Unfortunately and fortunately for the Phillies, lately it seems that even when they do not play they make news.
Fortunately, because when the Phillies do play they have a real knack for losing. Their .294 winning percentage is the worst in all of Major League Baseball so far this spring.
Unfortunately, because the news they make is not the kind of news any Phillies fan really wants to hear.
While there have been a few bright spots—Marlon Byrd hitting .364, Ben Revere hitting .343, Roberto Hernandez out-pitching everyone not named Cliff Lee so far—the surprises, busts and injuries from Clearwater have been making all the headlines at home.
The biggest surprise is one that, in retrospect, maybe should not have been that surprising at all.
Manager Ryne Sandberg and shortstop Jimmy Rollins continue to quietly but firmly disagree about the importance of spring training and about Rollins' putative role as a team leader.
The silently seething discord bubbled over very recently when ESPN.com's Buster Olney turned in this item, including the following:
…sources indicate 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.
Of course, since Rollins can veto any trade, "moving him as soon as possible" depends on his cooperation.
Maybe the surprise is not that this situation devolved so nastily, but that it did so with such speed.
As indicated earlier, at least Rollins' petulant antics are taking some of the attention away from the numerous Phillies who have struggled at Clearwater thus far. If Rollins was not causing such a stir, fans might notice that:
- Maikel Franco is hitting .206 with no extra-base hits in 35 at-bats
- Chase Utley is hitting .188 with no extra-base hits in 32 at-bats
- Cody Asche is hitting .138 with 11 strikeouts in 29 at-bats
- Freddy Galvis is hitting .118 in 34 at-bats
For that matter, the Phillies faithful might take a peek at the pitching statistics and see that:
- Opposing batters are hitting .381 against Jonathan Papelbon
- Kyle Kendrick's earned run average through five innings pitched is 7.20
- Jake Diekman's earned run average through six innings pitched is 7.50
- A.J. Burnett's earned run average through nine innings pitched is an even 10
Perhaps the best thing you can say for the Phillies right now is that they are almost 100 percent healthy. It is just too bad that the one guy casting the biggest black mark on their team health is Cole Hamels, who is set to earn $22.5 million this season.
According to Chris Branch of the News Journal, Hamels "was 'thoroughly impressed' by his bullpen session Sunday. He threw a little more than 30 pitches and said his next bullpen should come Wednesday."
Regardless, it will be "at least May" per Branch for Hamels to rejoin the Phillies rotation.
Hopefully, a May return will not already be too late for a Phillies team that desperately needs a fast start to the regular season to quell the understandable doubts about them.