The Rollins Benching
Before the Fourth of July weekend, I received a great email from loyal reader “isuzudude”:
I have an interesting topic you may want to elaborate on in a post. Much was made here in New York on the benching of Jimmy Rollins back on June 5th when Charlie Manuel benched the reigning MVP for not legging out a ground ball. However, did you know that since that incident Rollins has fallen into a 17 for 78 slump (.217) to see his average drop from .289 to .265. What’s more, since the benching the Phillies have gone 8-12 (including the game Rollins was benched in, which the Phillies won 5-0).
Interestingly, Willie Randolph benched Jose Reyes in simlar fashion around this time last year (July 6th at Houston to be exact). Reyes also responded poorly by slumping over the rest of the season, and some would argue his benching – and subsequent lack of confidence/focus – became the root cause for the Mets 2nd half collapse.
Do you believe the two occurences are related? Is this mere coincidence? There’s no doubting, though, that Rollins HAS NOT responded well to his benching, so what is your explanation? I’d really like to know your take on this topic.
Thanks, and as always, keep up the fantastic work!
(Note to readers: include an ego-stroking compliment like that last sentence, and your question is GUARANTEED to be answered.)
I have to admit that at the time I lauded Charlie Manuel’s move to bench Rollins. And if I knew that Rollins would go into a 17-for-78 slump, I’d still have believed Manuel made the right move.
In my mind, Manuel had to establish that he was the boss of the team â€“ even if it meant his starting shortstop would shove his head up his butt as a result. No one man is bigger than the team (yes, even if that man is Barry Bonds â€“ see any World Series rings on Bonds’ fingers?).
The concept of team over individual, and one man in charge, was relayed beautifully in the movie “Hoosiers” â€“ specifically, when Gene Hackman’s character allowed two of the team’s top players to walk off the team, and later when he played four men on the floor with a punished player staying on the bench. In the short term, yes, a team may be negatively affected, but over the long run, the team is much better off. Winning teams have rules, structure, and a shared focus toward one goal. If anything gets in the way of that shared focus, it has to be eliminated â€“ immediately.
Getting back to Rollins. Indeed, the benching would seem to have affected him offensively. My guess is it was a hard slap of reality, a knocking him off his high horse, so to speak. It was understandable â€“ almost predictable â€“ that Rollins would sulk and perform below his normal level of play. Great athletes don’t like to be publicly embarrassed, and it can take a while for them to come around to the realization that they were wrong.
As for the Phillies’ 8-15 record over that stretch, I believe it had more to do with the fact that Rollins wasn’t producing rather than anything emotional, or any group reaction to the benching. The Phils rely heavily on the bats of Rollins, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard â€“ if one of those three are slumping, the lineup is not nearly as frightening (think about when Jose Reyes, David Wright, or Carlos Beltran are in a slump).
How did this benching compare with that of Reyes last year? There are a number of similarities. Without doubt, Reyes felt he was wronged by Willie Randolph (I’d have agreed). Reyes watched dogs like Carlos Delgado jog around all year while he raced around the basepaths, and the one time he didn’t run out what he thought was a foul ball, he was scolded. As a result, Reyes sulked, he didn’t provide any offense after the benching, and the Mets’ lineup wasn’t strong enough to make up for his virtual absence. Had Randolph benched someone for not hustling way back in June â€“ when nearly everyone BUT Reyes was going through the motions, he could have nipped the issue in the bud and the season might have turned out differently. We’ll never know.
By the way, in the first three games of July, Rollins went 6-for-11 with a 1.552 OPS. Clearly, he’s over the benching. And oh by the way, the Phillies won all three games.