caught looking

a blog about the philadelphia phillies. not to be confused, exactly, with "caught looking" the debut album by independent/unsigned/unheard of singer/songwriter greg roth, who is, coincidently, yours truly.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Beef, On A Roll

The news from Paul Hagen yesterday regarding Harry Kalas' continued lack of pull within the organization is really just too upsetting to ponder for more than just a moment. Suffice to say, as a fan in their early thirties, Kalas' voice is inextricably linked to Phillies baseball. Whatever political pitfalls exist behind the curtain, the mere idea of a 30-year plus broadcaster being forced to work with a guy who is so plainly unqualified, unappreciated, and undesirable and who never played the game as opposed to an intelligent former member of the vaunted '93 World Series team is really a complete shame. Sure, there are other factors at work and no side has handled itself with absolute decorum (probably, Kalas went public with his beef to win the court of public opinion after finding only deaf ears within the organization), but there really appears to be no upside to the latest developments in the broadcast booth. Not for the fan, anyway. Shame.

Yesterday, Jimmy Rollins continued to grab the spotlight in his usual way, forecasting big things for himself without the benefit of precedent. There's talk on other blogs about J-Roll's self-set goal of scoring 150 runs. Not bloody likely, for obvious reasons. Jimmy = leadoff the way The Vet = green grass. But beyond that, there's something more annoying at work here.

People have hammered Rollins in the past for his not being the prototypical leadoff man who works counts and does whatever he can just to get on base. He swings at high fastballs, from his heels, tries to reach the warning track when a nice liner out of the infield will do, and so on. In Rollins' defense, he is only leading off because the organization has done such a poor job at coming up with better options; Rollins would probably be a very good 6 or 7 hitter.

However, yesterday found several stories trumpeting Rollins's hitting streak, his confidence and his high opinion of his skills. While having a swagger is something Philadelphia sports fans appreciate, it shouldn't be at the expense of a fair amount of reality. Until last year, he never had a hitting streak above 20 games nor an average above .290. Rollins' best year in terms of OBP stands at .348, a full 50 points below Abreu's career mark. Yet, in his mind, Rollins is set to go after "The Mark", the 56-game hitting streak by Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio. In one story, Rollins is talking about how he comes to play when the bell rings, conveniently forgetting that the season starts in April, not August:

"When the pressure was on, I definitely showed up to play," Rollins said of the end of 2005. "That’s something I look forward to doing from day one, but sometimes it doesn’t happen until the last 30 games. When the bell rang, I was out there doing my job. That’s one thing I like. I think I knew it about myself, but it’s nice to go out there and prove it."

Meanwhile, in the Bucks County paper, the news is that Rollins is not only relishing the attention, he's finally getting around to doing something which has apparently been his life's work.

"Every single year since my rookie year (2001), I've told my brother that I'm going to break Joe DiMaggio's record," Rollins said, referring to the legendary Yankee's 56-game hitting streak set in 1941. "Up until now, that was impossible."

Of course, before the season begins, we’re all concerned, very much concerned, with the 27-year-old Rollins’ legacy. Rollins, with his trademark confidence in tow, has absolutely no questions to answer:

"I have no doubt, when I leave the game, I'll be regarded as one of the best shortstops. Hopefully, it'll be all the way around. If I don't think that, if I don't feel that, then I shouldn't be playing this game."

To say that is presumptuous is allowing for a liberal use of the term 'presumptuous.' No one begrudges Rollins his lofty ambitions or his seemingly limitless confidence. However, one has to wonder about his connection to reality. Rollins has a long way to go before he can even say his name in the same breath with Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and the pre-injury Nomar Garciaparra. Of course, one roots for Jimmy to reach those heights, however one has to be very weary of a man with his head in the clouds, but no feet on the ground. Rollins has much to work on with his hitting style and approach. Confidence may be an asset but patience is indeed a virtue and for Rollins to shirk patience in favor of his aggressive nature, both at the plate and, to a lesser extent, with the media, is trading one avenue for another instead of employing them both. Who says he can’t drive on both streets? Can’t a hitter be both aggressive and patient? Can’t a guy have confidence and goals, but tempered by the self-awareness that there is still work to be done and a development process to follow?

Maybe Rollins is ready to pick up where he left off. Maybe, though, that’s the problem.


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