Rollins aware this could be last ride for Phillies
PHILADELPHIA -- The only sound advice for frustrated Phillies fans these days is sit back, relax and watch.
Either the Phils will get on a roll in the next couple months or they will not. There is no quick fix in the meantime. And if they do not get going, these next few months could be fans' final look at the core of talent that won five consecutive National League East division titles, two NL pennants and one World Series from 2007-11.
The players understand this reality.
"We've just got to make sure we do what we need to do before they blow it up," shortstop Jimmy Rollins said Wednesday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park.
The Phillies played their 41st game of the season Wednesday, officially passing the one-quarter point of their schedule. They are 19-22 and in third in the NL East, with the ninth-best record in the league. They rank 12th in the league in scoring (3.61 runs per game) and 13th in pitching (4.20 ERA). They have not won more than three consecutive games this season. They have been inconsistent, coming off a disappointing season in which the front office showed it is not afraid to trade talent by shipping Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence to contenders.
If the Phils improve before the non-waiver Trade Deadline on July 31 -- they have played a bit better recently -- general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. might try to add a piece or two to the roster for a postseason run. If they do not improve, Amaro could try to unload talent in an effort to retool for the future. Chase Utley, Michael Young, Carlos Ruiz and Delmon Young are free agents after the season. Each of them could have value to a contender looking for a player to push its club over the top. Cliff Lee, Jonathan Papelbon, Mike Adams and Rollins have years remaining on their deals, but they also could be dealt.
"We're not going to panic," Rollins said. "That word isn't going to get into this clubhouse."
Rollins also said he is not going to worry about the team getting dismantled.
"Heck, no," he said. "I don't have to worry about anything."
But wouldn't it be strange come Aug. 1 to see Rollins standing at shortstop with somebody other than Utley at second base, somebody other than Young at third base or somebody other than Ruiz behind the plate?
"Well, that's all true," Rollins acknowledged. "But there's nothing I can do about it, except play a winning brand of baseball. And if we don't win, it's up to the guys up top, whether they decide to blow it all up and ship us out."
"That would be different," he said.
Would it be a sad moment for a player like Rollins, who has watched the organization build itself from NL doormat to big league powerhouse?
"Yeah," he said. "But shoot, I might be gone, too. You never know."
Rollins, who can veto any trade because of his 10-and-5 rights, remains optimistic. He thinks the Phillies will get going because they have recovered from slow starts in the past.
"It's like '07," he said. "That's what it's like. Pitchers go down. You're like, 'Gosh darn it, man. That's not expected.' Then our offense had to kick it in with some crazy numbers. It looks like that's where we're going to have to go."
The 2007 Phils were 20-21 at this point, third in the division and the ninth-best record in the league. But while that team ranked 14th in the league in pitching (4.43 ERA), it ranked second in the league in scoring (5.07 runs per game). It hit its way to a division title.
Rollins said the offense will need to step up and take over like '07, but is that even possible? Philadelphia's offense has been in decline the past few seasons.
"We're healthy enough to be that good," Rollins said. "We're starting to have more good days than bad days. And that's where it starts. Everybody likes to talk about little things, but what's small and what's little is actually big. Scoring runs, getting two-out hits, etc. -- those are things we're starting to do better, more efficiently. And over the course of the season, as the season gets even deeper, that's going to be even that much bigger. So just because the record is where it sits now, those things get overlooked. But when you look at baseball, those are things that start turning and going your way."
The Phillies historically have been better in the second half under manager Charlie Manuel. They have a .520 winning percentage before the All-Star break, which is 11th in baseball from 2005-12, compared to a .610 winning percentage after the break, which is second in baseball.
"Let's just make sure we do that again," Rollins said.
But that trend holds true only after the break. If the Phils don't get going soon, the team as fans have come to know it -- Rollins, Utley, Ruiz, Ryan Howard and Cole Hamels at its core -- might not be around for that second-half run.
The Phillies will try to start a new winning streak Friday, when they open a three-game series against the Reds.