In his day Babe Ruth was known as the Sultan of Swat for his prodigious home run production. Ryan Howard had that title for the Phillies, and they rewarded him by overpaying for a long-term contract that saddles them with his being a former shell of himself due to injuries and his inability or unwillingness to make adjustments. He is far from Philly’s Best Bargain and far from the hero status he once enjoyed.
More commonly now the expression that Ryan Howard wears on his face is the sulk. The sulk after yet another at bat when he failed to go the opposite way with the pitch. When he flailed and missed at a low and outside curve ball. When he is handcuffed by a fastball in or just plain guesses wrong yet again at a called strike three.
Yet I do see signs of hope this spring. The other day I saw him take a 3-2 pitch for ball four, even though there was no one on base with the Phils already well behind on the scoreboard. During the regular season we will see similar situations where Howard is pulled for a pinch runner, or replaced late in the game simply for defensive purposes. Particularly when the opposition has left-handed relief pitching available, there is no concern about his bat being out of the lineup. He doesn’t exhibit much energy or enthusiasm on the field for the game, but he seems to care just a bit more than his fellow Sultan of Sulk, the shortstop known as Jimmy Pop-Up.
Is Jimmy Rollins in manager Ryne Sandberg’s doghouse? Seems that way, according to baseball pundit Jim Salisbury. Asked to comment about Galvis starting pencilled into the lineup against the Yankees at Bright House for Thursday’s game, Sandberg reportedly remarked: “Freddy’s a guy that will get playing time at various positions. He’s a guy that I like in the lineup. I felt good about what he brings to the table. The biggest thing I like is his energy and his positive influence, his positive influence on everyone around him.” Sandberg was asked what he would say about Rollins in that regard. “No comment,” the manager said.
Watch this revealing interview of Jimmy Rollins and Larry Bowa, posted by Salisbury just two days ago. Simply put, Jimmy admits he didn’t always run balls out. He somehow dissociates offense from defense. Defense is where Jimmy never dogs it or takes a siesta. The most revealing comment from Bowa is that Rollins has to make an adjustment to the fact that he’s on a mediocre team. Rollins hasn’t made the adjustment to handle that adversity. And that, my friends, is why Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg, who won’t accept a player of Rollins’ caliber sulking. You sulk, whether it’s at the plate or in the field, you’ll sit.
We all know that kids role model sports figures, so I like this message. No matter what talent level you have, demand the best performance of yourself that you can deliver in all phases of your game. It will be very interesting to see how J-Pop responds to being benched. Kids of all ages in Philly and Clearwater are watching closely.