The Phillies Are Embarrassing Themselves

Last Thursday, I asked the Phillies to stop bothering Jimmy Rollins. That was after Rollins was benched for several games in a row, when manager Ryne Sandberg exuberantly praised Freddy Galvis then clammed up when asked if he could offer the same praise to Rollins. At the end of the article, I wrote, “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.”

I may have given them too much credit. ESPN’s Buster Olney reported earlier that the Phillies want Rollins to “lead or leave”.

Before I get into it, I’d like to direct you to two excellent columns written on the subject already. David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News says we have seen this situation before with other Philadelphia athletes, namely Andre Iguodala and Donovan McNabb. At The Good Phight, David S. Cohen suggests that the Phillies are trying to appease a certain section of the Phillies’ fan base that is tired of losing and upset over a perceived lack of effort or care.

There are two roadblocks to trading Jimmy Rollins. As a result of his ten-and-five rights, Rollins can veto a trade to any team. Additionally, Rollins will earn $11 million this season and his $11 million option for 2015 will vest if he accumulates 434 more plate appearances. Rollins got to 434 plate appearances on July 26 last season. Unless he suffers an injury and has to spend more than two months on the disabled list, Rollins will trigger that option. Teams, like the Tigers, may need a shortstop like Rollins, but they won’t want to commit to a 35-year-old for two years and $22 million.

Neither roadblock should be blamed on Rollins. Ten-and-five rights are collectively bargained, so Rollins has every right to exercise that option. Pat Burrell once vetoed a potential trade to the Baltimore Orioles, but he wasn’t seen as a problem, so no one batted an eye over it. (Note: this was a result of a full no-trade clause included in his six-year, $50 million extension, not ten-and-five rights.) If the Phillies didn’t want Rollins to exercise his ten-and-five rights, they should have moved him before the achievement, or let him become a free agent after the 2011 season.

The Phillies are fully responsible for the consequences of Rollins’ current contract situation, including the vesting option. Rollins didn’t hold a gun to GM Ruben Amaro‘s head and demand an $11 million option for 2015 which vests if he accumulates 1,100 plate appearances between 2013-14; it was negotiated between the Phillies, and Rollins and his agent Dan Lozano. The Phillies also signed contracts with vesting options with Chase Utley, Jonathan Papelbon, Mike Adams, and Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez. Amaro likes vesting options.

But that’s only half of the issue. Ryne Sandberg, entering his first full season as the Phillies’ manager, wants to change the culture of the team. It sounds like it is a directive from the front office.

From Olney’s article:

However, sources indicate that some in influential positions in the organization want Rollins to be a leader by investing himself more thoroughly in daily work and setting a strong example for others. If Rollins isn’t going to do that, the sentiment of some is that the team would be better off moving him as soon as possible.

Being invested “more thoroughly in daily work” and “setting a strong example” is vague, perhaps intentionally so from Olney’s sources. Does it mean Rollins only takes 50 grounders in warm-ups compared to 100? Is he taking cuts at 60 percent effort in the batting cage? Does he not do any prep work in terms of reading scouting reports and watching video? Until we know exactly how Rollins isn’t living up to their standards, those that are livid at Rollins are simply taking the front office’s word for it. Why they should get the benefit of the doubt over Rollins, considering the available evidence and the shortstop’s previous body of work, escapes me.

The Phillies are right that trading Rollins would benefit the team more than having him play out the final two years of his contract. Allowing Freddy Galvis to play every day could help him maximize his potential, even if that potential would still fall well short of Rollins’ best seasons. Then, the Phillies can freely develop J.P. Crawford. However, the Phillies made their bed and now they have to lie in it. Making Rollins out to be the bad guy, so that he receives constant vitriol from angry fans and constant questioning from the media to create a hostile work environment so that he might one day waive his ten-and-five rights, is petty and wrong on several levels.

The Phillies come out of this looking poorly, and it will in the future negatively impact their ability to A) sign their own quality players to team-friendly contracts; and B) sign impact free agents. This is similar to the Ben Wetzler situation, where the Phillies felt slighted and the response was disproportional to the impact.

