STFU, Jimmy Rollins

You may recall that I have told athletes to STFU in the past, and that I am not Jimmy Rollins’ biggest supporter. I called him overrated as recently as July (by the way, that statement on a Phillies forum spawned about a 10-page debate). However, I feel justified for telling Rollins to sit down and shut his mouth, considering what he said in his appearance on The Best Damn Sports Show Period, and the lack of justification thereof.

Before I get into it, I’d just like to make perfectly clear that this is not really an issue. I, along with plenty of others, are making a bigger deal out of what Rollins said than it really is. However, there’s somewhat of a point to be made, and it’s that Rollins may be the defending NL MVP, but his 2008 season has given him absolutely no leverage to be critical of boo birds.

You can watch the clip at The Fightins.

Here’s what he said on Best Damn (keep an eye on how Chris Rose tries to keep Rollins from tripping over his own words):

Rose: It’s not that bad, is it?

Ryan Howard: In Philly?

Rose: Yeah.

Howard: Um…

Jimmy Rollins: It can be. (Howard assents)  I mean, there are times, you know, like, one of those cities, they, you know, you might catch some flack for this, but you know, they’re front-runners. You know, when you’re doing good, they’re on your side. When you’re doing bad, they’re completely against you.

Rose: But that’s a lot of cities [that are like that].

Rollins: (After some cross-talk) I’m with you, but I mean, for example, Ryan’s from St. Louis. You know, St. Louis, it seems like they support their team. They’re out there, and they’re encouraging. And in Philly, you can’t be no punk.

Rose: Wait a second — where are you from?

Rollins: I’m from Oakland.

Rose: Okay.

Rollins: And they just don’t show up.

Not only does he bash Phillies fans, he bashes Athletics fans as well. Rollins has no justification for saying this, especially since he was given nothing but wholehearted support last season en route to a 20×4 (20 2B, 3B, HR, and SB) season and an (undeserved) NL MVP award. This season, he’s en route to finish with his worst rate statistics (OBP, SLG, ISO, RC/27; ignore counting statistics since he missed about 20 games, which skews the data) since 2005. He’s a big reason why the Phillies’ offense is so mundane.

He has no right to criticize Phillies fans, especially when he’s failed to give 100% on two notable occasions.

  • June 5, 2008: Manager Charlie Manuel benched Rollins for failing to run out a fly ball that was misplayed by Cincinnati Reds shortstop Paul Janish. He would have been on second base easily with effort, but Rollins dogged it and only got one base on the error.
  • July 24, 2008: Rollins showed up late to Shea Stadium for the series finale (and rubber match) against the New York Mets, the Phillies’ division rival and biggest obstacle between them and the playoffs. He was benched again by Manuel, only this time, he took it upon himself to publicly contradict his manager, saying “We’re going to disagree on this one.”

After receiving deserved criticism about his comments, he told us what he really meant. Scott Lauber has the transcript.

Rollins doesn’t really back-track or apologize. Essentially, he uses rhetoric to dance his way out of the issue and does a poor job of it. Consider his opener:

“The way, I guess, what front-runner means and the way I think about it is completely different from what they’re using it.”

Ignoring the complete assassination of the English language, he says that the real definition of “front-runner” differs from how he uses it. So, it’s the culture’s fault for defining a word differently than what Rollins would like it to mean.

Wikipedia defines a front-runner as:

[…] a type of sports fan who likes only the team that is winning. Also known as a fairweather fan, the person will quickly,and repeatedly change allegiance with athletes and teams as teams and players become “good” or “bad” based on records.

That’s pretty much how Rollins defined it during his appearance on Best Damn, even though he wasn’t insinuating that Phillies fans become Mets or Marlins or Twins fans when the Phillies are struggling. In fact, he did clarify it further:

“Front-runners is like people who only show up when you’re winning.

Of course, he then goes on to contradict himself by mentioning the Phillies’ strong attendance figures.

Rollins slips up elsewhere in his clarification as well:

But, as passionate as they are about us going out there and winning and playing well, that’s the same passion I feel about them giving us support. Don’t get on us when we’re down this time of the year, come out and support us.

