, win a world series, and we’ve seen him decline every year since then. We know his ceiling and we know its getting lower. Galvis on the other hand continually improves his offense and is a blast to watch play defense. We dont know what his ceiling is, all i know is that he’s gotten better every year we’ve run him out there and he’s still young.

  16. Major Malfunction

    March 14, 2014 08:05 AM

    I’ve been awarded huge bonuses and company awards by a huge global company with 80,000 employees. Everyday I bring it and then some. So based on what you are saying, its frequently OK to phone it in since after all, its a long 12 months each year. And after 5 years or so, I can also just put it on cruise control while I await my cake and retirement plaque.

    See, we work for a living for living wage salaries. We don’t get $15 million to go through the motions of a meaningless season of a child’s game. How the hell do you come off defending Rollins? He’s downright proud of his ability to glide through what he sees as unimportant. He doesn’t go 100% in spring training? Uh, you train like you fight and fight like you trained. Obviously you’ve never managed a group of people before. Letting any one “has been” poison the well is one of the easiest way to cause dissention in the ranks.

    Should he be vilified? No. But defending a slouch? NFW! Jimmie will give 80% half the time this season, if we are lucky. I fully expect Sandberg to bench him again….multiple times this season.

    • Scott G

      March 14, 2014 12:31 PM

      What is the point of a 35 year old athlete with bad hamstrings, ankles, and calves to sprint every time he hits a ground ball to the second baseman? He will be out 99.999% of the time, and he’s increasing the risk of injury exponentially by going all out all of the time. The team is more valuable with him on the field than it is with him off the field.

      People have this huge double standard with Chase Utley. With his recent knee issues, people start saying things like, it’s because he goes 100% every single play of the year. The obvious conclusion is that he doesn’t need to sprint out ground balls that will surely be converted to outs.. Neither does Jimmy Rollins

    • WayneKerrins

      March 14, 2014 07:05 PM

      Major, with respect your firm can replace you. Sandberg has 220 Galvis and replacement level 2/3rd baseman Frandsen.
      Don’t mix (laudable) principles with sensible, situational management.

  17. Mash2715

    March 14, 2014 09:51 AM

    While I love Jimmy, you have to understand how hard Sandberg has worked for this opportunity. He may not get another. Jimmy is being paid big money and as such you expect him to come in top shape and work just as hard as anyone fighting for a roster spot. I don’t think Sandberg wants to be a 1-2 year and done while Jimmy goes off into retirement. Jimmy has a history and while a fan favorite has not play well offensively the past 3 seasons. If he were making the league minimum and scraping to stick around you might give a pass, but not at 10 Mil a year!

    PS Rollins may make more this year than Sandberg made his whole career, maybe sheds some different light on the subject.

    Mash27

  18. HammerSix

    March 14, 2014 12:27 PM

    Rollins is THE veteran player on that club. Rollins’ abilities have diminished significantly over the last 4 years. So, during Spring training, absent a 100% 14-year JRoll, Sandberg is trying to inspire some hustle from Rollins because he is a leader and an example to the younger players in camp. He’s not in Rollins’ ass to increase Rollins’ performance, because that’s a ship done sailed after 14 years.

    • pedro3131

      March 17, 2014 09:34 AM

      He’s “THE” veteran play? Is there anyone on this team that (somewhat sarcastically) doesn’t have at least 10 years mlb experience?

  19. Mark66

    March 15, 2014 04:01 PM

    This obsession with the Rollins/Sandberg item is only going to drive a rift in the team. Nothing good will come from it. Thank to the news media to bring up something that is really trivial in comparison to the whole of the team which I hope is to get better !!

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