The Dord of Darien

Musings from the Mayor of the Internet

Thank God for swagger

Where would we be without it? The swagger, I mean. That indescribable quality that makes baseball players, even if they’re not very good, seem really good to lazy journalists.

I’ll tell you where we wouldn’t be: reading another one of these damn articles.

The swagger is still there.

And, again, praise be to Buddha.

It is in his step, specifically on his shoes, which, just to remind people, have the following scripted along the back: J-Roll.

I just checked. It turns out that nobody on God’s green Earth has any idea what that means. Jimmy Rollins is swaggelicious because he writes on his shoes? So does this asshole. Guess which one of them made fewer outs this season.

He has, after all, been somewhat easy to forget.

Nonsense. I will never forget Jimmy Rollins.

The years haven’t been kind to Jimmy Rollins, the minute marvel whose razzle-dazzle style won him admirers in hard-to-please Philadelphia and a most valuable player award with the Phillies after the 2007 season. Since then, he slumped through the team’s World Series championship in 2008, turned into an out-making machine last year and suffered through manifold injuries this year. The electric J-Roll disappeared.

The only year that was ever kind to Jimmy Rollins was 2007, when he was legitimately a pretty good baseball player, and won the MVP despite being like the fourth best player on his own team. He was pretty lousy before then, and he’s been pretty lousy since then. And, yes, he did lead all of MLB in outs last season, with 526. Which is not good. But it’s only his second-highest total — in 2007, he made 527 outs, which is even more not good. And won the goddamn MVP.

Also, I love the metaphorage in this passage. Jimmy Rollins is "electric." He suffered "manifold injuries." He’s a "machine." Is Jimmy Rollins a Prius? No. Too much swagger!

Jimmy Rollins was here, and he was nothing special.

Has Bill James written his summary of the last decade of baseball yet? Because that line should be in it.

So to see him come through Sunday night with a bases-loaded rocket shot off the wall that salted away the Phillies’ 7-2 victory in the National League championship series was to step into a warp machine and set it for three years ago.

A what machine? Like, one of these, you mean?

Because along with Rollins’ reliability went the Phillies’ reliance on him, dropping him from first or second to sixth in the batting order, expecting little, hoping that at 31 something remained for the rest of this NLCS, which continues Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET against the San Francisco Giants.

Nothing did. He went 1-4 and got doubled off for the last out. Nice plug, though. Next time you should probably mention it’s on TBS, though — they’ll pay you more!

Oh, and? Rollins had 394 PA for the Phillies this year. 332 of them were batting first. You can look things like this up on the internet, you know.

"You figure out things," he said. "You solve problems. Sometimes there’s going to be confusion. But once you lose the confidence, you’re not going to have a chance to play at this level. So that’s never going to be there. God gave me this talent, and I’m going to do something with it."

Damn right, James. I think. Sure, maybe those sentences in the middle don’t make any sense, but it’s not about making sense. It’s about swagger. And confidence, too, which is like swagger. It’s kind of like a prerequisite for swagger. And without it, you won’t be able to use that God-given talent to do "something" (my guess: make a shitload of outs).

The sentiments echo Rollins’ tack over the last three years, when he followed disappointing seasons with proclamations of better fortunes ahead, the past being the past and the future rewarding him for hard work and dedication.

Rollins shall o-o-o-vercome!

Such thinking was wishful, of course, as baseball gives neither rewards nor special treatment to those once among the elite.

Barry Bonds threw out the first pitch tonight, and the crowd went completely nuts for him. That’s kind of like getting special treatment for once being among the elite, innit?

Also, I’m given to understand that after eight years of service time in the Bigs, you get a "gold pass" that gets you in to any games you want to go to for the rest of your life. That, to me, seems like a reward for once being among the elite.

Other than those two details, though, you’re 100% right, Jeff.

Rollins struggled, and it tested not just his patience but manager Charlie Manuel’s willingness to play him.

Yeah, because Juan Castro is really fucking good. See that 29 OPS+? See how he played in only 54 games and managed to cost the Phillies more than an entire win? Look out, Jimmy! Your job’s in jeopardy!

… Oh, wait, they released Castro once you were off the DL. So what I meant was, look out, Jimmy Rollins! Brian Bocock is coming up fast, and he’s swinging an awesome -100 OPS+! His 100% outs rate is even better than yours!

Fans chirped about Rollins’ season-long slump, and Manuel never wavered.

Jeff means "except when he dropped Rollins to seventh in the order and allegedly considered replacing him with a cardboard box that had ‘shortstop’ written on it."

