Cataldi: Rollins, Manuel wearing out welcomes

What was charming four years ago is infuriating today. Jimmy Rollins had a cocky style back in the championship season, a swagger that captivated Philly. Charlie Manuel was a bumbling genius, the

stammering soul of a beloved ballclub.

Now, a depleted Jimmy Rollins and a defeated Charlie Manuel are just an embarrassment — to their city and especially to their own legacy. In this season of discontent, they are the embodiment of our disappointment, two former heroes who are a constant reminder of the painful passage of time.

Yet another reminder of their futility came last week. It all began when Rollins bounced a grounder to short and left the batter’s box with all the urgency of a tourist at Independence Mall. He was barely halfway down the baseline when Jose Reyes flipped the ball to first.

Rollins’ lack of hustle was so egregious that the Phillies’ broadcasters on radio and TV lambasted him in unison. Unfortunately, they were the only ones who did. His teammates never mentioned it when Rollins slogged back to the dugout, and Manuel looked the other way.

The next morning, the city reacted angrily on my WIP radio show, foreshadowing a meeting later that day between Manuel and Rollins and then some insulting comments from both. Manuel said Rollins seemed contrite, so there would be no punishment. Rollins said something was bothering him, but he wouldn’t say what.

Well, something is bothering me, too, and I have no reluctance to blurt it out. Rollins and Manuel are symptoms of a fatal disease gripping the Phillies. The players don’t care.

And the man responsible for that attitude is the same clubhouse maestro who got all the credit for manipulating the psyche of his club all the way to a parade on Broad Street. Manuel’s shrug at Rollins’ behavior was one more example of his work this whole season. He has done nothing to rescue a drowning ballclub.

When the Phillies decided to sign Rollins to a three-year, $33-million contract last winter, my voice was among the loudest against that move — both because the shortstop is one of the worst lead-off hitters in baseball and because the team had a promising replacement in Freddy Galvis.

The good news is, despite his decline, the playoff-tested Rollins will be tradable after the season, especially to a contender. Meanwhile, the Phillies have a successor to Manuel already in place. Ryne Sandberg is an upgrade in every area, including the clubhouse.

All that remains is for the Phillies’ organization to cast aside sentiment and move into the future. It’s time for Jimmy Rollins to take his bad attitude elsewhere. And it’s well past the time for Charlie Manuel to meet the eventual fate of all folk heroes.

It’s not 2008 anymore. Say goodbye, Jimmy and Charlie.

Hooked on a feeling, for now

The first blush of a summer romance has overtaken our city again, just as it did in the early days with Allen Iverson, Cliff Lee and Eric Lindros. The new source of our blind adoration is Andrew Bynum.

In an outpouring of love that exceeded expectations (and logic), more than 700 fans turned out to greet the seven-footer at his public news conference. Bynum, following the script perfectly, detonated an explosion of cheers when he said he wanted to make his home here. Of course, like all relationships, the flaws will soon surface. Bynum’s me-first attitude got him booted from the Lakers despite his age and talent. His commitment to improvement is dubious at best, given the public criticism offered by his former assistant coach, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. And then there are those knees.

Bynum will be heading to Germany soon for a bizarre blood-platelet procedure on his knees that will, in theory at least, re-grow some of the cartilage missing from the joints. It’s hard to ignore the timing of the treatment, just before his walk year in the NBA. Is Bynum going to this extreme to ensure a longer career, or just to stay healthy in a contract year?

These are all concerns and questions for another day. Right now, Sixer fans have a star attraction, the first genuine reason to buy tickets since Iverson’s prime. Everything Bynum says is either hilarious or inspiring. Every smile is charming and warm. Every appearance is an event.

If only this feeling could last.

Rizzo, king of robots

In a baseball world glutted with robots, a true king has emerged: Mike Rizzo, a longtime scout who lucked into the GM job in Washington. Armed with a radar gun and a crystal ball, Rizzo has decided to take the game’s preoccupation with numbers to a whole new level.

As the Nationals are approaching their first playoff berth, Rizzo is adamant that he will shut down Stephen Strasburg because his ace will reach an arbitrary innings limit. The exact number is still in question, but it is around 170.

Rizzo’s thinking is, since Strasburg had elbow surgery two years ago, the risk rises dramatically for a new injury once Strasburg reaches a magic number of innings. Not a single medical study supports this theory, but so what? If a 120-pitch limit for starters is gospel, why not 170 innings for kids coming off Tommy John surgery?

I’ll tell you. Because the whole point of a season is to try and win a title. Because from the time Strasburg was a boy, this was his dream. Because the essence of competition is a full effort, every season, every pitch.

You can forget about the Nationals winning it all, even though they have the best record in baseball. They have been eliminated by a robot named Mike Rizzo.

– Angelo Cataldi is the host of 94 WIP’s Morning Show, which airs weekdays 5:30-10 a.m.

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