Rollins apologizes to Manuel for not hustling
Shorstop benched Thursday for second incident in past two weeks
ATLANTA -- Shortstop Jimmy Rollins walked into Phillies manager Charlie Manuel's office Friday afternoon at Turner Field and quietly closed the door behind him.
They emerged seven minutes later with smiles on their faces. They appeared to have reached an understanding for the second time in as many weeks about one of Manuel's two team rules: hustle. Manuel benched Rollins in Thursday's 3-2 victory over the Mets at Citizens Bank Park because he did not hustle to first base after popping up a ball in the infield in the sixth inning.
"He walked in there and manned up," Manuel said. "He said he was wrong and apologized to me. "
"You break the rules, that was the punishment," Rollins said. "Plan and simple. It's really that simple."
It should be, but the incident came exactly two weeks after Manuel called Rollins into his office after not hustling during a game in Miami.
So the question is why does this keep happening?
Why can't Rollins just hustle?
Manuel said Thursday it was a poor reflection upon the manager, the team and the organization when Rollins does not run hard. Rollins did not disagree with his manager because he said he has never been in charge of a clubhouse, but "for me personally, I don't think it reflects on the team or the manager. That's the player. That's his issue. I don't think it reflects poorly just because usually there's something done about it."
Asked if Rollins has an issue running hard, he said, "No. No, no, no, no, no. There's obviously a spotlight on it. If I was the only player to ever do that and do that in this game today it would make sense, but I broke the rule like I said. That was the result of it."
Rollins said Friday he knows he does not hustle 100 percent of the time, but he said it is not intentional.
"You get a hit, you don't think about hustle. You just do it," Rollins said. "It goes the same when you make an out. You don't think about hustle. You just do it. You just go. You don't think about, well, I hit this ball, now I need to run this hard. It just doesn't happen that way."
He explained what happened Thursday.
He had popped up in his previous at-bat against Mets left-hander Jon Niese, so he worked on his swing in the cage just before his sixth-inning at-bat. Then with a runner on third and one out, Rollins popped up again. Rollins jogged to first expecting the ball to be caught, but Niese dropped the ball. Had Rollins run hard, there was a chance he could have reached second. At the very least, Rollins acknowledged he should have been in position to at least see if he could get there, but he wasn't.
"The first thing was you didn't get the run in," he said. "That's the first thing. Second, it's like, damn, you were just in the cage literally working on that. How do you do it again? And that was really about it. That's all that went through my mind."
So it was frustration?
"Confusion more than frustration," he said. "You're in the cage working on it. And it's going right. And then 40 feet from the cage to the field, it's like, what happened, you know?"
Manuel said he understood Rollins' frustration, but it is not an excuse.
"I didn't do that very many times because you couldn't get away with it," Manuel said. "I remember if I was mad on a check swing or something, sometimes I wouldn't run hard. I learned real quick you couldn't do that. My managers were a little bit different."
This is what everybody has to realize about Rollins: some bad comes with the good. The good is one of the best defensive shortstops and a hitter who entered Friday ranked ninth out of 23 shortstops with a .714 OPS.
Yes, even with Rollins leading the big leagues with 34 infield popups, he is one of the more productive shortstops.
But the hustle is maddening. Because while not everybody can win a World Series, National League MVP Award, three Gold Gloves and make three All-Star teams like Rollins, even the least talented player in the game can run hard to first base.
Rollins was asked if he worries he might taint his legacy because of it.
"No, not really," he said. "They're isolated incidents. From maybe my third year, it was already something. Actually, my first year. Let's be real. It was always something. That's the decision people will make. The further you get away from something, all that stuff seems to go away anyway."
It will go away if Rollins keeps running hard, but the reality is there might be other instances like this in the future.
"I think he'll change for periods of time," Manuel said. "But he'll probably always fall back into something like that. There again, that doesn't mean you let it go. You don't let it pass."
And that is why Manuel would not be shocked to see Rollins jog to first base again before the end of the season.
"The only thing about Jimmy is I don't want to try to have to make Jimmy run," he said. "I want Jimmy to want to run. I want Jimmy to want to run because you're supposed to run and you should run. That's what baseball is all about."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.