Schmidt: Manuel was right to bench Rollins

June 10, 2008 7:58:58 PM PDT
Here in early June, Charlie Manuel may have the best team in baseball. He has the best offense, defense and bullpen.

More importantly, the Philadelphia Phillies manager has friends - in the clubhouse, in the front office, all around the game. The city of Brotherly Love has even adopted him.

We all know that can change overnight with a questionable decision, a bad interview, pulling a pitcher - or maybe benching your MVP shortstop for not hustling.

Yes, you heard that right. In the big leagues, a manager had the guts to stand up to an $8 million-a-year player.

Jimmy Rollins hit a high popup behind short last week, a ball he thought he should have crushed. In disgust, he slammed his bat and jogged to first.

Now this happens thousands of times around the league each year, and maybe a handful of times the ball is dropped. Guess what: You better hope you're not standing on first base when it is dropped, if you play for Manuel.

Major league managers, minor league managers and baseball coaches around the country, from Little League to college, were given the green light by what Manuel did next: He benched Rollins, the reigning MVP and a very popular person in Philadelphia.

No hustle, no play.

Don't worry about parents, teammates, wins or losses. Charlie Manuel wrote it in stone for all of you. From this day forward, any player who doesn't run hard on a for-sure out is fair game.

That might even mean you, Manny! Terry Francona might now be held to a higher standard.

Charlie did the right thing, didn't bat an eye doing it, didn't care about the repercussions of facing the player or the media.

Simple thing, right? No hustle, no play. Applies to MVP shortstops and all players below. Imagine how many coaches across the country were telling this story to their kids the last few days.

When the Philly media asked Manuel to comment, he said, "No, it's not for discussion." When they pressed on, Charlie walked out.

Jimmy Rollins then had the ball in his court. He admitted to his error in judgment and backed Manuel, saying he broke one of Charlie's two rules - to be on time and to hustle.

Well, every manager has the same two rules, baseball's "two commandments." But few of them, especially in this era, enforce No. 2.

The upside of coming down hard on a superstar for not running out a groundball or popup just is not worth the downside in many cases.

Ask Francona, who manages Manny. Ask Dusty Baker, who managed Barry Bonds and now Ken Griffey Jr., if it's worth it to enforce hustle rules. Sure, those guys dive for balls, slide hard into bases and run hard when they smell a hit. But expecting them to run hard on sure outs ... not happening.

Look at Willie Randolph. He benched Jose Reyes last year right before the All-Star break when the Mets leadoff man failed to run on a trickler up the third-base line that started foul and rolled fair. Randolph made his point, but Reyes slumped the rest of the year.

Besides, that case was different than the Rollins situation - a lot of players might've gotten caught on a ball that looked foul; Rollins' ball was fair and a certain out.

Charlie Manuel is a "players' manager," as they say. Here's what that means: He could have his locker in the players' section and they wouldn't mind. He can take a ribbin' and dole one out, too. He's got his own sense of how the game should be played and how every major leaguer should carry himself. He doesn't care what people think, say or write about him because he is secure within his own skin.

A manager like this, you grow to love. Strange word to associate with a major leaguer and his manager, but Charlie is loved, and there is no stronger asset a manager can have.

I guarantee you he feels it. His players show it around him, because they know Charlie pulls no punches, has no secret agenda, expects no special treatment and doesn't have a selfish bone in his body. He treats everyone the same, from the grounds crew to the president.

It's hard not to root for him. One thing for sure: A manager who can remove his biggest star at a pivotal moment in an important game without blinking an eye, and have that player support the decision, has got to be given credit.

Charlie does not care about getting credit for anything, except maybe sinking a 4-foot putt or catching a 12-pound bass.

Whether he wants it or not, though, join me in giving him credit as the guy who just elevated the level of hustle in every baseball game in America, including the majors.

He's now the new Charlie Hustle.


Load Comments