Just got back upstairs from the Phillies clubhouse, and I've got to say, that place is positively giddy. I think a lot of times we as sports writers get a little too corny with our attempts to place unwarranted psychological significance on certain events. A lot of times in baseball, it simply comes down to: see ball, hit ball.
But I'm convinced that Jimmy Rollins is one of those rare athletes whose presence really can invigorate a team. It's why I disagree with those who say he shouldn't have been MVP last year. By now, I'm sure you all know he singled, doubled and homered in his first start in over a month. But beyond that, I'm convinced his presence made his teammates better. Not in a concious way. Jayson Werth and Greg Dobbs didn't walk up to the plate thinking, "I'm going to single now because Jimmy Rollins is here." But baseball is a team sport, and sometimes we forget about it, and a good baseball team is a beautiful thing to watch. The past month, the Phillies really haven't been a complete team. They've ridden some spectacular individual efforts by guys like Pat Burrell and Chase Utley. Werth got hot at the right time. Eric Bruntlett gave them everything they could have asked for.
But there's just something about this offense, this team, when Rollins is in the line-up. Everything clicks. Shane Victorino gets to hit second instead of first. That's where he belongs. Werth gets to hit sixth and bring some speed to the middle of the order. Pedro Feliz gets to hit seventh. Carlos Ruiz gets to hit eighth.
How many times over the past month has the leadoff spot come up with two out in an inning? When Rollins is that leadoff guy, there's a real potential for something big to happen. In fact, it's expected.
"He always tells me just to get on," pitcher Cole Hamels said.
Hamels got on the eight with two out, and Rollins hit a huge home run.
I asked Hamels if we make too much of the impact Rollins brings to the entire team.
"Absolutely not," he said.
Here's another thing I think. And again, it's just me thinking. But me thinking thinks that Rollins returning will help Ryan Howard too. I don't think the first baseman would ever admit it, but there was more pressure on him with Rollins out. And that may have affected him. Last year he hit .223 when Chase Utley was down. He put some good swings on the ball tonight. Scored a run.
We'll see what happens. But the Phillies have to be ecstatic with the way this team looked in Rollins' return.