Support is not a right; it is earned. Rollins, my friend (this is the part where you imagine I am having a conversation with him), you have not earned any kind of support whatsoever. Not even pity. You and most of your teammates are millionaires, play a kid’s game for a living, are famous and wildly popular — you have nothing to complain about. This is part of your job. If you can’t handle some fans’ negativity, then go ahead and play in St. Louis, which former Phillie Scott Rolen formerly dubbed “heaven” (until Tony LaRussa, the devil, disagreed with him one too many times). They don’t boo you in “heaven.” In fact, they care so little about baseball that they give a utility outfielder with a career .718 OPS a standing ovation. That sounds like the perfect place for a shortstop with a career .772 OPS.

Criticism is part of the territory, James. Supermarket clerks, waiters and waitresses, and technical support operators have to deal with it from unsatisfied customers. The only difference between them and you, Mr. Shortstop, is that they are forced to work that job due to whatever financial situation or career path they have chosen or have found themselves in. And they don’t have the platform to whine about it. If you don’t like the criticism, stop playing baseball. Curl up in a fetal position and don’t leave your house. Or join a support group where the goal is to keep your self-esteem artificially inflated.

Moving on…

The whole thing was, look, here we are in the playoffs, we’re at home, we’re in first place. There’s really nothing to boo about.

The playoffs were last season, and ended quite abruptly. Yeah, there was kind of a sweep in the NLDS at the hands of the now 54-68 Colorado Rockies. And the Phillies aren’t in first place anymore, either, after a four-game sweep in Los Angeles. The Phillies haven’t hit well since May. There’s plenty of reasons to boo, and Rollins is a big part of it.

When [struggling catcher] Carlos Ruiz comes up to the plate, don’t boo him because you want [backup Chris] Coste in the game. This man has a job to do today. Encourage him to do his job to the best of his abilities.

While it’s not in the clip linked above, it is in the transcript and I wanted to respond to it.  The fans have every right to boo a catcher with a .606 OPS and a SLG lower than his OBP (which is really hard to do, by the way). Chris Coste isn’t a great option but in comparison to Ruiz, he’s much better with his .782 OPS.

The fans paid for a good portion of the new stadium with their tax dollars, and continue to pay the players’ salaries with the money spent on tickets, concessions, merchandise, and by driving up ratings on TV and radio. If I’m spending $70 every time I watch a game at Citizens Bank Park, I have every right to demand that I see a lineup used to its fullest potential. It’s mind-boggling that Ruiz hasn’t been given a demotion or at least a significant cut in playing time. 25-year-old Jason Jaramillo is in AAA with a .709 OPS and 22-year-old Lou Marson is in AA with an .857 OPS. Even Ivan Rodriguez aside, a catcher could have been had at the trading deadline.

And when Ruiz is booed, they’re not booing Ruiz himself. I’m sure all of the fans would love to see him put up Mike Piazza numbers. They’re booing the ineptitude of the Phillies’ upper management for not realizing that Ruiz isn’t Major League-caliber and bringing up someone else who could give the Phillies a better chance to win. If the Phillies’ front office had their wits about them, they’d have DFA’ed Geoff Jenkins and So Taguchi at least a month and a half ago and sent Ruiz down or thrown him in a trade. It sounds like fan-speak, but I’m a fan and that’s what most of us (presumably) are booing when Carlos Ruiz comes to the plate.

From everything I’ve read and heard, Ruiz is a great person and extremely generous with fans, and that shouldn’t go unrewarded, but he’s not giving the Phillies a good chance to win with his presence in the lineup. His defense isn’t even that great, either — his CS% is near the bottom at 19.7%. Mike Piazza, chastised for his poor defense, had a 17.1 CS% in 2004. That’s how bad Ruiz has been defensively.

Finally, I’d just like to point out another contradiction:

“But there are a lot of times where it makes it harder to play at home when they’re against you — or it feels like they’re against you.” 

“If they want to boo me, that’s fine. That’s fine. It’s not going to effect me from doing my job.”

Rollins needs to STFU and focus on raising that OPS of his, not crying about the boo birds in the stands at Citizens Bank Park. He’s deserved most of the criticism he’s received and has done nothing to change that. You silence the Negative Nancies by playing well, not by whining about it. Let your bat do the talking.

I’ve spent more time and written much more on the subject than I intended to on, in reality, a non-issue. I apologize for wasting your time if you’ve read this far.

Brett is Back!

