Ryne Sandberg inherited a mess when he took over as interim manager last summer, but his first spring training running the Phillies is off to an especially inauspicious beginning. He's already butted heads with Jimmy Rollins, benching him three straight days without explanation, and the two haven't spoken since Monday.
Fully recovered from a bout with "flu-like symptoms" more than a week ago, Rollins was surprised to find himself taken out of the starting lineup on Tuesday against Atlanta. Not just omitted, but actively taken out—his name was whited-out on the lineup card and replaced with Freddy Galvis's.
Rollins was again benched for yesterday's game against Baltimore. With no explanation given, reporters sought one. GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said that as far as he knew, Rollins was healthy (Sandberg later confirmed that), but passed the buck and told reporters to go ask Sandberg about his lineups. So they did.
"Freddy's a guy that will get playing time at various positions," Sandberg said. "He's a guy that I like in the lineup. I feel good about what he brings to the table. The biggest thing, I like his energy and his positive influence that he sets out there. He's a positive influence on everybody around him."
And what have you thought about Jimmy in that regard this spring?
"Uh, no comment," Sandberg said.
Ah, the no-comment of doom.
Speculation is already flying, naturally focusing on Rollins's history, which includes benchings for a perceived lack of hustle and for showing up late to the ballpark. Meanwhile Sandberg is the sort of first-time manager who demands his players bust their asses in and show up early to desultory March drills. That'll rub a lot of players the wrong way, especially a veteran who clashed with his last manager over just this sort of thing.
Rollins is again not in the lineup for this afternoon's game against the Yankees, and spoke to the media this morning after hearing of Sandberg's Wednesday comments. He was not particularly helpful in shedding light on what the speific problem is—"Obviously he is upset about something," Rollins said—but pretty much confirmed that there is a beef.
"Well, everyone is allowed to have their own opinion," Rollins said. "It doesn't make it right, but he's the manager so he gets to have the last say."
We might've guessed that a relationship between the intense, old-school Sandberg and the aloof, laid-back Rollins wouldn't end well. We didn't guess that it wouldn't start well either.