Philadelphia Phillies Lose to New York Mets: What Was Jimmy Rollins Thinking?

Tom MechinAnalyst IMay 29, 2011

PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 01: Jimmy Rollins #11 of the Philadelphia Phillies slides safely into third base against the Houston Astros during opening day at Citizens Bank Park on April 1, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Jimmy Rollins is the Phillies longest tenured player and, at times, he has been both the face of the franchise and its best player. 

In 2007, he put his credibility on the line by declaring the Phillies were “the team to beat” in the NL East—and then backed it up by winning MVP and leading the Phillies to a final day division title over the rival New York Mets

But Rollins' time in Philadelphia has not been without controversy nor boneheaded plays. He’s been benched more than once for failure to give his all on a play.

In Sunday’s series finale against the Mets, Rollins’ boneheadedness struck once again, or to be accurate, it struck a few times during the course of the game, but only truly cost the Phillies once. 

But when it did, it cost them big.  

Rollins’ first two boneheaded plays were stealing bases. Anyone who has seen Jimmy Rollins play baseball for the past decade knows that running is as big a part of his game as anything else.  However, there are times and places to run.

Down by seven runs with two outs in the fifth inning is no time to try to steal a base, especially not third base. Rollins was already in scoring position and a base hit to the outfield most certainly would have scored him. Maybe the fact that Rollins made it easily—after attempting to go on the previous pitch when Placido Polanco fouled a pitch off—could alleviate him of responsibility, but it doesn’t. 

There’s an unwritten rule in baseball that you do not make the first or last out of an inning at third base. It could kill a rally or stop one before it ever starts.  

The second time Rollins ran was with two outs in the seventh inning, and the Phillies were down 9-1 at that time. He stole second with Polanco up.  He may have gotten himself into scoring position, but at what use? A base hit makes it a seven-run game again with him on second base, while it puts two runners on with two outs in the seventh with the heart of the Phillies lineup due up. 

Not really a big enough difference to risk getting thrown out and ending the inning.

Rollins’ finale gaffe on the day, and perhaps the one that cost the Phillies a chance to come back, happened in the eighth inning.

The Phillies began the inning down 9-1 and had mounted a slight rally. Raul Ibanez led off with a home run to right, and by the time Rollins came up six batters later, the Phillies had tacked on two more runs and were within five of the Mets at 9-4. The previous two games, the Phillies came back in the eighth inning against New York, but had a larger, more difficult deficit to overcome on Sunday. 

With two outs and Dominic Brown on first, Rollins laced a base hit down the right-field line. It didn’t make it to the corner, but was far enough away from Jason Pridie for Brown to reach third. Jimmy Rollins should have stopped at first—that was probably apparent to everyone in Citi Field or watching on TV at home. 

Instead, Rollins rounded first and headed for second, where Pridie easily threw him out to end the inning and the Phillies biggest rally of the day, still down by five runs.

Five runs might still be too large a deficit for a team to overcome, but with two runners on base, a bullpen on its heels and the Phillies two biggest bats—Ryan Howard and Chase Utley—on the bench, one swing could have changed everything. A five run deficit becoming a two-run deficit drastically changes things, especially heading into the ninth inning. 

Unfortunately, because of Jimmy Rollins’ boneheadedness, we will never know what might have happened in New York on Sunday.

It begs the question: What was Rollins thinking? 

Was he thinking that if he didn’t play as aggressively as he possibly could and take whatever extra base he could, it would be the difference between winning and losing? Did he weigh the risks in the game versus the benefit to his statistical pile at the end of the year? 

If Rollins steals 35 bases or belts 40 doubles, no one is going to remember when they came or if Rollins put his team at risk to achieve them at the winter meetings; they’re only going to see that he did steal 35 bases—that he’s still got it.  

Rollins is a free agent at the end of the season, and this may be his last chance at a big time payday.  Since his MVP season, Rollins has been going downhill.  HIs numbers have decreased and the injury bug has bitten him. 

There’s no way he hasn’t heard the whispers, the insinuations that he’s lost a step, that he’s done and won’t be the same player ever again. Could Jimmy Rollins, once the man who stood up and was willing to take anything anyone threw at him because he believed the Phillies were the best team in the division, now be more concerned with padding his personal statistics rather than the Phillies win/loss record?  

I don’t know, but I don’t want to have to think about it again. I don’t want to watch Jimmy Rollins play over-aggressively and have to wonder if he’s doing it for the team or his future contract. 

And I didn’t even mention the error he made in the first inning that cost the Phillies three runs and put them in that situation to begin with.