Taking sides- Part 1

Do I have to? I know, nobody is making me.

As the Lovin’ Spoonful sang in the 60’s.

Did you ever have to make up your mind?
Pick up on one and leave the other one behind
It’s not often easy, and not often kind
Did you ever have to make up your mind?

Did you ever have to finally decide?
Say yes to one and let the other one ride
There’s so many changes, and tears you must hide
Did you ever have to finally decide?

Rolen vs LaRussa

rolen vs Tony LaRussa

Rolen. Scott has been a hard workin’ man since he arrived in 2002. He hits the ball and sucks up most of the grounders that are hit his way. To the media before this fiasco he has been a soft spoken man that just went on with his business.

But Rolen is an employee. He works for the St. Louis Cardinals. His immediate supervisor is Tony LaRussa. In almost all jobs in life we find that sometimes we don’t always like the people we work with and also there are bosses we can’t stand. So, we either suck it up or we move on. What we don’ t do or shouldn’t do because it is dangerous is complain about a superior. That is dangerous. Jobs are lost immediately for that. If you have trouble working for many bosses then you get a reputation as a hard person to work with.

Scott, that is you. Let’s look back at some stuff that was written before you came to St. Louis.

Heading into the 2001 campaign, the Phillies’ top priority was to ink Scott to another extension that would keep him in town during his prime, and see him manning third when the team opened its new ballpark in 2004. But Scott questioned the club’s commitment to winning, and was reluctant to negotiate. This rankled new manager Larry Bowa, who never got along with Scott, and set the stage for a season and a half of ugliness between the two.
Scott began the year with a flourish, homering on Opening Day for the third straight time. Unfortunately, April and May were less kind, as his power dwindled and he failed to hit in the clutch. That June, during a series in Tampa Bay, Bowa blamed the club’s sluggish start on Scott, and the two got into a heated argument. When the team returned to Veterans Stadium, the fans booed their star.

That August, senior advisor Dallas Green said Scott was only a “so-so” player and that personality would prevent him from becoming a superstar. Furious at this slight, he proceeded to bang out 10 hits in his next 15 at-bats, including three homers, and quietly vowed that he would not resign with the Phillies if conditions didn’t change.

One thing that did change in ’01 was the losing. The Philly rebuilding plan was finally bearing fruit, as Marlon Anderson and Jimmy Rollins became the team’s new DP combo, Travis Lee nailed down the first base job, and Burrell flourished in his first full season. The starting rotation was still a mess, with Person leading the staff with 13 wins. But the bullpen was magnificent, as castoff Jose Mesa saved 42 games. The Phillies went 86-76, finishing two games behind the resilient Braves, and just out of Wild Card contention.

Scott did his part. In a crucial September series against Atlanta, he rapped out the winning hit in three straight games. He also became the fifth player ever to hit two homers off Greg Maddux in the same game. The series took place after the September 11th attacks, and Scott was one of the players who was vocal in his opposition to resuming the season after just a few days. To the league’s assertion that baseball was part of the fabric of the country, he replied that human beings, not baseball, were the fabric of the country.

Scott’s back kept him out of a handful of games in 2001, as did a sore ankle later in the year, but his numbers were terrific nonetheless: 65 extra-base hits, 107 RBIs, 16 steals and a .289 average. He batted .350 with men in scoring position, led the team with 25 home runs (18 after the All-Star break) and won a second straight Gold Glove.

Over the winter, the Phillies offered Scott a seven-year extension worth $90 million and he turned it down. The team was shocked. They went to the winter meetings in Boston intending to trade him, but other teams felt their asking price for a player one year away from free agency was too high. For example, the Phillies asked the Cardinals for Albert Pujols and Bud Smith, who had twirled a no-hitter the previous season.

On the first day of spring training, Scott told the press he was probably an idiot, then spent the next 45 minutes listing every flaw in the Philadelphia organization. Four days later, while taking grounders, Scott was accosted by Bowa. They got into another heated discussion, after which the manager demanded GM Ed Wade trade him—in front of three film crews.

Scott was having a solid year in 2002, despite his unhappiness and constant trade rumors. In his first 200 games, he hit 17 home runs and batted .259, and remained steller at the hot croner. With two days left before the trade deadline, Scott finally escaped Philadelphia. St. Louis gave the Phillies a package they wanted, which included hurlers Mike Timlin and Smith, and infielder Placido Polanco, whose live bat and multi-position skills were ideal for their needs.

Rolen has had these problems before. Ok, some people deny when they have a problem when it happens the first time but what can be said when it is a repeat performance?

Part 2 tomorrow looks at LaRussa.

Part 3 will decide… Do I take sides?


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