The creation of their analytics department, when they made Scott Freedman a full-time employee, was supposed to be the dawning of a new era for Phillies baseball, ushering them into the 21st century at long last. But it seems the Phillies are still stuck in antiquated ways of thinking. For instance, that an injury-prone shortstop in his mid-30’s must display effort and care at all times else he is a blight on the team. More embarrassing, though, is that they seem unable to solve the very same puzzles (contracts) they have created for themselves.

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44 comments

  1. Nick

    March 18, 2014 03:50 PM

    Great read, as always!

  2. ScottBaio

    March 18, 2014 04:40 PM

    -
    -10

    Benching him until he forces himself into the lineup was the way to go – make it mainly about performance and not ego. But then again this whole “unnamed source” biz could just be media types stirring stories. Who knows?

    • hk

      March 19, 2014 07:52 AM

      If Jimmy is benched, how would he force himself into the lineup? Watching Galvis produce a sub-.650 OPS? Holding Sandberg at gunpoint while he’s writing out the lineup card?

      • ScottBaio

        March 19, 2014 02:00 PM

        Well, considering age, need to look to the future, defense, & energy, I’d want JR to out hit Freddie by 15% – 20% to get on the field/avoid splitting major time.

      • hk

        March 19, 2014 02:14 PM

        Right, but don’t you have to give Rollins a chance to prove that he can do 15% better than Galvis rather than bench him and give him a bench player’s # of chances in which to do it? Galvis produced a .615 OPS in MiLB and a .644 OPS in his first two partial MLB seasons. If we put Galvis’s target OPS at .650, it would seem to be more sensible to give Rollins playing time to see if he can get his OPS back into the mid-.700’s before benching him.

  3. Sir Alden

    March 18, 2014 05:02 PM

    The exact same thing happened 50 years ago with Dick Allen. The vitriol always seems to be directed at black players as well. No one was mad at Pat the Bat.

    Jimmy is smarter than the coward “unnamed source” he will not take the bait. He cannot be traded unless he is so angered he loses his cool.

    Jimmy Rollins is cool and will not lose his cool.

    There was nothing like the electricity that went through the stands as Jimmy went for his 20th Triple at the end if his MVP season.

    Stay with us Jimmy. Know that we know the hypocrisy that is going on.

    • ScottBaio

      March 18, 2014 05:20 PM

      The race card? Really? Guess Marlon Byrd is next?

    • Renmiked

      March 19, 2014 11:41 AM

      I’m sure a portion of it is race but I think it’s more perceived attitude. You bring up Burrell and conveniently leave out Rolen who was trashed on his way out because of perceived negative comments.

    • BobSmith77

      March 19, 2014 09:48 PM

      Burrell didn’t vetted booed regularly during his time in Philly including often during his real struggles in ’07?

      • Mike Lacy

        March 20, 2014 08:37 AM

        Burrell definitely received his fair share of criticism while with the Phillies.

    • NickFromGermantown

      March 20, 2014 09:46 AM

      It likely has to be an unnamed source. All Phillies partners except a few are required to be silent.

  4. Major Malfunction

    March 18, 2014 05:12 PM

    Good article, but why always defend Rollins? Yes, the PhilliesPhillies are being childish in addressing the issue. But Rollins has admitted to wanting to continue playing with the Phillies to break personal records.

    I loved Rollins from Day 1. His 20-20-20-20 season was simply incredible. But now, he’s giving off the notion that he’s still The Show when he clearly no longer is. I think that is what fans really dislike and its obvious to management that your senior player is on cruise control and thumbs his nose at the notion HE, as in ME The Jimmie Rollins, needs to try harder. The Phillies are compounding it by acting as childish.

    Here’s a concept, Rollins act like the elder statesman by setting examples for the younger players that talent is skills are fleeting and hard work can never be substituted.

    Instead, some people are making this a black and white thing? Really? Do the Phillies have any white players making $11m dogging it as they see fit because “they’ve earned it”? If they did, they would be in the spotlight, too.

    • EricL

      March 18, 2014 10:16 PM

      Jimmy Rollins, when asked about waiving his no trade clause:
      ““I’m not planning on waiving my no-trade clause. My plan is to bring a championship back (to Philadelphia), to be honest.”

