Can We Stop Bothering Jimmy Rollins? Please?
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.