Despite the Phillies losing four straight to the Los Angeles Dodgers, there is a diamond — albeit a small one — hidden in all that coal: Brett Myers is officially back. He turned in his fourth straight quality start in five starts since coming back to the Majors after his demotion after his start in Texas against the Rangers on June 27.

As we can see in the following chart, there’s a clear improvement just about everywhere for Myers. Aside from WHIP, they are all per-nine rates.

Brett Myers Before and After Demotion

The only item that is concerning is the loss of more than two strikeouts per nine innings. However, it is a small sample size and given the information that will follow, it shouldn’t be a recurring problem.

It appears that Myers has his fastball back. Here’s a graph (click to enlarge) showing both his average and fastest speeds on his fastball in all of his starts this season. Keep in mind that he did not pitch from June 28 to July 22. Additionally, the X axis goes by intervals of seven days, so they don’t correspond with days he actually made a start.

Brett Myers Fastball

Myers’ fastball was very inconsistent early in the season and barely broke 90 MPH on average. Recently, the average velocity has been rising essentially on a consistent basis, is averaging nearly 92 MPH, and has gone as high as 95 MPH.

Even though the Phillies are only 3-2 in Myers’ starts since returning, it’s not his fault. They’ve only given him 15 runs of support, an average of three runs per game. The offense, with a .238 BABIP in August, has been a big problem for the Phillies. Before the series finale against the Dodgers, they had a .713 OPS in August, their lowest OPS in any month this season (though it’s very close to the .715 OPS of June). It will go down to .687 after their 2-hit performance against the Dodgers in the finale.

No Worries about Myers-Manuel “Debate”

Including last night’s start against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Brett Myers has pitched extremely well for the Phillies since returning to the Majors. He’s made four starts and has only given up six earned runs in 25 and two-thirds innings (2.10 ERA). He’s given up five or fewer hits in each start and has gone at least six innings in three of the four starts. The only concern remains his low strikeout rate (4.6 per nine innings) and the lack of velocity: his fastball still only averaged about 91.5 MPH against the Pirates. While this is good news considering that he was throwing around 87-89 MPH back in June, most of us are waiting for the Brett Myers who threw 94-95 MPH last season.

Brett Myers Starts

With two outs in the top of the eighth inning last night, Charlie Manuel elected to remove Brett Myers from the game with a left-handed hitter, Doug Mientkiewicz, due up. In the previous two at-bats, Chris Gomez hit a ground-rule double and Luis Rivas lined out to shortstop. Myers wasn’t happy with Manuel’s decision to let left-hander J.C. Romero pitch to the left-handed hitter, and the two engaged in a heated argument with each other in the dugout and in the tunnel.

You can watch the video of the argument by clicking here. Based on the commentary of Phillies broadcaster Chris Wheeler, the arguing between Myers and Manuel is common and Myers has made it known that he doesn’t like to come out of games. There’s nothing to be alarmed about. There is no team chemistry issue, Myers isn’t a bad influence in the clubhouse, and the Phillies’ offense isn’t despicable presently because Myers has anger problems and uses swear words. These arguments occur between players on all thirty Major League Baseball teams, most of them you just don’t see publicly. Dayn Perry has an excellent column on this very subject.

Myers, if he had a problem with being taken out, should have kept his mouth shut and talked about it with his manager when there aren’t TV cameras pointed at them from various angles. Even so, he was wrong anyway because he’d been hit hard in the previous two at-bats, had thrown 93 pitches (not terribly high for almost eight innings of work, however), and a left-handed hitter was at the plate in a 4-1 (read: close) game.

Regardless, the Phillies won the game and that’s all that matters. There is no issue with Myers, especially if he’s pitching this well. The real issue is with the offense: prior to last night’s game, the Phillies had been shut out for 23 consecutive innings and have scored only 21 runs in their last 8 games (2.63 runs per game). If anything deserving of blame, it’s the Phillies’ recent BABIP: .230 over their last 8 games.

Don’t Fret If “Stand Pat” Stands Pat

With the heavy rumors of Manny Ramirez being traded to the division rival Florida Marlins, and with the Mets flying under the radar in search of a corner outfield and a relief pitcher, the Phillies may find themselves having made only one move — Joe Blanton — when August 1 rolls around. That’s fine, even if the Mets and Marlins make a move.

Before you fetch the strait jacket for me, let me explain why Pat Gillick has done some good work in August and beyond.