      Yeah, what a selfish jerk. Totally on cruise control, not giving a damn.

      Why do people who want to criticize Rollins always resort to just making up their own damn narrative about the guy?

      • Major Malfunction

        March 19, 2014 07:25 AM

        Bring a championship back? That’s a boilerplate cliche every player utters. For a player ramping up himself and a team for a championship run, saying “who cares?” about spring training really sets the example.

      • Scott G

        March 19, 2014 12:01 PM

        WHO CARES ABOUT SPRING TRAINING STATS? That shouldn’t be a question. It should be a statement.

        And as much as you say “bring a championship back” is a cliche, I’d say that players wanting to tally SBs, 2Bs, 3Bs, and HRs helps the team as a whole.

      • Major Malfunction

        March 19, 2014 03:14 PM

        Well shit, why even bother having spring training then? Any player that’s “earned it” can stay home while the bottom feeders fight it out for the last roster spots?

        Telling your teammates that training is not important never sounds good. Maybe Rollins could have worded it better? I get his point that spring training is meaningless…in terms of the stats and who wins or loses. But he didn’t say it that way, instead, he made it seem like spring training is a waste of his time and effort since, well, he’s Jimmy Rollins and Jimmy Rollins doesn’t need anymore training or practice because he’s so good. Did he forget his OPS from last season?

        Thats what gets me. He tanked last season and you dont hear one work out of his mouth about getting back to the level we are use to seeing. Instead, the only thing from him is about breaking personal records and that he’s untouchable when it comes to being traded. Am I wrong to put that together and get the idea he’s not a team player?

  5. Dan K.

    March 18, 2014 05:19 PM

    Bill, normally I’m very respectful of your writing; both your opinions and your presentation of facts. But I can’t get past the first paragraph of this article. You are indicting the organization not for what they said, but what someone says an unnamed source says some unnamed people in the organization feel.

    Read that again if it confused you. Or just for added effect. Olney not only did not cite his source (which is not uncommon in baseball journalism, but is still just hearsay in the end), and the source did not cite his or her source. And there was no quote. None. There were only “feelings.”

    Now what this article says is this: some people in the Phillies organization want Rollins to be a leader. Well… I’d think that EVERYONE in the Phillies wants Rollins to be a leader. That’s kind of a good thing to get from your veteran players, especially ones that are borderline HoF candidates. I want Utley to be a leader, too. I fully expect him to be one, but I still want him to be one.

    Now other than that (blatantly obvious) pseudo-fact, the entire article is speculation. You know what else unnamed sources have told us in the past? Almost literally everything. I remember seeing a “source” claiming the Phillies were close to obtaining Mike Trout. Now obviously, someone in a “powerful” position in baseball is more likely to get accurate sources. But Olney has had plenty of false information. And when sources are accurate, they tend to be much more specific, which usually means direct quotes. But there is none of that.

    I’m not saying the Phillies are handling this perfectly. But what, exactly, have they done wrong? Benching Rollins for 3 days in Spring Training when people are trying to get extended looks at players such as Galvis? Fine, let’s say that was malicious. But that’s on the manager. Not talking to Rollins immediately after those benchings? Also a fault of the manager. Minced words during an interview? Mr. Manager once again. What else? Nothing. So okay, criticize Sandberg for his handling of Rollins thus far. But he has even apologized for that, and he has talked to Rollins. Rollins has not brought it up again, and neither has Sandberg. If there is an ongoing problem between the two, apparently it’s not changing Rollins’ plans to stay in Philly for the foreseeable future.

    So my final question is this: what is your proof that this is anything more than the type of journalism that you derided when the recipient of the attention was Jayson Werth? This article is merely stirring the pot on an isolated incident by providing unsubstantiated “proof” that there is some problem between two professionals.

    • Miguel

      March 18, 2014 06:32 PM

      I have liked both articles! Different point of views, very gratefull to both of you.

