The love affair between Jimmy Rollins and Philadelphia ended somewhere between home plate and first base, when he refused to run hard in a city that still demands hustle. It is now official. We don’t love Jimmy Rollins anymore.
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A week of chaos engulfing the best shortstop in Phillies history and his new manager, Ryne Sandberg, revealed something worrisome about both men, but even more so a hidden hostility that has been building toward Rollins by the fans. And it all began when he uttered two throwaway words to a reporter after another bad spring-training performance.
“Who cares?” Rollins said. Unfortunately for him, someone did care -- Sandberg, who was so miffed by the remark that he used white-out to remove Rollins’ name from the lineup last Tuesday and relegated him to the bench for three days.
The first inkling that Rollins had triggered a controversy came one day after the sudden benching, when the manager offered two ominous words of his own. After praising the positive influence of backup shortstop Freddie Galvis, the skipper would only say “no comment” when asked to appraise Rollins’ clubhouse demeanor.
On my WIP radio show the next day, 88 percent of my listeners said in an Internet poll that they approved of Sandberg’s strong stand, and the callers made it clear that they have never liked Rollins’ lazy style. When the Phils were winning, the fans looked the other way. The Phils are no longer winning.
At 35, Rollins is not going to change his approach, on or off the field. Sandberg may be the only person in the Phillies organization who cannot accept that reality. Over the years, the fans have grudgingly accepted it, but clearly it has had a profound effect on the way they feel about Rollins.
Meanwhile, Sandberg’s bungling of his first significant crisis as Phillies manager is actually a more ominous development -- and make no mistake, the Hall of Fame second baseman totally misplayed the situation. First, he didn’t tell Rollins why he was miffed. Then he slipped in his “no comment” jab. And finally, he claimed he was not punishing Rollins by benching him.
After all of his years in baseball as a player, coach and manager -- over 35 in all -- Sandberg still doesn’t understand that being open and honest works best, especially in Philadelphia.
Through it all, though, the fans refused to show any sympathy for a snarky shortstop who helped to win them a championship six years ago. Rollins has jogged too many times to first base, shrugged too many times after tough questions, for the fans to forgive.
These are the final months of Jimmy Rollins‘ career in Philadelphia. There will be no happy ending.
Mixed reviews for Eagles offseason moves
The Eagles thrilled their fans in the first few days of free agency by trading for another major weapon on offense, but they also disappointed just about everybody with their choice of a new safety. How should we feel about our football team right now? Great . . . and terrible.
Darren Sproles helped to end a dream season two months ago when he returned a kickoff late in the New Orleans-Eagles first-round playoff game that set up the winning Saints’ field goal. If he does the same thing next season, the Birds will be thrilled because he is one of them now, for the highly affordable price of a fifth-round draft pick.
Next season, Chip Kelly will have at his disposal -- barring any other moves -- Nick Foles, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Riley Cooper and now Sproles to intimidate defenses. If you’re not excited about the 2014 offense, see a doctor. You may be dead.
Unfortunately, the decision to replace awful Patrick Chung with almost-as-awful Malcolm Jenkins at strong safety deserves no similar acclaim. Jenkins has been an enigma in New Orleans since his rookie year, and the Saints fans reacted to his departure -- and the signing of a far better safety, Jairus Byrd -- with the same joy we have shown for Chung’s exit.
Jenkins was a guest on my WIP radio show last Friday, and he displayed many of the qualities that appeal to the Eagles. He’s intelligent, committed and thrilled to have a new start after flaming out in the Bayou. But the numbers don’t lie, and they say he does not read defenses well and is an atrocious tackler.
The Eagles are going to have an amazing offense next season. And -- with Malcolm Jenkins patrolling the secondary -- they are definitely going to need every point they can get.
Chip Kelly emerges from hiding
After almost two months in hiding, Eagles coach Chip Kelly finally emerged last weekend to accept an award from the Maxwell Club and to answer a few questions about his strategy in free agency. Unfortunately, the biggest question was never asked: Who thinks it’s a good idea to deny fans the wit and wisdom of the most popular man in Philadelphia sports?
It is no secret that Kelly had a love-hate relationship with the media during his four years as head coach in Oregon. They loved him the first year and hated him the last. Toward the end, he was combative, dismissive and accessible only when required to be. He loves coaching football a lot more than he does talking about it.
There’s only one problem with this approach. He’s not in Oregon anymore. The truth is -- and this is coming from someone who talked to him every week last season -- the fans enjoy listening to Kelly almost as much as they like watching him coach. He is a perfect fit for our city -- sarcastic, engaging, interesting and unpredictable. He is the anti-Andy Reid.
Now, if Kelly has another season like his first, it won’t matter whether he regales everyone with one-liners. Winning will always be the most important thing. But he may not realize just how unusual his first year here was. No rookie coach in the past quarter-century has enjoyed the popularity that Kelly had in 2013. It’s not even close.
So why change? Why communicate by stilted official statements? Why allow GM Howie Roseman to be the spokesman for the team? Why disappear for two months in a city where the football season never ends?
If I were talking to Chip Kelly right now -- which I’m not because he went back into hiding -- I would offer this one respectful comment: Don’t change. You got it right the first time.
- Michael Vick did not sign a contract in the first week of free agency. His agent said he wants to let the market play out for a few weeks before making a commitment. Translation: No one has made the ex-Eagle quarterback an offer.
- Cole Hamels says his left arm feels fine again. That’s great news, if he’s telling the truth. Unfortunately, there’s no way to know for sure. He hid his arm injury for three months this winter, then he lied about his condition when he experienced a setback two weeks ago. And don’t expect the truth from the Phillies, either.
- Ex-Sixers Evan Turner and Andrew Bynum combined for two points last Friday in a win by their new team, Indiana. Boy, we sure do miss them, don’t we?
- As the Sixers approach some historic numbers in their futility, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said they are definitely not tanking. Well, Adam Silver is one more guy who’s obviously not watching our basketball team.
- A new musical of the most important movie in Philadelphia history, Rocky, just opened on Broadway, and it’s getting rave reviews. Sorry, but I’m not checking it out until they fix a huge mistake -- calling South Philadelphia “Southside.” Hey, what can I say? I’m a stickler for accuracy.