NEW YORK -- Jimmy Rollins broke one of manager Charlie Manuel's two rules on June 5, when he didn't hustle out a pop fly that ended up not being caught. He was benched after that inning. Rollins broke the second rule -- "Be on time" -- on Thursday, and it landed him on the bench in the most recent battle for first place in the National League East. In the city where Rollins thrives as one of the public enemies, the reigning NL Most Valuable Player left separately from the Le Parker Meridien Hotel, on 118 West 57th Street, and encountered Thursday morning gridlock.
Arriving about an hour before the scheduled 12:10 p.m. ET start time -- or roughly 40 minutes after the team bus, Rollins was quickly summoned into Manuel's office. "Jimmy was late getting to the yard today," Manuel said following the Phillies' 3-1 loss to the Mets. "We talked. It's an in-house thing between him and I. That's one of our rules, hustle and be on time. That's all I have to say about it." Though Eric Bruntlett performed well in Rollins' stead -- going 3-for-4 with two doubles and single -- Rollins' absence can't be overstated. The Phillies, who have gone 13-20 since reaching a season-high 13 games above .500 (41-28) on June 13, need their sparkplug, especially after seeing the Mets pass them in the standings. That's what Rollins brings. When he was benched for his lack of hustle on June 5, he agreed with Manuel, saying, "It's my fault. I know better. That's like breaking the law and getting mad when the police show up. I just have to go out there and make sure I don't do it again." While Rollins understands that he's held to a higher standard as one of the team leaders, he didn't agree with Manuel's decision this time. "I agreed with him last time, but we're not going to agree on this one," Rollins said. "I understood it. He's the manager and has to set a precedent. With certain players, you're respected and held up to higher rules, and that's fine. "I was just a little too late. You can't change the lights." Rollins said he was late one other time this season, but called ahead. He thought about doing that again, but realized there was no point. "It wasn't any use," he said. "You can say traffic, but that doesn't really change anything. It was a situation where you know you're not going to get there no matter what you do." Rollins' only contribution in the game was grounding to third on the first pitch he saw from Billy Wagner, perhaps fittingly completing the Phillies fall out of first place. Rollins said that he "regretted" only that his team lost, not his absence. He mentioned the 60 remaining games and said the team isn't down to be in second place for the first time since June 1. "In the past, a loss was like, 'We needed this one.' Now it's like, 'We didn't get it, let's go out there tomorrow and win.' That's the difference in attitude. That's what usually starts turning things around." The difference in attitude, according to some players, may need to start with Rollins. Shane Victorino, who usually is the first to needle Rollins for infractions, chose not to speak on this topic. Jamie Moyer, one of the unquestioned leaders, did. "Rules are rules," said Moyer, who didn't realize Rollins had been benched until he was warming up in the game. "I commend Charlie for standing up to the rules he made. We all need to be accountable. Each team has rules and you play not only for the manager and coaching staff, but amongst teammates. You create who you are in the clubhouse and on the field in the way that you act and carry yourself. "I'm sure it's something that probably won't happen again."
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.