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Rollins Selfishly Refuses to Give up Rights and be Traded, like a Jerk

Rollins wants all the Phillies hits. All of them. Just for himself.

Justin Sullivan

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

This morning we were awakened with the retread news that Jimmy Rollins will not be waiving his no trade clause any time in the foreseeable future. This is news, I suppose, because Rollins' name has come up as a potential replacement option for the Tigers, as Jose Iglesias injured his shins. I assume he walked into a coffee table.

Whatever the reasons, Rollins was again asked about his willingness to accept a trade and, quite shockingly, hasn't changed his opinion on the subject since the last time he was asked. He reiterated his desire to become the Phils all-time hits leader. Not satisfied with the same answer he gave in July when first asked, Salisbury then asked Rollins if he could envision a scenario in which he would agree to waive his 10-and-5 rights, allowing the Phillies to trade him.

I don't know. If we're in absolutely last place with nowhere to go and change is obviously on the horizon, then at that point I'd think about it. But anything short of a complete disaster, I'm wearing red and white pinstripes.

Cue the "selfish" chatter.

And then knock it right the hell off. What a lot of people in the chattering classes fail to understand is that Jimmy has every right to decide what happens to his career at this point. The rights that he is exercising are given to every player in baseball as terms of the collective bargaining agreement. It's no more "selfish" of a baseball player to exercise their employment rights than it is selfish of you to take the vacation hours your employer grants you.

This is one of my pet peeves when it comes to fan-team relations, in which fans tend to naturally side with ownership rather than the players, when the teams have almost all of the structural advantages. Players have very short careers, with earning potential even more limited by the cartel-based compensation system that only allows the cream of the crop to reap significant financial benefits as the vast majority of professional players are merely grist for the vast player development mill, making essentially below-poverty-level wages.

Part of the problem, at least in this particular instance, is that Jimmy is clearly pointing out individual honors that he would like to attain as part of his justification for wanting to stay in Philadelphia, and that a lot of people might read that as caring more about his own interests more than those of the team. The messaging here, then, is what tends to rub some the wrong way. Except, well, that's what the sports business is. What do people think drives contract negotiations, goodwill and fairy dust? Teams act in their own interests, players act in theirs, and that's just how the system works. Baseball, among other endeavors, consists of individual actors or entities acting in their own self interests to the greatest extent possible. But just don't actually say that, lest you be labeled selfish.

But only sometimes, because in other contexts, prominent athletes who spend their entire careers playing for one team are exalted. Jeter, Ripken, Schmidt, and players of their ilk are all given some extra measure of respect or whatever by the lumpencommentariat for having spent their entire careers in one city. Speaking of hypocrisies, how about those fans that just wish players would give honest answers rather than boilerplate nonsense? Well, this is why that doesn't happen very often. Too many people really can't handle the truth.

The facts are these:

  • Jimmy Rollins is the best shortstop this franchise has ever seen
  • The rules of baseball's CBA allow him to decline any trade
  • His presence is not blocking some elite-level talent, likely to swing the fortunes of this team, it's minimizing the playing time of a fringe, light-hitting MLB shortstop

This is a non-issue. If Rollins does not want to be traded, it doesn't matter why. It just is. Deal with it. Or don't, because it's become clear to me that Jimmy doesn't really care what the fans think. J-Roll is one of the more media savvy players this team has seen in some time, going back to "Team to beat" comments back before the 2007 season—which, for those who may have forgotten, he backed up with an MVP-winning season—and there's not a chance in the world he doesn't know how these statements are going to be interpreted. He just doesn't seem to much care, which, to be honest, is probably the ideal disposition for a professional athlete. Two-line quotes from beat writers don't do a great job of encapsulating all the motives of people, as we're complex creatures, with lots illogical motives and emotional ties to places and people. Those two-lines, however, do tend to lend themselves to reactionary nonsense like the "selfish" meme that now surrounds Rollins, and really, it's all just garbage. Treat it accordingly.