Dodgers should lean on Rollins' experience in volatile series
Veteran shortstop better equipped to handle pressure of NLDS than Seager
NEW YORK -- The Mets will have a new shortstop for Game 3 of the National League Division Series on Monday night (TBS at 8:30 p.m. ET) at Citi Field. Wilmer Flores assumes the role as Ruben Tejada recovers from a broken leg.
The Dodgers should also turn to a new man at the most important non-battery position on the field. It is time to go to hard-edged, proven, former NL Most Valuable Player Award winner Jimmy Rollins and give young Corey Seager a chance to relax and catch his breath.
A wondrous talent with a future destined to include enough Major League Baseball hardware to fill a warehouse, Seager has played 29 games in a Dodgers uniform. After Chase Utley's dangerous slide injured Tejada and aroused both teams in Saturday night's 5-2 Game 2 victory by the Dodgers in their house, this is time for a change.
Postseason play, East Coast mania and angry opponents hold few mysteries for Rollins. It is time to lean on his 2,281 games of experience -- 47 of which came during the postseason. He was the leader of Phillies teams that played in 10 postseason series from 2007-11, winning the 2008 World Series and falling to the Yankees in the Fall Classic a year later.
Rollins has made 50 career starts at Citi Field. His career line there is .322/.392/.538. He has produced 11 homers and 32 RBIs and has scored 45 runs.
Rollins has a history with Matt Harvey, the Mets' Game 3 starter, and has more than held his own.
In 21 plate appearances against the "Dark Knight" of Queens, Rollins has a .263/.333/.684 slash line. He has two homers, two doubles and four RBIs.
Seager has made 14 career starts on the road, none farther east than Denver. He has not seen Harvey's premium stuff.
Rollins has seen and done it all and is fearless. He is not the player he was during his 2007 MVP campaign, but he showed down the stretch he is better than his overall numbers (.224/.285/.385) in his first season in Los Angeles. J-Roll came alive in the stretch run, hitting .255 with a .354 on-base percentage in his final 19 regular-season games.
Seager is the Dodgers' future, and it's as bright as the sun, stars and moon. But, right now in New York, with the natives howling and the Mets hopping mad, Rollins is the man you want on the field.
J-Roll has made hundreds of pressure plays defensively, taken hundreds of game-turning at-bats, faced hostile fans in every stadium in the land. He knows how to handle anything that can be thrown his way.
Seager was brilliant after being called up to the Majors, hitting .337 in his first 27 big league games with a .561 slugging percentage. Part of that work was done against pitchers he'd seen in the Minor Leagues, as non-contenders filled their rosters with prospects.
Seager also had his moments with the glove, but was charged with five errors in 192 innings -- a .949 fielding percentage. Rollins, who makes a bad throw about as often as there's a solar eclipse, committed nine errors in 1,134 innings -- a .983 percentage.
As gifted as he is, Seager is 21 years old, a kid figuring things out. He was 1-for-8 in the series' two games in Los Angeles, batting third and second, respectively. It was questionable putting him in such important lineup roles while also absorbing all the important responsibilities of a shortstop. He made several excellent plays with the glove, but also bounced a throw.
One ill-timed misplay in these games can cost a team the series.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly made a pivotal move in Game 2, when he replaced rookie Joc Pederson in center field with Kiké Hernandez. Pederson, a fine defender with power, was hitless in the opener against Jacob deGrom.
Hernandez, a fiery, multi-position athlete, batted .307 in the regular season, compared to Pederson's .210.
Facing overpowering Noah Syndergaard and his 100-mph heat, Hernandez singled and walked twice. His one-out walk and steal in the seventh set up the decisive rally. Hernandez scored from third when Howie Kendrick's liner over second base resulted in the collision that cost the Mets their regular shortstop.
Rollins was watching as Utley, his longtime Phillies teammate, singled as a pinch-hitter following Hernandez's walk and steal and then crushed Tejada. His game-turning ability, doing whatever was required of the moment, has characterized the career of Utley.
The many skeptics and critics of the acquisition should now see why the Dodgers made this move for an aging second baseman.
Experience and poise under pressure count heavily in October. Cool personalities with the established ability to thrive under these conditions are comforting to have on your side.
Seager is destined to be a major star, but all things come in time. This is J-Roll's time.