Ryne Sandberg says he is going to make Jimmy Rollins a priority project over the next month or so, and that probably falls into the category of easier said than done.
After he was named manager of the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday, one of the first things Sandberg did was sit the switch-hitting shortstop down for a heartfelt talk. Mostly they talked about the things that made them different kind of hitters in their playing days.
Sandberg was selective at the plate, often leading the league in bases on balls. As a result, Sandberg got a lot of pitches in the strike zone and was a .285 lifetime hitter with 282 career home runs. Rollins is a free swinger and often gets himself out on a pitcher’s pitch, not waiting for something in the zone. In 16 years, Sandberg had 761 bases on balls.
Rollins’ lifetime stats aren’t quite up to Sandberg’s as he’s hitting .269 in 14 seasons and his statistics have taken a significant downturn over recent seasons. Entering this week, Rollins’ .252 OBP ranked 189 out of 210 major-league hitters with at least 80 plate appearances since the All-Star break. That’s horrible for any player and a disaster for a lead-off hitter. Rollins’ slump extends farther back than that, as he’s hitting only .210 since the end of June.
They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but Sandberg hopes his proven track record of success as a Hall of Famer wakes Rollins up from a five-year slumber.
There’s another way to look at that, too. Rollins, 34, is in the second-year of a three-year, $33 million contract and so reluctant to change that he turned down all efforts to trade him at the July 31 MLB deadline.
If he’s reluctant to be traded, it’s also possible that he’s reluctant to raising his on-base percentage and his overall approach to the game. Rollins does the Phils no good as a highly-paid light-hitting shortstop. If Sandberg finds out that’s the case, then he must move on to Triple-A glove whiz Freddy Galvis and hope the organization’s Single-A shortstop star, J.P. Crawford , speeds up his development enough to make Galvis a utility player before long. Crawford is hitting .342 in his 41-game minor-league career so far.
Rollins must be smart enough to see all of this handwriting on the wall and opt for change. Or he can just decide to collect a paycheck; it’s up to him.