The Right Rollins Could Get Phillies Rollin’ to October

June 30, 2009 by  
Filed under Fan News

Who would have thought that at the beginning of July the baseball world would be applauding three teams from the National League West, while remaining vexed with four teams from the National League East?

But here we are, and the Los Angeles Dodgers look strong and deep; the Colorado Rockies have been the hottest team in baseball for the last month; and the San Francisco Giants have pitched their way to the top of the N.L. Wild Card race.

On a different coast, the Philadelphia Phillies lead the East merely by default; the Mets are spending more time in the doctor’s office than the clubhouse; the Marlins aren’t doing anything more than treading water by playing .500 ball in a sinking division; and the Braves are underachieving with one starter hitting over .300.

It’s a baseball paradox of Philly cheese steak proportions, and with so many questions involved, who knows how it will shake out?

We don’t really, but there is one guy in the division who could change all of that, and his name is Jimmy Rollins.


Yeah, Philly fans haven’t seen him this year, either.

But that’s exactly why Rollins holds the key to such an unstable division. The Phillies haven’t had “Jimmy Rollins” in their lineup once this season; they have had some Fathead portrait of the guy who once captivated the entire city at shortstop.

After hitting .211 with six home runs and a .254 OBP through 68 games this season, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel decided it was best to sit his relentless shortstop last week. Currently, Rollins is set to return to the Phillies’ lineup when they open a three-game series in Atlanta on Tuesday.

The strategy’s aim was to give Rollins time to clear his head and get back to being the player he ought to be. During his four games off, Manuel didn’t want Rollins taking batting practice or anything.  In fact, the less thinking about baseball, the better.

“I want him to sit down. I want him to kind of get away,” Manuel told the Philadelphia Daily News last week. “I told him if he didn’t want to, he doesn’t have to take BP. I want him to just get away for a couple of days and sit and watch and hopefully just relax and try to get his thinking back and the way he feels and everything.”

Which is smart, because Manuel knows that the division is there for the taking. Another deep October run could be theirs when they aren’t playing their best ball and are surviving with smoke and mirrors on the mound.

Remember, it was only two seasons ago that Rollins became one of four men since 1871 to join the 20-20-20-20 Club by accumulating 20 or more doubles, triples, home runs, and stolen bases in a single season.

Who are the other men?

Curtis Granderson did it the same year as Rollins with the Detroit Tigers. Then we have to go back to Willie Mays in 1957 with the New York Giants, and Frank Schulte in 1911 with the Chicago Cubs. That’s it.

So we know what type of dynamic player Rollins is and can be, and the Phillies are just waiting for that same guy to come back. This is already a club that ranks 1st in the N.L. in home runs and 2nd in the league in runs scored.

With a normal Rollins batting leadoff in Philadelphia and a healthy Raul Ibanez in the middle of the order, the Phillies lineup is one of the meanest gauntlets in baseball when you add Shane Victorino, Ryan Howard, and Chase Utley to the aforementioned two. Even Jayson Werth is better than most other outfielders the Phillies will see come August and September.

If Rollins doesn’t bounce back to his career levels at least, then it becomes a wide-open division again if only because Philadelphia’s pitching staff has a larger crack than the Liberty Bell.

The Phils rank 15th in the N.L. in earned runs, so we can fairly assume that it can’t get much worse. But where is the improvement going to come from?

Cole Hamels must pitch better than his 4.44 ERA, Jamie Moyer isn’t fooling anybody with his ERA hovering above 6.00, and Joe Blanton hasn’t had the type of success in the N.L. that the Phillies thought he would have when they got him from Oakland last summer.

Sure, Citizens Bank Park is a hitter’s park, but a sinker ball pitcher shouldn’t be getting knocked around like Blanton is.

Brad Lidge spent some time on the DL with a sprained knee in early June and hasn’t been close to the same guy he was in ’08 when he converted every save opportunity for the entire season.

What’s been Lidge’s problem? You could make a number of cases, but I would look at the 5.6 walks per nine innings he is averaging. With stuff that good, Lidge just needs to let it fly in the zone and see what happens.

Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. will be one of the most active men on the trading front for starting pitching as the deadline approaches, but with so many teams looking for arms and so few quality arms available, there just aren’t many upgrades to be had.

“We have interest in a lot of guys and we have talked to several teams about pitching across the board,” Amaro Jr. told “But a lot of it just depends on which pitching becomes available. And if they do become available, if we have the right fits for them.”

“When you have this many teams in the race it’s very thin,” Amaro said. “It’s always thin. Again, there were three teams who got pitching last year. Three teams out of 30. That’s 10 percent.”

And, in reality, that may be the tipping point for the Phillies. The lack of pitching available via trade combined with the thin pitching staffs within the division could make the N.L. East a summer slugfest. If that’s the case, Philadelphia already is the team to beat and will be even more so when Rollins joins the party.

None of the N.L. East teams look real pretty in comparison with the Dodgers, Cardinals, or Brewers. But in the end it doesn’t matter because none of those teams are in the division.

What matters is that the Philadelphia Phillies are the only team in the N.L. East with a positive run differential (i.e. have scored more runs than allowed), and that certainly isn’t because they are carving teams up on the mound.

Thus far, Rollins has merely been a caricature of himself sans the flesh, blood, and heart.

We won’t know for a few games which Rollins has emerged from his mini-vacation.

But if the old chatty and swaggering J-Roll rides into the batter’s box to lead off the ballgame down South, we will know one thing:

The golden key to the East will be dangling from his neck.

You can reach Teddy Mitrosilis at


Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

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