  • Ryan Franklin, August 7, 2006: Traded by the Philadelphia Phillies with cash to the Cincinnati Reds for a player to be named later. The Cincinnati Reds sent Zac Stott to the Philadelphia Phillies to complete the trade.
  • Jamie Moyer, August 19, 2006: Traded by the Seattle Mariners to the Philadelphia Phillies for Andrew Barb and Andy Baldwin.
  • Jose Hernandez, August 22, 2006: Purchased by the Philadelphia Phillies from the Pittsburgh Pirates.
  • Jeff Conine, August 27, 2006: raded by the Baltimore Orioles to the Philadelphia Phillies Angel Chavez.
  • Randall Simon, September 1, 2006: Purchased by the Philadelphia Phillies from the Texas Rangers.

Franklin wasn’t anything special, and the Phillies got a warm body from the Cardinals for his services. Stott hasn’t been that bad for the Phillies in Clearwater, posting a 3.85 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 2.62 BB/9, and 5.31 K/9.

The Moyer acquisition was brilliant, and it’s still paying dividends as we speak, literally (as of this writing, he’s gone 6 innings and given up 3 runs to the Nationals — another quality start). He’s no Johan Santana, Dan Haren, or C.C. Sabathia, but he’s given the Phillies exactly what they needed in the middle of their rotation.

Since joining the Phillies, Moyer has averaged six innings per start each season and has been above-average for the most part. In eight starts in ’06, he put up a 116 ERA+, a 92 ERA+ in 33 starts last season, and excluding tonight’s start, he has a 119 ERA+ in 21 starts this season. Additionally, Moyer has been relatively cheap, earning $6 million last season and $3.5 million this season.

Andrew Baldwin has been terrible in AAA Tacoma and Andrew Barb hasn’t thrown a pitch this season at any level. I have no idea what happened to him but he presumably got injured or quit. Neither of the two were worth keeping around the Phillies got two and a half seasons of productive pitching out of Moyer.

When Gillick leaves, we may look back on his tenure and point to Moyer as his greatest acquisition.

Jose Hernandez was unproductive but he was only given 32 at-bats. Ditto Randall Simon, who was given only 21 at-bats.

Conine was given 100 at-bats and put up an 80 OPS+ which consisted of a .327 OBP/.390 SLG. Too many at-bats, but he was about as productive as Pedro Feliz has been this season (Conine played in the outfield, though).

  • Russell Branyan, August 9, 2007: Purchased by the Philadelphia Phillies from the Cleveland Indians.
  • Russell Branyan, August 31, 2007: Traded by the Philadelphia Phillies to the St. Louis Cardinals for PTBNL.
  • Pete LaForest, September 4, 2007: Selected off waivers by the Philadelphia Phillies from the San Diego Padres.

Branyan was given nine at-bats in a Phillies uniform but one of them left an indelible mark on the remarkable 2007 season. On August 14 in Washington, the Phillies were shut down by Nationals starter Shawn Hill and Luis Ayala. Hill allowed only one hit and gave up only one walk and struck out seven. Jon Rauch came in to pitch the eighth for the Nationals, and it appeared that the game was destined to end up in the loss column for the Phillies.

With one out, Jayson Werth reached on an error, and Carlos Ruiz drove him in with a single to make it 2-1. Branyan pinch-hit for Antonio Alfonseca, and on the second pitch from Rauch, he hit a mammoth home run to right field to give the Phillies a 3-2 lead and eventually a 3-2 win.

Branyan hit another home run on the 19th against the Pirates in Pittsburgh, and that pretty much sums up his stint with the Phillies. Nine at-bats, two homers, five RBI.

Gillick traded him to the St. Louis Cardinals for a player to be named later (I still have no clue who the PTBNL was), and Branyan was unproductive the rest of the way.

LaForest was very unproductive (hard to imagine, but his OPS+ was in the negatives at -13), but was only given 11 at-bats.

Of the players Gillick acquired past the July 31 trading deadline, two were very productive and the rest, while unproductive, weren’t given enough at-bats to really make a dent.

Even if the Phillies don’t get Manny Ramirez or Brian Fuentes, there are still moves to be made and we can count on Gillick, even if his time in Philly is running out.

Apropos Trivia?

Below, I will list the lines for starts made against the Phillies by a particular starting pitcher, see if you can name him.

