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 – 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 – 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” – 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 – 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 – almost predictable – 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 – 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 – 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.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. debmc July 7, 2008 at 1:31 pm
    I love you, Joe, but frankly, I think this is a total nontopic. To compare one player’s benching to another is like comparing the cliched apples to oranges, imo. Nice of you to address your reader’s request, though, I have to say. 🙂
  2. Micalpalyn July 7, 2008 at 2:39 pm
    Sorry Deb i disagree, i think its a great discussion point and no doubt it will be brought up by main stream press.

    Isuzu & joe: I like the ‘theory’ but to extrapolate one might say Willie lost his job over that benching. He lost Reyes, lost the race to a playoff berth, then lost the team who simply did not respond to him after that.

    Thats not to say benching cannot send a message, but i dont think either was handled well by the manager at the respective times or the results backfired.

    Deb: As a white collar america fan, i believe the ‘managers’ job is strategic operations, and personnel management. A poor personnel decision can be costly.

  3. joe July 7, 2008 at 3:24 pm
    C’mon Deb, there’s no such thing as a “non topic” in the blogosphere!

    I think it’s an interesting comparison, and to Mic’s point I firmly believe that if Willie had slammed down his iron hand earlier in the season, things might have turned out differently. In retrospect, the ’07 Mets were sorely missing an on-field leader (as is the ’08 version), and therefore Randolph needed to be more hands-on. Perhaps if he scolded, say, Carlos Delgado in early June of 2007, it could have sent a message to the rest of the team: ‘Willie means business, and we better come to play’.

    Rollins may not be hitting as well since the benching, but there’s no doubt that the Phillies continue to give 100% effort from innings one through nine (and beyond). Part of that has to be related to seeing their MVP get benched for dogging it.

  4. isuzudude July 7, 2008 at 3:42 pm
    Thanks for the article, Joe…and thanks for understanding the reasoning behind the topic, Mic.

    In my opinion, this is a definite topic for Met fans because there may be a pattern developing. Reyes was benched for dogging it last year, and consequently went on to slump and sulk the rest of the season, helping to lead to the demise of the 2007 Mets. Now this season, the Phillies do the same thing to Rollins, and, at least for the short-term, his reaction to the benching is very similar to Reyes’, not to mention the Phillies have been a sub-.500 team since the benching. It may be a complete coincidence and there may be absolutely no correlation between a benching and a slump (although I would beg to differ), but I certainly think the topic is worthy of elaboration.

  5. sincekindergarten July 7, 2008 at 5:13 pm
    There’s a post at MetsBlog which goes like this . . .

    In the last 30 games, the Mets have gone 14-16. With Luis Castillo in the lineup at 2B, the Mets are 7-15 . . . and with Castillo out of the lineup at 2B, the Mets are 7-1.

    I know that this has nothing to do with Reyes, but it does have something to do with our infield.

  6. David Wright was NOT Disciplined : Mets Today September 29, 2009 at 9:04 am
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