      • Miguel

        March 18, 2014 06:34 PM

        *grateful

    • AG3

      March 19, 2014 01:11 PM

      The Problem isn’t Jimmy Rollins. For as far as we know he has show up to spring training just like he has before: there is no talk from the front office, or anyone for that matter, that he is X amount of pounds over/under weight. And, aside from what sounded like the flu, there haven’t been any known injuries. So there is no reason to not give him playing time. I mean everyone who is expected to make the team gets some AB’s in even the smallest fashion. Rollins was unplayed for several games. This is out of the norm. People are going to ask why and when you tight lip them don’t be surprised at the speculation. Now if this was a front office that didn’t have the track record of lying maybe I’d be more supportive of their decision. But…….

  6. SteveH

    March 18, 2014 05:44 PM

    Bill

    Do you think there is a chance the organization thinks Jimmy cares more about toppling Schmidt’s record then making the necessary changes in his game to help the team win?

    • Bill Baer

      March 18, 2014 05:58 PM

      If he’s concerned about getting a record, he’s still concerned about playing well. They’re one and the same as far as I care. And I don’t care if Rollins is singularly focused on getting a franchise record. He’s earned it.

      • Renmiked

        March 19, 2014 11:49 AM

        I personally do not understand the “he’s earned it” perspective. He has earned his contracts and the playing time he’s received up until now, anything in the future should be based on what he actually accomplishes going forward. If Rollins comes out a plays similar to or likely worse than last year, mostly due to age, then why does he “deserve” anything beyond his pay?

      • Mike Lacy

        March 20, 2014 08:41 AM

        Based on this logic, Shouldn’t you be okay with Ryan Howard receiving that large contract because “he’s earned it?”

      • jake

        March 20, 2014 03:21 PM

        Considering he is only like 60 hits away from the franchise record I don’t know how you can equate being singularly focused on the franchise hit record to being concerned with playing well for the team’s success. It’s not like it will take an outstanding performance in 2014 to meet that metric.

  7. Eric

    March 18, 2014 06:10 PM

    I am trying to figure out who started the problem with Rollins. Somebody didn’t like something during Spring Training’s early weeks and seems to have a Rollins problem. Is Ryno truly the one behind this? I personally don’t see it. At least not 100 percent.

    The Phillies leaker smells a lot like Larry Bowa. Is Bowa the chosen leaker from someone ready for changes, or is Bowa the one telling Ryno to try out Galvis and push out Rollins?

    I fail to see Galvis as a starting shortstop, but the Phillies have made a lot of curious moves since 2011, when the club started fading fast after the pitching dominated year. Sure, there were missteps since Gillick left (and Gillick did give us Eaton and Jenkins, but they WON), but I have been shaking my head a lot more since Baez, Herndon, MiniMart and a few others joined the club. I am hoping Shawn Camp doesn’t actually appear in a game for them this year.

  8. Boo-urns

    March 18, 2014 07:16 PM

    My prediction: once Rollins breaks the all-time Phillies hits record he will become more agreeable to a trade, especially to a contender (whether the Phillies are contending at that point or not). Then it remains to be seen if a trade can be worked out.

    It’s a shame he is so arrogant and lazy; he could be a tremendous role model for younger players as he prepared to enter the twilight of his playing years, but the lessons he’d be teaching them nowadays would be counterproductive.

    As to no-trade clauses and ten-and-five rights, all I can say is: stupid stupid stupid.

    • awh

      March 18, 2014 08:40 PM

      “It’s a shame he is so arrogant and lazy; ”

      and you evidence for this is…?

      • The Howling Fantods

        March 18, 2014 09:30 PM

        He’s a black guy, isn’t he? It’s not like he’s a professional baseball player and by far the best at his position in history of the franchise.

      • Boo-urns

        March 20, 2014 03:59 PM

        My evidence is everything he says and a lot of what he does.

        He is, without a doubt, one of the greatest defensive shortstops in the game, and certainly at the top end of the list for all-time. But for all of that greatness, how often does he simply stop giving his best? How often does he get pissy when he’s not the leadoff hitter (a role he was never particularly good at, and one that he should have been removed from many many years ago if for no other reason than the number of times he swings at the first damn pitch of the game).

        Jimmy had the potential to go down in Phillies history in the company of Schmidt and Carlton, rising to the ranks of one of the top four or five players to have worn a Phillies uniform, but I don’t think anyone would ever think quite that highly of him. Top 20? Definitely. Top 10? Likely, but probably closer to #10 than to #5.

