The Phillies clubhouse is not a happy place right now.
In the wake of the “firing/resignation” of Charlie Manuel on Friday that sent shockwaves throughout baseball, new manager Ryne Sandberg inherits a clubhouse that is apparently splintered and downright crestfallen.
Apparently, a lot of these guys don’t like each other very much. At least, that’s the gist from CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury, who said as much during his fierce defense of Charlie Manuel yesterday.
Some of the players on this team never came back from the All-Star break. Some of them stayed on vacation. Sandberg indicated that when he said his first order of business would be to “remind” the players that they are “major leaguers” and every game is “meaningful.” Pressed on that point, Sandberg admitted he’d seen “lackadaisical” play recently. Cole Hamels, who has pitched brilliantly since the All-Star break, concurred with Sandberg…
…Sandberg has work to do in the clubhouse. It is not a happy place. Aside from a pocket of young guys with eager eyes and hopeful futures, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of togetherness. There is finger pointing. The fun is gone. That’s understandable because losing is not fun. The lack of togetherness is also somewhat understandable considering that Jonathan Papelbon recently indicated that he did not come here for this. Those comments did not sit well with a number of players who wondered, whatever happened to We’re all in this together? In this summer when we pray for Darren Daulton, a man who led a great Phillies team with those words, that concept seems to have escaped the team’s closer. The clubhouse has been a dour place ever since Papelbon’s self-serving comments and the clubhouse, as they say, leads to the playing field.
I have little doubt that Salisbury is correct. I have no doubt that a losing clubhouse is an unhappy clubhouse. But could one guy’s comments really be that destructive? I mean, it’s Jonathan Papelbon!
Here’s what I don’t like about stories like these. The lack of details.
I understand that writers aren’t supposed to share details of what goes on inside the clubhouse. What happens in the clubhouse, stays in the clubhouse. If it doesn’t, I would imagine that writer is going to lose a lot of access.
But as a fan, when someone writes that people are pointing fingers and that there are players who at just going through the motions, it would be nice to know who those players are. Maybe that’s something we don’t NEED to know, but it sure is something we would LIKE to know.
And of course, this clubhouse would likely be a lot happier if the team hadn’t gone into a black hole after the All Star Break. Michael Young‘s superb clubhouse leadership abilities can apparently go only so far. Chase Utley‘s dogged determination apparently isn’t enough anymore. And Jimmy Rollins‘ ability to keep the clubhouse loose apparently isn’t as effective when the team is playing like the Cleveland Spiders.
There is no Darren Daulton in this clubhouse. Daulton was a special case because, not only was he a vocal leader, he could also beat the crap out of every single human being in that locker room. Maybe Pete Incaviglia could have given him a run for his money, but Daulton was a walking muscle with hair.
The Phillies don’t have anyone like that.
And Charlie Manuel is responsible for some of this. As many people have already mentioned, Manuel is a player’s manager, and his players had begun to tune him out. Once the decision had been made not to bring Manuel back for 2014, it made all the sense in the world to put Sandberg in the managerial seat to see how he handles a group of players who are used to winning but aren’t doing much of it anymore. It seems apparent that the Phils are not sold 100% on Sandberg as the answer. The last month and a half of the season will be an interesting audition for him.
But as Salisbury mentioned in his piece, these are professional baseball players. While it’s true they are human beings and should be cut some slack from time to time, there’s no excuse for mailing it in to the degree we’re seeing right now.
A winning clubhouse is usually a happy clubhouse. A losing clubhouse is usually about as much fun as a trip to the dentist. Philadelphia has become a bad place to play baseball. And until this team assembles enough talent to actually become a consistent winner again, chances are the clubhouse isn’t going to be a very happy place.
Which is a real shame, given how it was one of the best just a few short years ago.