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Friday, June 06, 2008

Charlie Manuel and Jimmy Rollins: Leadership Two Times Over

I attended the Phillies' 5-0 victory over the Reds at Citizens Bank Park yesterday. Great day for a ball game, sitting with my cousins, eating peanuts, catching up, watching Cole Hamels pitch a masterpiece (a three-hit shutout on about 100 pitches), seeing many fly balls get caught on the warning track and, overall, having a great time. After all, what's so bad about watching a big-league game during work hours, especially in a great ballpark with a hot team?

The Reds gloves turned to iron on occasion yesterday. The first example was on a pop fly to shallow left. Jimmy Rollins hit it, and Reds shortstop Paul Janish dropped it. Ball hit the heel of the rookie's glove, allowing the Phillies to score their first run. Rollins ended up on first base, and we didn't think anything of it.

Next inning, Eric Bruntlett goes out to shortstop, and we're left thinking, "Uh-oh, he's hurt his ankle again. Great, and just before a very tough road trip."

But that wasn't the case.

Manager Charlie Manuel, you see, was miffed that Rollins didn't hustle. The pop fly was high enough that the reigning MVP should have been on second base. Apparently, Manuel has talked with Rollins during the former's tenure in Philadelphia on several occasions about hustling all out. So, he benched Rollins.

Bruntlett went on to make a Gold Glove-like play that robbed wunderkind Jay Bruce of a hit, the Phillies won, and then the story came out. The manager benched the MVP for not hustling.


Especially in this day and age. The day of the star player as unaccountable rock star who trashes the big suite at the five-star hot phenomenon. The manager was miffed. How would the star player react?

The star player took it like the team leader he is. He admitted he goofed, talked about his prior conversations with Manuel, admitted that he had no one to blame but himself and said his manager was right. Talk about total accountability. Talk about leadership. Rollins owned up to his miscue.

And that's great for this ball club. If the reigning MVP accepts this type of accountability, the rest of the team will follow. It's as simple as that.

And now to the manager. Charlie Manuel gets ridiculed by people who don't like his speech and at times have questioned his "good uncle" approach, but if he's a "good uncle" he's the avuncular type who tells the truth and holds his nephews to high standards. It takes a lot of guts for management to stand up to a star in any profession, and the sign of integrity and longevity for an organization is when management has the guts to tell a star that he or she is wrong. That's precisely what Charlie Manuel did, and it was the right call. He has a very good team, and he wants them to be great.

If the Phillies go further this year than last year, they all might point to the mid-game benching of their MVP and leader as a turning point moment, a time when accountability is king and when everyone acknowledges that they all should expect more -- out of themselves and each other -- and be accountable for their actions.

Great game yesterday for the home team.

And an even better lesson.


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