Pitching lines

This pitcher has made a total of eight starts against the Phillies in his career. Seven of them have been quality starts. He’s gone more than 18 innings against the Phils without surrendering a home run and has an ERA of 2.30 and a WHIP of 1.14.

Who is this pitcher?

Randy Johnson? Jake Peavy? Brandon Webb? John Smoltz? Carlos Zambrano?

No, no, no, no, and no.

.

.

.

It’s Tim Redding. Tim freakin’ Redding. And he’s scheduled to face Jamie Moyer tonight in about an hour and ten minutes. Never have I wanted to intentionally use the Gambler’s Fallacy more in my life. Come on, Redding is due for a clunker, right? Phils are going to score, like, eight runs off of him tonight. Two Ryan Howard grand slams: one hits the right field foul pole, the other hits the left field foul pole. Book it.

The Phillies are currently -135 favorites and the Nationals are +125 underdogs. Is Vegas aware that Cy Redding is pitching?

BDD: Teixeira; Here: Rumors

At Baseball Digest Daily, I determine the market for Atlanta Braves first baseman Mark Teixeira. Surprising results.

6:15 PM EST UPDATE, Jayson Stark:

Braves deal Teixeira to Angels for Kotchman:

Sources close to the situation told ESPN.com‘s Jayson Stark on Tuesday that Atlanta Braves first baseman Mark Teixeira is headed to the Los Angeles Angels for Casey Kotchman and minor league pitcher Steven Marek.

Rumors

Stark:

Left-handed reliever Ron Mahay could be on the verge of heading to the Phillies.

According to clubs that have been speaking with the Royals, they’ve been having extensive conversations with the Phillies about a trade that would send Mahay to Philadelphia for shortstop prospect Jason Donald, a member of the U.S. Olympic baseball team.

[…] in Donald, the Phillies have a commodity Kansas City has been searching for aggressively. So the fit appears better with the Phillies than with any of the other teams on the Royals’ list.

UPDATE, Stark:

A source with knowledge of the Phillies’ trading discussions now says they’re “not close” to any deal for left-handed reliever Ron Mahay. They plan to continue to explore all their left-handed relief options.

Stark:

The Orioles continue to tell teams they would have to be “overwhelmed” to trade George Sherrill before the deadline. But if they do trade him, there are two interested teams that have the young shortstop the Orioles are targeting as the centerpiece of any deal — the Angels and Phillies.

[…]

And Baltimore has scouted Philly’s Double-A shortstop, Jason Donald, who is bound for the Olympic team. But neither the Angels nor Phillies seem compelled to “overwhelm” the Orioles or anybody else in the next few days. So most teams that have checked in on Sherrill have come away believing the Orioles won’t make any serious attempt to move him until the offseason.

New York Times:

While the Phillies were mentioned as a possible landing spot for [Manny] Ramírez because of his strong relationship with Manager Charlie Manuel, General Manager Pat Gillick harpooned the idea Monday.

“At this point, there’s no interest on our part,” Gillick said in a phone interview. “We have no place to play the guy. Burrell has to play left field, and I don’t think Ramírez has played right field in seven or eight years.”

Todd Zolecki:

[…] J.A. Happ, whom the Phillies had pulled from Sunday’s start after just 22/3 innings.

Yes, Happ is healthy.

“We pulled him as a precaution,” assistant general manager Mike Arbuckle said. “We really don’t know what’s going to happen at the trade deadline, and we didn’t know if we were going to need him in the big leagues or weren’t or whatever. We just wanted to keep all our options open, and we thought the best way to do that was limit his outing just so that he might be ready in case we needed him or there was a trade. A lot of different things could happen over the next couple days.”

In other news:

MTV will finally show the episode of Cribs that visits the Gloucester County house of Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins. (I wrote about it four months ago when the show turned up on On Demand, but the network pulled it quickly for unknown reasons.)

At 1:30 p.m. Sunday – yes, it conflicts with the start of the Phillies-Braves game – J Roll will lead the eight-minute video tour of his house, where he seems proudest of his vibrating king-size bed. “That’s a great place to make the magic happen,” he tells the camera. He also shows his dining room and his kitchen, which he says “actually gets used.” Also in the spot are his girlfriend, Johari Smith; his Akitas, Kato and Kenja; teammate Ryan Howard; his spa and pool; and his rides, a Mercedes CLS 55 Carlsson and a Bentley Continental Flying Spur. The episode was shot last year.