  9. Bob

    March 18, 2014 11:06 PM

    The Phillies are making themselves look like a joke. Jimmy Rollins has been with the Phillies for 14 years plus his time in the minors. They know him better than anyone else. It’s not like these are new criticisms that weren’t around before he signed his last contract. By agreeing w/ Jimmy, the Phillies re-signed him knowing full well the person and player they were getting. They shouldn’t have signed him to such a ridiculous contract if they weren’t planning on honoring it. Now, the front office is having buyer’s remorse. Using anonymous sources to slander a possible HOFer and lifelong Phillie who signed multiple team friendly contracts is petty. It’s beyond embarrassing to be a fan of this team because this is a move to put pressure on Jimmy in the worst possible manner. Jimmy said, “No,” and that should end it. This constant bickering in the press does not bode well for the team and is making an already dreary looking season downright abysmal. The best SS in the history of the team who brought us over a decade of awesome play at one of the toughest positions on the diamond should not be treated this way.

  10. Beez Nutz

    March 19, 2014 08:07 AM

    I think everyone is just making more out of this than there really is.

    Sandberg is seemingly trying to check him at the door and light a fire under him, which IMO he seems to need again. Hopefully it works and JRoll takes it positively. I really think all the other stuff is just nonsense and noise.

    I will say though I hate what this front office is doing / becoming and I was blasted by some here for it before. They slowly brought back all the old goons who got them into the hole they were in before Gillick and Cholly arrived. I dont like what I’m seeing from that perspective.

  11. tom b

    March 19, 2014 08:40 AM

    You’re a tad slow if you are just realizing the Phillies are embarassing themselves. But thanks for your stirring article that allows their fans to do the same.

  12. TomG

    March 19, 2014 09:02 AM

    It’s a bit depressing, though not necessarily surprising, to see that there seems to be some resistance to even the suggestion that what is going on with Rollins might be, in part at least, about race. All of major league baseball was overtly racist up until Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier and MLB continued to be racist for a long after that. The Phillies, as an organization, were possibly the worst of the lot. They were the last National League team to integrate – not getting around to it until a full decade after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. Possibly there just weren’t any other major league-caliber black players around during that decade? The incident depicted in 42, where Phillies manager Ben Chapman’s race-baiting of Robinson was so extreme that it stood out and became emblematic of baseball’s racism even in an era when everyone was putting Robinson through hell – that incident actually happened, pretty much as depicted. (As late as 1979, Chapman was still defending his behavior, claiming everyone did it . Yet somehow, his extreme example lives on as cautionary tale, and deservedly so.)

    The institutional racism of the Phillies organization did not end after they integrated. Sir Alden, above, mentions the treatment of Dick Allen, another shameful episode in the Phillies’ history, and hardly the only one.

    So it’s not as though there’s no history of this in the Phillies organization.

    I am a native Philadelphian, and proud (I think rightly so) of much of what the city stands for, but, that said, I don’t close my eyes to the city’s shameful history of egregious racism. The citizens of Philadelphia elected Frank Rizzo mayor twice, despite his well-documented history of racism and racist behavior as police chief. (He might have had a third term if he hadn’t died.) This racist behavior continued while he was mayor, as the Feds investigated the Philly police for brutality, noting Rizzo’s police force was especially aggressive when it came to interrogating blacks and Hispanics .

    There is a statue of Rizzo sieg-heiling City Hall in front of the Municipal Services Building in Philadelphia to this day, the city opting to embrace this legacy rather than repudiate it.

    To this day, Philadelphia remains the only US municipality to bomb one of its own neighborhoods, destroying 61 houses in the process. ‘Scuse me, I meant to say they dropped “an entry device” on a particular house. A house that happened to be in a particular neighborhood. Which happened to be a middle class neighborhood, so how could that have been allowed to happen? Did I forget to mention it was an African American middle class neighborhood? (A new documentary on the MOVE bombing was released last year and many reviews note it is a “little-remembered” incident. I think it goes without saying that it would be somewhat better-remembered if the city had bombed one of its own white neighborhoods.)

