Ashley Fox: Why doesn't Rollins get Manuel's rules?
NEW YORK - Charlie Manuel has two rules. Two. Hustle, and be on time. You don't have to be an MVP or an all-star, a Gold Glove winner or a home-run king. You don't have to put the seat down, or chew with your mouth closed, or say "excuse me" when you spit. All you have to do to be a member in good standing on Manuel's Philadelphia Phillies is hustle and be on time.
NEW YORK - Charlie Manuel has two rules. Two. Hustle, and be on time.
You don't have to be an MVP or an all-star, a Gold Glove winner or a home-run king. You don't have to put the seat down, or chew with your mouth closed, or say "excuse me" when you spit. All you have to do to be a member in good standing on Manuel's Philadelphia Phillies is hustle and be on time.
In about seven weeks, Jimmy Rollins has broken both rules. First, he didn't hustle. Yesterday, he wasn't on time. When his team was scratching to stay atop the National League East, Rollins was on the bench for all but one useless at-bat, when he grounded to third on the first pitch he saw to end the 3-1 win by - drumroll, please - your division leaders, the New York Mets.
Since the 2007 National League MVP apparently doesn't understand them, Manuel's rules mean you don't dog it to first base even when you know you're going to be out, and you don't arrive at the ballpark only an hour before the game starts.
Hustle and be on time means give a full effort, and make sure you beat the bus. Play as if you care about your teammates, and leave early enough that you aren't walking into the clubhouse in street clothes when everyone else is in uniform.
C'mon, Jimmy. The old man has only two rules. Is it that hard to play by them every day, instead of when you feel like it?
What happened yesterday morning apparently was this: Rollins opted against taking the team bus from Manhattan to Shea Stadium, in Queens, for the final tilt of the three-game series. The first pitch was scheduled for just after noon, an unusually early start that was meant to accommodate children from camps who got to attend the game.
Rollins decided to drive to the ballpark, and he said he had left 10 minutes after the team, figuring he could outmaneuver a slow bus in traffic and beat it to Shea.
He was wrong. Rollins apparently arrived about 11 a.m., and rather than give Manuel a heads-up that he was going to be tardy, as he had once this season, he decided to deal with the consequences whenever he did make it into the clubhouse.
Manuel called Rollins into his office, stuck to his rules, and benched the shortstop. Rollins pinch-hit with two outs in the top of the ninth. By that time, it was way too late.
With the loss, the Phillies dropped their fourth consecutive series to the Mets and fell a game behind them. Sure, Rollins' replacement, Eric Bruntlett, had a terrific game, with two doubles and a single. But the point is that Rollins should have been in the lineup. He should have hustled to be on time.
After all, that's what team leaders do, right?
"It's unfortunate, but rules are rules," said Jamie Moyer, who was solid in seven innings, giving up two hits and one earned run. "I commend Charlie for standing up for the rules that he has. I think we all need to be accountable to that. Each team has their own rules, and they play not only for their managers and their coaching staff, but they play amongst their teammates.
"I think you create who you are in the clubhouse and on the field by the way you act and the way you carry yourself. So I'm sure it's something that probably won't happen again. You know, life goes on."
That's a pretty good whack from a veteran who has been around forever. But no other player dared to question Rollins, and maybe someone should. He proclaims to be the team leader. He should act like it. And since he didn't, someone - Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Pat Burrell, someone - should call Rollins on it. There are other players on this team with clout. They, too, should act like it, before the Phillies' season starts spiraling the way the Mets' did last year.
This isn't Rollins' first official infraction. On June 5 against the Reds, Manuel benched him for not running full speed to first base after popping up. Rollins agreed with that decision. But now this.
The Phils are trying to win the division and get to the World Series. Look around. They haven't exactly been on fire the last month or so. The offense has disappeared with runners in scoring position. Utley has watched his last 14 at-bats go by without a hit. Howard is erratic. Brett Myers is a mess.
"We don't have that kick like we used to have," Manuel said.
And Rollins, who finally seemed to be pulling out of his season-long slump, watched his 10-game hitting streak end - all because he couldn't get to the ballpark on time.
Never mind that everybody else did.
"You can't change lights and stuff," Rollins said. "Oh, well."
Oh, well. The Phillies are in second place. Oh, well.
Rollins said he disagreed with Manuel's decision to bench him, but rules are rules. Manuel has only two. It shouldn't be that hard to abide by them.