Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Philadelphia Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg can downplay it all he wants, but his no comment toward his most tenured player's influence on the team spoke volumes this week.
Shortstop Jimmy Rollins was out of the Phillies' lineup for a third straight day on Thursday and had no idea why. Rollins said he was given no explanation since he hadn't talked to his manager in a few days, while Sandberg said it was because the 35-year-old needed a bit of a break, despite just getting over a bout with the flu.
Rollins wasn't just left out of the lineup, his name was whited out.
First of all, it's kind of odd that Rollins and Sandberg have not had any interaction in a few days. But, then you realize it had been a couple of days since Rollins offered up a "who cares?" when asked about the Phils' anemic offense this spring.
You can make the argument that Rollins' comment was blown a bit out of proportion. After all, it is spring training. Even the great Derek Jeter has blown off his own struggles this spring.
The point is there are ways to say it and there are ways not to say it. A "who cares?" is certainly something nobody wants to hear, particularly from one of your perceived leaders.
Since Rollins' comment, Sandberg also has praised backup infielder Freddy Galvis for his "his energy and positive influence. His positive influence on everyone around him."
It was right after that statement when Sandberg offered up a "no comment" in response to Rollins' influence on the team. A statement, by the way, that Sandberg has said he regrets making.
I am certainly not a fan of Sandberg's passive-aggressive approach, but the first-year manager had to send a message that things like that are no longer acceptable in that clubhouse.
Of course, Rollins has had a history with past managers who have gotten on him for a lack of hustle at times. Former skipper Charlie Manuel even benched him on a few occasions for not running hard.
And let's face it, Manuel was no disciplinarian. It was not a case of the inmates running the asylum, but Uncle Charlie was the ultimate players' manager.
If he had grown tired of Rollins' antics, you know that was a situation that was out of control. And one that probably should have been nipped in the bud a long time ago.
So, when Rollins says something like that, you better believe a new skipper, especially one who is in the Hall of Fame as a player, is going to hold him accountable.
"I wanted him to clarify that, because I wanted to make sure that he cared," Sandberg said. "And I wanted to make sure -- I know that everyone else in the locker room cared. So when he told me about what he was talking about, it made sense. ... He was referencing himself and where he's at right now, as far as his offensive stroke and what he's doing on the field. So he was speaking for himself that he wasn't that concerned with it being that early in the spring.
"Jimmy cares. I wanted to make sure that he wasn't speaking for the ballclub with 'who cares?'"
Sandberg can send every message he wants, though. It's hard to believe Rollins is going to change his ways. If you think at age 35 that he is going to start busting it out of the box and stop doing the things he has for his entire 14- year career, you are nuts.
This is a guy who has moaned and groaned about his place in the lineup, who cried about the fans a few years back and has steadfastly refused to chance his approach at the plate to help the team.
Jimmy Rollins is who he is.
But, it was a lot easier to get past his faults back when he was winning an NL MVP and going to All-Star games than now as a player coming off the worst season of his career.
It also doesn't help Rollins any when you look at the guy who plays next to him at second base. Chase Utley may not be the player he was anymore, either, but he has never taken a play off. He hustles in his sleep.
Here's another thing to keep an eye on. If Rollins gets 436 plate appearances this season, his $11 million club option kicks in. Nobody in the Phillies organization wants to pay that. What will Rollins' reaction be when Galvis starts eating up his at-bats so the Phils avoid paying him.
Maybe it's time the Phils try to move Rollins. Even the most optimistic Phillies fan realizes this is a team that is going nowhere. If Rollins is a bear to deal with when the team is winning, what's he going to be like when things are going bad?