Monday, March 17, 2014

Ryan Sandberg, Jimmy Rollins, and the start of the Circus of Sad

Mano A Whatevs
So in case you had something of  a life, you might have missed that newish Phillies manager Ryan Sandberg has been benching a healthy Jimmy Rollins in Florida while talking up the positive mindset of backup Freddie Galvis. Rollins has a no-trade contract and a laissez-faire attitude about running really hard in meaningless moments, and when you add that to a 35+ year-old body and coming off his worst year, it's not exactly a great combination. Oh, and by the way, the Phillies are going to be one of the very worst teams in baseball this year, and no one in town has any idea why general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has a job. So... cue the meaningless controversy!

Rollins is, still, a better player than Galvis, mostly because Galvis has no business cashing an MLB check given his meager offensive skills, and Rollins can still play a credible short; he's lost a step, but the arm is still top grade. But he could flashback to his MVP year and it would not matter at all, because there is no real difference between a 95 loss team and a 90 loss one.

Too harsh? Not quite. The top of the rotation is fine with Cliff Lee and the theoretical existence of Cole Hamels, who has spent the spring telling the world about the dates he's going to miss. (April and counting!) A.J. Burnett at three seems OK, but he's on a one-year smash and grab, is not exactly young, and could easily lose the plate, like he's done in the past, and go straight back to terrible. At #4, it's innings blob Kyle Kendrick, a guy who seems like he's got to be perfect to be useful, and then Cuban emigre Miguel Gonzalez, who looks so far like a AAA pitcher at best.

Oh, and the rotation is the best part of the team.

The bullpen is "led" by Jonathan Papelbon, who the team has been trying to give away for nine months, and his big contract, diminishing velocity and worsening attitude. The set up men around him are much worse than Papelbon, and are basically comprised of speed arms without control. Oh, and there's no good ideas for SP slots when (not if) the 100+ years of Lee, Hamels and Burnett get hurt.

Next, on to the offense. Domonic Brown had one great month in 2013; he's the team's only candidate for an offensive player who might not be disappointing. Chase Utley is in the twilight of a borderline Hall of Fame career, and won't stay healthy. Ryan Howard can't hit lefties, can't stay healthy, and might have the worst contract in baseball. Marlon Byrd found the only GM in baseball who wanted to pay for a fluke year from an old PED user. Ben Revere might have the least amount of power in MLB, which means he's kind of the Kendrick of CFs. Carlos Ruiz is another case of age over intent, and Cody Asche at third looks much more like Rick Schu's career than Mike Schmidt's. If everyone stays healthy -- they won't -- this is a 75-win team.

So, anyway, back to this week's distraction: Rollins. He's within hailing distance of having the most hits in franchise history. He's a bit of a polarizing figure, in that racism is not exactly a foreign experience to much of the fan base, and his offensive production has been downright maddening for years; too many pop ups and too little running will do that. But it's not as if Galvis is destined to be anything more than a tolerable utility sub, or that it's going to make the rest of the team run through the wall for Sandberg just because he's played bad cop with the ex-MVP shortstop.

And if my light monitoring of the region's sports talk and media are right... it's "working." Spring training won-loss records don't matter, but having the worst one is something of a tell, especially when the only injury of note is Hamels. The minor-league cupboard is mostly barren, the payroll is going to drop as soon as the yard empties -- and this team has been bad for a long time now, long enough to erode the season ticket base. But all anyone can talk about is whether they can or should trade Rollins, whether this is all a ploy to get him to waive the no-trade, and whether this means Sandberg is crazy or acting under Amaro's orders or what.

None of it matters, just like this team. And none of it will until Amaro is removed. And why do that when he's been removable for years?

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