A SINGLE BASEBALL game has hundreds of interrelated parts, all of which influence which team ultimately tumbles onto the field to celebrate after the final out and which trudges disconsolately back to its clubhouse.
Still, for your Philadelphia Phillies, there seems to be one factor that stands out.
If Jimmy Rollins has a good game, if he's on one of his J-Rolls, there's a better than even chance that the Phils will win.
If he doesn't, if he's not, the exact opposite is true.
That's one of the reasons Rollins was voted the National League's Most Valuable Player in 2007, a tip of the cap recognizing how integral he was to a team that made it to the playoffs for the first time in 14 years.
He batted .346 with a .388 on-base percentage in Phils wins that year, .232 and .288 in losses.
There's also a cruel flip side to stats like that, though, and the 1-8 homestand that ended yesterday with a desultory 2-1 loss to the last-place Baltimore Orioles evoked it from yet another sellout crowd at Citizens Bank Park.
Rollins went 0-for-4 and with each succeeding out, the boos seemed just a little louder. And while that backlash would seem to be behavior that defines the term "front-runners" - Rollins' memorable description of the paying customers last August - that's a different discussion for another time.
What is more pertinent at the moment is what manager Charlie Manuel can or should do about his shortstop's slump with the current losing streak now at six games and counting going into tomorrow night's World Series rematch against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field.
Manuel is in a pickle. He needs Rollins to hit. And he's an old-time baseball man who firmly believes that good players will end up where they should be, that a prolonged early slump will almost surely be balanced by an equally prolonged hot streak before the season is over.
At the same time, when the losses start piling up, it's difficult to resist the impulse to shake things up a little.
Manuel has already tried resting Rollins, already tried briefly dropping him in the order. In two games earlier this month Rollins batted sixth . . . and went 5-for-8. Since returning to the top of the order, he's 7-for-47 (.149). The Phillies are 3-8 in those games.
So it was probably inevitable after yesterday's loss that Manuel was asked if it might not be a good idea to drop Rollins in the order and leave him there for a while.
"Knowing Jimmy like I do, I'm telling you right now. I don't think it matters where he hits. I think I could hit him ninth and if he's going to get some hits, I think he's going to get them," the manager said wearily.
"If we move Jimmy down . . . for a while, then who are we going to play there? And I think I know who you're going to say. At the same time, what kind of on-base percentage does that guy carry?"
The reference was to Shane Victorino, whose OBP is .365 compared to .261 for Rollins.
The issue goes deeper than that. Manuel knows that Rollins sees himself as a No. 1 hitter. He understands that players tend to perform better when they're comfortable. And he also grasps that, in baseball, there's a fine line between acting too soon and not soon enough. One could be viewed as panic. The other can be seen as timidity that costs a team wins.
"I think about our lineup a lot. A whole lot," Manuel said. "At the same time, if you look and go down our lineup, I've moved guys sometimes just to give them a different look. It's not because I think that's a lineup that's got balance or we've got everything together.
"First of all, our big guys have to hit. The guys we've got that we think should hit, those are the guys who have to hit."
Ryan Howard is a big guy but he's still sick; wasn't even at the ballpark yesterday. Before that he was hitting .281 during the nearly winless homestand. Raul Ibanez is a big guy, but he's on the disabled list. Chase Utley is a big guy, but he also had a decent homestand.
Which leaves Rollins. In Phillies wins this year, he's hitting .267. Not great but pretty close to his career average coming into the season.
In losses, though, it's just .155.
Rollins declined to speak after the game. And, really, what could he say?
Manuel could continue to try to jump-start his bat by moving him around or even resting him again. Ultimately, though, these are just short-term shots in the dark.
In the end, Manuel is right. Rollins has to hit. And, for the Phillies to be consistently successful, he has to hit from the leadoff spot. Get on base. Steal. Pop the occasional home run.
It's up to Rollins. All the Phillies can really do is hope that he'll be where he's supposed to be at the end of the year and imagine the fun they'll all have while he's getting there. *
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