After watching the Phillies' embarrassing Bad News Bears impersonation earlier this week—resulting in a four-game sweep at the hands of the 58-70 Houston Astros—fans and analysts alike were quick to dispense advice on how to save the season going forward.
It turns out the best plan of attack moving forward might be to look at recent history, specifically 2007.
Ah yes, 2007. Forever known as the season the Phillies finally broke down the postseason barrier, thanks in large part to their cocky shortstop and his ability to put the team on his back for long stretches of time.
And last night, for the first time this season, Jimmy Rollins did it again.
With three hits, several sparkling throws from short, and perhaps the greatest slide I have ever seen to score the winning run in the Phillies' 3-2, 12-inning win, Rollins did a reasonable job reenacting his 2007 MVP season.
More importantly, however, Rollins had his 2007 swagger back, something the team has been sorely missing of late.
Once the loosest clubhouse in the league, the team is suddenly tighter than Donovan McNabb in the Super Bowl during close games, and without any real explanation. I'm not sure that either Jayson Werth or Shane Victorino have smiled in about a month, but they both look like Richard Simmons compared to Ryan Howard, who seems more interested in ending his at-bats quickly than getting on base.
This is where Rollins and his swagger comes into play. Looking like someone wired on Red Bull, J-Roll spent 12 innings pacing the dugout, yelling encouragement from the top step, talking strategy with Charlie, and trying everything short of a cattle prod to pull Howard out of his funk.
One game of the rah-rah routine doesn't necessarily mean much, but when it happens every night, as it did in 2007, the rest of the team can't help but follow along. The good news is Rollins knows this. Last night was the most animated I've seen him all season, and I expect more of the same this afternoon.
With his batting average hovering in the .250 range, Rollins is no longer the MVP caliber player he was in 2007. Much to his credit though, the swagger remains. And at this point in the season—one month to play, two games back in the division, and one game up in the Wild Card—that swagger could be the key in getting the Phillies back to the postseason.
So welcome back J-Roll, I hope you decide to stay a while.