Tuesday, August 15, 2006
By Michael Rushton
So the Phillies cut some dead weight, changed the complexion of their clubhouse and packed it in until maybe 2008, right?
I guess the current squad didn't get the memo.
And the man most responsible for the recent charge isn't the impressive sophomore Ryan Howard (though his homers still take one's breath away), the newest starter David Dellucci or the player dubbed as "the man" by Harry Kalas, Chase Utley.
Remember our scrappy little shortstop from Oakland?
In the middle of May, Phillies fans and even fantasy owners (including myself) were writing Jimmy Rollins off as his average dipped to .239. "Put Bobby Abreu in the leadoff spot" we cried. "Jimmy's a six hitter, not a leadoff man," we all screamed at Uncle Charlie.
J-Roll didn't change our minds by the end of May, a month in which he batted a dismal .235. Little did we know, though, Jimmy was about to get -- cue obvious pun -- rolling.
And it has all come to fruition so far in August. Think Jimmy liked taking a back seat while Utley ran off a 35-game hitting streak, second to onlyRollins' 38 in 2005-06?
While he without a doubt supported his fellow middle infielder, it had to get Jimmy reminiscing about how fun it was to actually hit the ball about this time last year.
So Rollins has responded by batting a Ted Williams-like .400 through 13 games in August with six homers and five stolen bases. That includes a .560 clip against southpaws.
As J-Roll continues to up his on-base percentage, there is no need to look any further than the Big Apple and Jose Reyes to see what a speedy leadoff hitter who gets on base can do for a club.
And while it might not be a good thing for his swing, Rollins also has a career-high 18 homers on the season, the most ever by a Phillies shortstop.
So perhaps Rollins is the key to Philadelphia's success after all. Plus, there is extra motivation to be had when you are a one-out baserunner on second and the guy batting third actually swings the bat.
And with the weak showing the NL has been putting forth, there's no reason the Phillies can't grab the wild card and roll into some extended October baseball.