"That’s what a good manager does," Rollins said. "He keeps running his guys up there and wants you to know that he has your back, regardless. You’re the guy that he chose. And until you run yourself into the ground, he’s going to keep pushing you out there. If it doesn’t happen, you’re still going to get run out there. You figure sooner or later it’s going to turn the corner."

Because that’s what a good manager does: never, ever, ever makes any changes no matter how awful things get. As long as they’re out of the ground.

He turned it, literally, on a 95-mph fastball from Santiago Casilla that soared through the Philadelphia night, scoring three runs.

That’s some pretty intense linguistic trickery there for not really any results. He turned… it? What is "it?" The thing Rollins was talking about was like some metaphorical concept, like "his season" turning the corner. So he turned that — that inferred metaphor there — "literally?" I don’t think he did, Jeff. And unless you aspire to be the next Woody Paige, you should probably nip the tortured paralleling in the bud.

"I know how good Jimmy Rollins can be," Manuel said. "I got a lot of faith in him and I stand there and I pull for him, and I know how good he can hit and also I know how good he wants to be up there or how much he wants to be up there. Stay right with you, son. I’ll go down with you."

Sometimes Charlie Manuel’s mouth starts, and words begin to come out of it, and then they don’t stop for a while. And this is what happens.

The Phillies seem to be going nowhere and everywhere.

Much like this article. Actually, no, not much like this article, because actually that line doesn’t mean anything. My mistake.

The team will return all of its core in 2011 except outfielder Jayson Werth, who likely will sign elsewhere as a free agent. With a rotation beginning with Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels, a lineup with Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and others, the Phillies can do this again.

Sure. They’ll need some offense, though, since Werth was easily the best hitter this year on a team that was below-average offensively. And Carlos Ruiz ain’t gonna OBP .400 again next year. And their shortstop — what’s his name — makes way the fuck too many outs. But, sure, they can do it again.

Already they are on the cusp of their third consecutive World Series appearance and would be the first National League team to do so since the 1942-1944 St. Louis Cardinals.

Already they are down 2-1 to the Giants, and they’re rolling 84 ERA+ of goddamn Joe Blanton out there tomorrow to back up their 99 OPS+ of hitters. The Phillies are in deep, deep trouble right now.

As great as it is to have that cohesive unit, the Phillies don’t want dominance to peter out tomorrow. They want a dynasty, something that surpasses those ’42-’44 Cardinals who win championships in their first and third shots. The Phillies won in ’08. They lost in ’09. They’re different in 2010.

They ain’t got it. They were pretty great last year, sure, what with leading the National League in pretty much all offensive categories, and having solid pitching. They were decent in 2008, but were like the third-best team. They were fair this year, wouldn’t have made the playoffs except that the Braves had their whole team go on the DL at the same time, and they’re getting creamed by a team whose best hitters are the ghosts of Pat Burrell and Aubrey Huff. This is not really a dynasty of dominance.

With a healthy Rollins, they’re downright scary.

Are there really that many people out there with severe out phobias? These people do not manage the Philadelphia Phillies.

And that, of course, is the issue: he still might not be, the double off Casilla a product more of luck than skill, and he already doesn’t like his role. "Batting leadoff is definitely a lot more fun," he said. "There’s no doubt about it."

One hit is almost always more about luck than skill. I mean, yeah, you’ll take the skilled guy over the unskilled guy given the choice, but the effect of skill on such a tiny sample size is completely overwhelmed by luck. It’s like how skill at poker helps you do well in the long term, even though any given hand is still very much a product of luck. Do you see?

Also, that quote you used to make Jimmy Rollins sound like a disgruntled asshole kind of makes him sound like a cool guy. The worst grumbling he came up with was "batting leadoff is more fun?" On a scale of one to Gary-Sheffield-promising-to-have-a-fit-if-he’s-traded, that’s, like, 1.1.

The swagger is there, all right, and Rollins is excited.

Me too, Jeff. Me too.

He’s from Alameda, Calif., just across the Bay. He’ll have friends and family watching. And with a swing of his bat or throw from his knees, he’ll try once again to remind everyone that J-Roll hasn’t gone – and isn’t going – anywhere.

Not unless there’s another team out there willing to trade for an $8.5M shortstop with injury issues and a career OPS+ of 97, no.

Fortunately, the good lord gave us the Mets. And the Giants. And the White Sox. So there’s hope yet, Jimmy!

October 19th, 2010 Posted by | Baseball | no comments

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