Philadelphia Phillies manager Charlie Manuel decided that revisiting the old days was a good idea. While he had gotten good production from Juan Pierre so far this season, long-time leadoff man Jimmy Rollins has been languishing in the third spot and Hunter Pence was also struggling in the cleanup hole.
So, with team-leading hitter Pierre finding himself on the bench against the Cubs, Rollins hit first and Pence hit third for the first time this season.
Newer theories are less relevant
Pierre is the type of player who gets a lot of hits (179 in 2010 and 178 in 2011 for the Chicago White Sox), but doesn't generate a high OPS (.657 during the two previously noted years). The 13-year veteran is a throwback to the days when small men got on base and sluggers knocked them in.
After baseball moved into the performance enhancing drug era, statistics and strategy were both distorted.
The idea that a thin white cardboard lineup should be filled almost entirely with home run hitters would have been fine for a nostalgic Strat-O-Matic turn with two old buddies. But, what that reality did to the actual game of baseball and to the lives of real men was devastating.
With faddish shout outs like 'everybody hits' discredited, we appear to be moving through a transitional era in diamond time.
Tinkering until Evers and Chance return
All digital dudes and dudettes can calm down, as we know that Chase Utley and Ryan Howard are not sabermetrically comparable to Chicago Cubs greats Johnny Evers and Frank Chance. But, Rollins, Utley and Howard are equatable to Joe Tinker, Evers and Chance when famous double play combinations are noted.
While the game hasn't gone back in time, it is moving toward a space when lineups (like life) represent the diversity of body types and talent sets.
Rollins has never been the ideal leadoff hitter, but his position in that top spot is tied to five consecutive division titles. If Placido Polanco can be even somewhat as effective in the two-hole as he has been in the past, Pence should be fine in the three-spot until Utley comes back.
For now, Manuel's job is to tinker with his lineup until his own Evers and Chance return. While he knows that those two old-time ballplayers won't 'save' his lineup, their presence will allow other players to shift to more acceptable spots.
Meanwhile, if Rollins does well, more middle-aged men will be able to write his name in pencil at the top of 2012 scorecard spots from here on out.
Sean O'Brien's professional writing career began in 1990, when he first began working in the Philadelphia Phillies farm system. He was a freelance sports writer for five years and is currently a Featured Contributor for Yahoo! Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
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