Jimmy Rollins committed the inexcusable sin for a Philadelphia athlete: he didn’t hustle. Again.
I’ve heard some of Rollins’ defenders point out that there’s more of an uproar about Rollins than there seems to be when other athletes make mistakes and bad plays. But there’s a difference between Rollins’ actions during last Wednesday’s 9-2 loss to the Marlins and a bad play.
An error is a bad play. A strikeout can be a bad play. Getting thrown out on the bases can be a bad play.
These bad plays may induce boos. But those boos won’t last – unless you keep making the same mistakes.
When you don’t hustle, however, the boos from some quarters will never stop. Fans remember.
Rollins has built up enough good will that he has been forgiven by many fans for his earlier transgressions. This wasn’t the first time he failed to run out a ground ball. He also was benched after showing up late for a game in New York against the Mets. On another occasion, he infamously referred to Philadelphia fans as front-runners.
Although it may have taken the edge off some fans’ enthusiasm for Rollins, it has not resulted in long-term booing. Rollins continued to be cheered and embraced by most Phillies fans.
This time may be different. It may be different for two reasons. First, he failed to run hard on the bases twice in the same game. Second, the Phillies are losing.
Rollins’ lack of effort during the loss to the Marlins was egregious. On one play, with Rollins on first base, he peeled off rather than go hard into second base in an attempt to break up a double play. On the other play, Rollins blatantly jogged to first base on a ground ball to shortstop.
It should be noted that the game was close at the time of these plays. Rollins’ lack of effort would have been unacceptable even if the Phillies were trailing by seven runs at the time, but loafing in a tight game is even worse.
In my Phillies Notebook the next day, I wrote that manager Charlie Manuel should have removed Rollins from Wednesday’s game. He didn’t. I wrote that Manuel should have benched Rollins for Thursday’s game. He didn’t. But Rollins received a reminder of the importance of running hard when he scored from third base Thursday because Chase Utley slid hard into second base to break up a double play.
While Rollins escaped any direct consequences from Manuel for his lack of effort, I don’t think he’ll be as fortunate with the fans. Phillies fans have been relatively patient with the Phillies this season. Other than the bullpen – Chad Qualls comes to mind – few players have been targeted with boos during this dreadful season. I have a feeling that’s about to change.
Winning is the great deodorant. Rollins has escaped the wrath of Phillies fans for past transgressions because he does a lot of things very well and the team was winning five straight division titles and contending for a championship every season.
In case you haven’t noticed, the Phillies aren’t exactly contending for anything this season other than the title of most-underachieving team. The fans need someone upon whom to take out their frustrations. Rollins just gave them a prime target.
Rollins, who signed a three-year contract worth $33 million this past offseason, is batting .241. His on-base percentage is a horrid .302, the same as Pete Orr and near the bottom of the barrel among Phillies. Only John Mayberry Jr.’s .274 on-base percentage is significantly below Rollins’ abysmal number. Mayberry, who is another player who may find himself booed down the stretch, isn’t a leadoff hitter. Rollins bats leadoff.
These last six weeks of the season could be very interesting for Rollins. I suspect his relationship with a large segment of the fan base has soured. If I’m correct, it will be intriguing to see how Rollins handles the negative fan reaction.
FUNDAMENTAL PROBLEMS: How frustrating is it to watch outfielders in the major leagues make fundamental mistakes on defense that you learn not to make in Little League? Yes, John Mayberry Jr., I’m talking about you. Not so fast, Domonic Brown. You’re guilty as well.
BOOK IT: “Paterno,” the book by Joe Posnanski about the former Penn State coach, has already sparked debate even though it doesn’t hit bookstores until Tuesday. I’ve read the excerpts, but I will reserve judgment until I actually read the entire book.
One thing has struck me, though. With former Penn State president Graham Spanier denying he knew there was a sexual element to Jerry Sandusky’s actions in the 2001 shower incident and former athletic director Tim Curley and senior vice president Gary Schultz apparently making the same argument in an attempt to have criminal charges against them dismissed, the focus may return to Mike McQueary.
We know from McQueary’s testimony that he did not use explicit details when describing the shower incident to Paterno. But what if he also didn’t do that with Schultz and Curley?
That still wouldn’t absolve them of their failure to find the boy’s identity and inquire as to his welfare, but it might cast some of the emails contained in the Freeh Report in a very different light.
WELCOMING COMMITTEE: The 76ers held quite a welcoming party for center Andrew Bynum and guard Jason Richardson at the National Constitution Center this past week. The turnout and enthusiasm among fans certainly made a good impression on Bynum and Richardson.
If Bynum’s knees hold up, he could become a huge sports hero in the Delaware Valley. But that’s a big “if” for a large 24-year-old who has had surgery on both knees.
MR. JORDAN GOES TO L.A.: Former Sixers head coach Eddie Jordan, who preceded Doug Collins and was fired after one dreadful season, is reportedly about to become an assistant coach with the Lakers. Was that part of the Dwight Howard-Andre Iguodala-Andrew Bynum trade? The Lakers get Howard, but they have to balance that out by hiring Jordan?
SHOWING SIMMONDS THE MONEY: After striking out in attempts to lure free agents Zach Parise, Ryan Suter and Shea Weber to Philadelphia, Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren had some extra money to spend. He used some of that money to re-sign forward Jakub Voracek and, this past week, he signed forward Wayne Simmonds to a six-year extension worth a reported $23 million. Simmonds, a hard-nosed and hard-working forward, scored a career-high 28 goals last season.
COACH WALKS THE PLANK: After leading the Soul to ArenaBowl XXV, where they lost to the Arizona Rattlers, head coach Doug Plank resigned. Plank enjoyed one very successful season as head coach of the Soul, easily winning the conference championship with a high-scoring offense and opportunistic defense. The Soul will have a difficult time finding a coach better than Plank.
Eric Fisher, who has been covering sports for nearly 24 years, displayed excellent fundamentals in the outfield during his long-ago playing days and never failed to hustle.