In Gabe Kapler’s first year managing the young Philadelphia Phillies, he emphasized that he wanted the players to police the clubhouse.
Turns out that last point might have been a little harder to execute than he thought — at least at the end of the season.
ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported that former Phillies first baseman Carlos Santana got so angry that several of his teammates were playing “Fortnite” in the clubhouse during a game that he smashed a TV with his bat.
According to Passan, the incident happened on Sept. 28 during a long losing streak. Santana had seen several teammates playing the popular video game “Fortnite” in the clubhouse during the game, and so he decided to smash the TV to put an end to that, and to send the players a message.
"I see a couple players -- I don't want to say names -- they play video games during the game," Santana told ESPN. "We come and lose too many games, and I feel like they weren't worried about it. Weren't respecting their teammates or coaches or the staff or the [front] office. It's not my personality. But I'm angry because I want to make it good."
The season was almost over at that point, but the team was frustrated. They were on a nine-game losing streak, having played themselves out of playoff contention weeks ago. Guys were checked out mentally. There were also a lot players who had joined the team when the rosters expanded from 25 to 40 at the start of September. With so many minor leaguers up in the majors, some for the very first time, keeping a handle on clubhouse culture may have been more difficult.
Was Santana punished?
Playing “Fortnite” in the clubhouse — even when your team is in the middle of a depressing end-of-season losing streak — certainly isn’t acceptable. But smashing a clubhouse TV with a bat is akin to someone taking a bat and smashing a piece of office equipment in the middle of your conference room during the workday. It’s disturbing workplace violence, which is definitely not acceptable.
Kapler acknowledged that the TV-smashing incident happened, but he didn’t give any indication to ESPN that Santana’s behavior had been addressed in the final days of the season. Kapler also didn’t say whether the behavior of the other players had been addressed — but perhaps it’s because players weren’t actually playing “Fortnite” during a game. Arrieta told the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Scott Lauber that he disputes the claim that anyone was playing video games while the team was playing.
Jake Arrieta acknowledged that #Phillies players played video games, ping pong, etc., before games last season, but disputed that it happened during games, as detailed in ESPN story this morning.— Scott Lauber (@ScottLauber) March 18, 2019
"I don't think it was happening, really," Arrieta said. "I don't believe that guys were playing video games during the game, because that's something that I wouldn't allow and I know a majority of the guys on the team wouldn't allow."— Scott Lauber (@ScottLauber) March 18, 2019
Arrieta also acknowledged that Carlos Santana did, in fact, smash a TV after the third-to-last game of the season. But, according to Arrieta, it happened "late at night, well after everybody had left." Arrieta also says he wishes Santana had come to him to discuss.— Scott Lauber (@ScottLauber) March 18, 2019
Did Phillies address clubhouse issues in offseason?
The Phillies clubhouse in 2018 was full of young players. There were only a handful of veterans, so while Kapler’s decision to let the players police the clubhouse was a noble one, that philosophy may not have been the best fit for the team.
The 2019 Phillies look significantly different. Santana is gone, but the Phillies traded for or signed several veterans to take his place. J.T. Realmuto is 28 and has been in the majors for five seasons. Harper is 26, but he’s a seven-year veteran. Jean Segura has also been in the majors for seven years. Andrew McCutchen has a decade of service time and is well known for being a good clubhouse guy.
Kapler also convened a 13-player committee to help set a policy for when players are expected to be in the dugout. With all the major changes to the team over the offseason, he’s confident that the front office has made the right moves to improve both the play on the field and the atmosphere in the clubhouse. Via ESPN:
"We brought in some respected veteran leaders that have been through the ups and downs of a long season. They will help us stay locked in through any tough stretches. Our young players gained valuable experience going through their first pennant race. We saw what worked last year, and we've made some adjustments where things didn't work as well. I'm excited about our group and the culture we have."
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