It was one of those humbling moments that reminds you why the fans pay to go to the game and sit in the 400-level while the coaches get paid to go to the game and sit in the dugout.

In the Phillies’ half of the sixth inning of a 1-1 game against the Cubs on Tuesday afternoon, Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins came to the plate with two outs and runners on second and third.  

The infield was playing back with first base open because of a rare tagging-up from first by Chase Utley on a Ryan Howard’s sacrifice fly.  So, when Rollins ran the count to 3-0, I suddenly had a brilliant idea.

Taking in the afternoon game on a beautiful day with five buddies, I started telling each of them “Wow, this would be a great moment for a suicide squeeze.” 

The timing struck me as perfect—3-0 count, two outs, first base open, infield playing back, the speedy Rollins somehow still batting fifth in the order—and I became absolutely convinced that we were about to see the most exciting play in baseball, the two-out suicide squeeze.

Just for good measure, and not a moment too soon, I said, “Whatever you do, don’t let Rollins swing away.”

There are two types of home runs in major league baseball—the ones you watch excitedly hoping they can get out, and the ones you know are out of the park the moment they leave the bat.  Rollins hit one of the latter into the right field seats, and the Phillies had a 4-1 lead.

Coaches 1, Asher 0.

Regarding how much smarter than me he is, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel expounded on letting Rollins swing away on 3-0.  “I let guys hit 3-0, especially guys who are good hitters,” Manuel said. “It builds confidence…I wouldn’t be sitting here now if I couldn’t teach guys how to hit 3-0. I’ve had great success letting guys hit 3-0.”

Not that they needed it, but the coaches got another on me in the eighth inning when, with one out and Utley standing on second representing the go-ahead run, Raul Ibanez hit a single to right field that Kosuke Fukudome got to just as Utley was arriving at third.  I don’t think I yelled, but I definitely said out loud, “Hold the runner!” 

Nevertheless, despite my advice, the Phillies third base coach waived Utley around and he stepped on home plate a step-and-a-half ahead of the throw and tag.

Coaches 2, Asher 0.  Ballgame.

But seriously, folks, it is time to ask: Are we seeing a new Jimmy Rollins? 

Rollins is certainly no stranger to home run power—remember, he hit 30 home runs in 2007, his MVP year , and he’s hit 20 or more two other times—but so far in 2010 his slugging percentage is .658 and his OPS is 1.116.  These are not numbers we’re used to seeing.

Rollins also seems, perhaps for the first time, comfortable hitting somewhere other than the leadoff spot.  In what is admittedly a small sample size, Rollins has an .886 OPS with four RBI and three runs in the four games since he returned from a month-long absence to nurse his ailing calf muscle.  

Yesterday, Rollins batted fifth for Jayson Werth, who got the day off in favor of Ross “He was in a nuclear accident and so he” Gload.

Could this be the dawn of the rest of Jimmy Rollins career? 

Would Jimmy be content to spend his 30s as a slightly above-average power hitter, providing protection in the order for Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and (if they can re-sign him) Jayson Werth?

Not likely.

Charlie Manuel has indicated that Rollins will probably be back in the leadoff spot at some point during this weekend’s series against the Boston Red Sox, and Jimmy has indicated that, despite his success over the last couple of days, this experiment in the batting order is probably short-lived. 

“I have at-bats when I still feel a little out of whack and others where I can feel my legs underneath me and my swing going in the right path,” Rollins said after the game. “The rest of it is just feeling my legs underneath me when I’m hitting and feeling the bat speed. When the bat speed is there, I think I’ll be ready.”

Manuel said he thinks Rollins needs more at-bats and dropping him down in the order allows him to be more aggressive and take more swings. “I look at Jimmy as our leadoff hitter, and there are a lot of reasons why I look at him that way,” Manuel said. “He is our leadoff hitter.”

Oh well. 

The new Jimmy Rollins will just have to wait. 

Frankly, I’d like to see Rollins get an extensive try-out in the five-hole to see if perhaps the Phillies can’t save a little money by not giving Jayson Werth the $20 million contact he’ll probably want when he becomes a free agent after this season.

If Jimmy can give Utley and Howard the same protection that Werth gives them, maybe the Phillies could spend that money somewhere else.

Of course, what do I know?  I’m just a guy sitting in the 400-level.


Asher B. Chancey lives in Philadelphia and is the co-founder of .

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