    So we have a city with a history of being not unreceptive to racism and race-baiting. Most US cities can be said to have such a history. But Philadelphia’s is nearly bad enough to qualify for honorary membership in The Brotherhood of Southern Cities That Are Still Fighting The War of Northern Aggression. As a Philadelphian, I am not happy about this facet of my city’s history, but I have no intention of denying it or (you’ll pardon the expression) whitewashing it.

    So … an organization (the Phillies) with a particularly bad racist history (among teams who all have racist histories); and a city with a particularly egregious history of embracing and borderline-celebrating it’s racist past … is it really so hard to believe that when a current-day coach on that team goes to the media and explicitly laments the (debatable) fact that a black player (Rollins) is lazier than a white player (Utley) … is it really beyond the pale to suggest that those racist dog whistles that David S. Cohen merely alludes to in his blog post might actually be in play here?

    I think the Lee Atwater quote applies here:

    ‘You start out in 1954 by saying, “N****r, n****r, n****r.” By 1968 you can’t say “n****r”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “n****r, n****r.”’

    Ben Chapman stood outside that dugout and said, “N****r, n****r.”

    Might there possibly be an echo of that in Bowa’s dog whistle words? Even if that’s not what Bowa intended, what are people who are attuned to that particular dog whistle hearing?

    • Pat

      March 19, 2014 10:36 AM

      What the hell are you talking about?

    • tom b

      March 19, 2014 11:16 AM

      did you forget to mention the mayor that ordered the bombing was black

    • TheCruelTruth

      March 20, 2014 07:53 PM

      Our veteran short stop is demonstrably lazier than our veteran second baseman man you myopic goon.

  13. Jonny5

    March 19, 2014 11:46 AM

    I can’t help to feel that Jimmy is being picked on here. The Phillies didn’t have to re-sign the guy. Did the Phillies somehow think he’s going to change? The guy has gone from being a really good SS to a really good SS for his age. I don’t understand what changed to cause all of this craziness all of a sudden.

  14. AG3

    March 19, 2014 12:53 PM

    The new Evil Empire. At least the Yankees were called this because they tried everything in their power to win. Now, RAJ? I think he is just evil to the core.

  15. Mark66

    March 19, 2014 03:20 PM

    The Phils front office is going to lose on this one big time. The longer this stays in print the more it will soon alienate this team. If that’s what they are trying to accomplish then you can kiss the season bye bye. What it will also do is have a ripple effect on the attendance. They will go from avg 30-40,000 to 10-20,000. You might as well put the club up for sale. Fix it quickly and move on or suffer the consequences big time.

  16. Devil's Advocate

    March 19, 2014 04:51 PM

    Stop kissing up to Jimmy. “Perceived lack of effort”? I WATCH the games. I attend the games. I see the lack of effort. It is not perceived.

    Amaro is a chump too. His way is better that Boston? Oakland? He didn’t build the championship teams…he destroyed what he inherited. You are no better.

  17. SJHaack

    March 20, 2014 01:21 AM

    ” the Phillies are trying to appease a certain section of the Phillies’ fan base that is tired of losing”

    Oh woe. Oh woe and despair! Forsooth the losses tire me greatly.

    One losing season and a technicality 80-81 161 game losing season in the past 13. Prior to this run of sustained success and then incredible and cherished excellence, the team had only had 3 winning seasons since I was born. You’ll have to pardon me for feeling unsympathetic if someone is creating this charade to cater to fans that have literally never experienced an unsuccessful baseball season .Well guess what Phillies FO. I’m tired of you giving out vesting options, buying high and selling low, and fucking over already fucked amateur and minor league athletes. Maybe Jimmy Rollins would appear to care more if he wasn’t set up to fail.

  18. Oskar

    March 20, 2014 09:31 AM

    This episode is just the latest confirmation that everyone associated with the front office (since the departure of Gillick) is a moron.

  19. Oskar

    March 20, 2014 09:46 AM

    I’m so pissed off by this crap that I may have to break out the one and only jersey I ever bought and wear it to every game this year.

    Yeah, it’s a Rollins jersey.

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