Think of your favorite synonym for incompetent. Now put a few adverbial multipliers in front of them. Add a curse word or two. Then scrap it all and come back with more intense words. That's the best way to describe the Phillies as a franchise right now.
And it's all coming down on Jimmy Rollins.
Rollins, you say? The guy who has spent his entire career with the Phillies, even though he could have gone elsewhere? The guy who won an MVP the year the team started its run of five consecutive playoff appearances? The guy who has averaged 149 games played per year over the past 13 seasons? The guy who is far and away the best Phillies shortstop ever? The guy who has been fun to watch on and off the field, who always smiles, who always signs autographs, and who always seems to be having fun playing a kids game? The guy who was central to the best sustained run of Phillies success ever?
Yup, that guy. The Phillies have decided that Jimmy Rollins is the reason for the team's woes and have started an all-out coordinated war against him. Last week's "it's nothing" story has turned into a franchise's bumbling efforts to take that rarest of professional athletic commodities, the loyal superstar talent who has spent his entire career with one team, and turn him into public enemy #1.
Let's recap what's happened in the past week:
1) Larry Bowa is quoted in an ESPN article praising Rollins on the one hand but nonetheless (it's Bowa, he can't resist!) continuing the old-manager nonsense about Rollins not running out worthless ground balls every single day of every single season.
2) Ryne Sandberg benches Rollins after Rollins says "who cares?" about spring training performances. Rollins, of course, is 100% correct about that, but it offends Sandberg's play-the-game-the-right-way sensibilities, so Rollins has to sit out three games.
3) Ryne Sandberg praises Freddy Galvis for his energy and attitude (how many MVPs did Rex Hudler win again?). When asked similar questions about Rollins and specifically if Rollins is a positive influence in the clubhouse, Sandberg says "no comment."
4) After Rollins' three game benching, Sandberg says that he was not trying to send Rollins a message, but at the same time also says that he needed to make sure that Rollins did, in fact, care.
5) With the Tigers needing a shortstop, Rollins is asked if he will waive his 5-10 rights to block a trade. Rollins says no, instead indicating that he wants to stay with the Phillies, the team he's always been loyal to, and finish his career as the team's hits leader.
6) Buster Olney adds this morning that "there is strong sentiment within the organization that the Phillies would be better off trading him and establishing a new tone with a new shortstop." The always ambiguous "sources" tell Olney 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."
This is, quite obviously, a massively coordinated attack on Jimmy Rollins coming from the highest levels of the team's management and being executed by everyone on the team who isn't a player.
And from whatever angle you want to look at it, it's depressing as hell. There's a very clear dog whistle here for the racist elements of the team's fanbase. The team is trying to sour the fanbase on a player who has accomplished so much for this franchise while being as loyal as any athlete can be to both the team and city.
The worst part, from a purely baseball standpoint, is that it's over absolutely nothing. Running out every ground ball no matter where it is hit is a) meaningless and b) something no player in the history of baseball has ever done. Watch enough games and you know that b is true, even if you tell yourself that only the lazy guys who don't hustle do this. Everyone who has played baseball jogs down the line sometimes. Everyone. Even Larry Bowa.
The leadership complaint is even more ridiculous. Even accepting that Rollins isn't a clubhouse leader (which I have no basis for knowing, but I'll accept it here for the sake of this), what is his stepping up and being a leader going to do? Is it going to magically improve the health of Cole Hamels? Is it going to turn Kyle Kendrick into a consistent pitcher? Is it going to make Miguel Gonzalez healthy and a major league quality pitcher? Is it going to get one or two miles per hour back on Jonathan Papelbon's fastball? Is it going to help Ryan Howard hit lefties? Is it going to heal Chase Utley's knees, turn Darin Ruf into a real fielder, improve Ben Revere's patience and power at the plate, make Dom Brown more consistent, and stop the aging process on Marlon Byrd and Carlos Ruiz? Is Rollins' leadership going to cure the lack of depth and top-flight talent throughout the organization?
Obviously no. This team's problems, and there are so many of them, have absolutely nothing to do with Jimmy Rollins' alleged lack of hustle or leadership. They have everything to do with the way this team has been constructed under the leadership of Ruben Amaro, Jr.
What's going on here is a classic smoke screen at the expense of a player who should never be treated this way. Shame on you, Phillies. And just stop it.