Rollins clarifies comments about fans
Star shortstop says Phillies supporters take booing too far
LOS ANGELES -- Before labeling Philadelphia sports fans "front-runners" during Wednesday's in-studio appearance on "Best Damn Sports Show Period," Jimmy Rollins suggested he might get some "flak."He got plenty. On Thursday, Rollins called into the show to clarify his thoughts. He issued no retraction or apology, and elaborated his honest take regarding his feelings about the tough love sometimes given by the home fans. "I said something might happen, but ... " Rollins said, digesting his first Dodger Dog of the series. "Whatever. There's nothing to make out of [the reaction]. I don't get it." On an appearance with host Chris Rose and co-host John Salley, Rollins said of Philadelphia fans, "There are times, like, it's one of those cities ... I might catch some flack for saying this, but, you know, they're front-runners. When you're doing good, they're on your side. When you're doing bad, they're completely against you." Told of the reaction by a team official, Rollins explained that booing before a player struggles can affect a team negatively. Athletes, regardless of their perceived thick skin and wealth, are human. They hear the crowd and feed off it, either way. The way Rollins sees it, booing can be deserved, but Philly fans can take it too far. "I went down and Eric Bruntlett came in and played," Rollins said, referring to his April ankle injury. "He got booed his first time out there [when the team returned to Philadelphia], because he made two errors in New York. Then they're on his side after he comes through with some big hits. You should be there from Day 1, because he's going to be the guy out there for 25 games. He's going to need your energy the same way when I'm out there and need it to keep going. "There are some days when you sit back and say, 'Boy, these fans are behind us,' and you feel it and it can get you going. Or, 'Dang, they just booed him and I'm coming up next. I guess I better get a hit.' Then you don't, and it bounces down through the team, person to person to person." Rollins feels fans are booing catcher Carlos Ruiz partly because of his .218 average, but also because they would prefer to see Chris Coste behind the plate. "You're booing him because you want Costey to play? This man has a job to do, and he might go out there and do well because you give him the energy," Rollins said. "But he's coming up in the third inning and you're booing before he gets to the plate. That's tough to go up there. It's hard enough to hit, and now you're like, 'Man, these people don't even want me out here.' That's the aspect I was talking about." Rollins spoke passionately as he uttered comments that players have been saying privately for years. Rollins watched fans get on pitcher Adam Eaton during Opening Day introductions, a reminder that they hadn't forgotten his 6.29 ERA from the season before. Ditto for catcher Mike Lieberthal and left fielder Pat Burrell during introductions in 2006, and pitcher Rheal Cormier in '03. He even heard Mets fans jeer reliever Scott Schoeneweis during the final Opening Day at Shea Stadium this year. "I was like, 'Are you serious?'" Rollins said. After a brilliant September last season, setup man Tom Gordon earned the fans' wrath after allowing five runs on Opening Day. In Rollins' eyes, the veteran righty was never forgiven, despite a 3.68 ERA in his next 33 games. Gordon was often jeered on his way to the mound. "Man, they were all over him when he comes out of the bullpen," Rollins said. " I'm running up to him because I'm trying to reinforce that we need him. I understand what's going on out there, but we need him. It's hard to put it of your mind, because you're human and you hear it. Then, you throw a ball and it gets louder." On the road, players laugh at being jeered. Rollins himself enjoys the banter with Mets fans, for example. At home is another animal. "I don't pay as much attention on the road, because they're not my fans," Rollins said. "If they want to boo us as the visiting team, keep giving me the boos. But at home, give us some home-field advantage." Rollins understands that undying support, similar to the way St. Louis pulls for its players, won't guarantee a World Series championship, but it won't hurt. It also gets that it's a difficult thing to ask from a city starved for a celebration. He's well aware that no major Philadelphia team has won a title since the 76ers took the NBA title in 1983, and the Phillies haven't won a World Series since 1980. "I've been around eight [years]," he said. "In eight years, we've been getting closer and closer. Last year, we finally got over one obstacle. We're still working to get over another one. It's our fault as players for saying we understand why because of this. You know what? Let that go. You weren't even born then. Some of you were just born in '80.
"That's like me saying the Oakland A's haven't won since '90-something," Rollins added. "And I was an A's fan growing up. I still look at them, if were not in it, that's still my hometown team. I never want them to win as long as I'm playing, don't get me wrong, but take what you have, take the team that you have, and push them to do better."Don't take Black Friday [Game 3 of the 1977 National League Championship Series between the Phillies and Dodgers] and put that on these guys. Some of them don't even know. I didn't even know until about 15 minutes ago. Maybe 20 minutes ago. I'm like, 'Black Friday? Is that like Palm [Sunday]?' You know about the history of the team, don't get me wrong. But your job when you're there, you're trying to change that for that time period. My tenure here, were we successful? That's all can control." It was pointed out that Rollins may receive extra boos Tuesday, when the Phillies return from their seven-game West Coast road trip, and suggested that the shortstop wear a wig and sunglasses, like Mike Schmidt did once in 1985, after calling the fans a "mob scene." Would Rollins do that? "Give me some [muttton] chops," Rollins said, with a laugh. "I'll be like Bake [McBride]."
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.