The Philadelphia Phillies reportedly want to get rid of Cliff Lee and other negative clubhouse presences


Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

According to Howard Eskin – the man who brought you those fun Dom Brown for Jose Bautista rumors last year – the Phillies locker room was not exactly a fun place to be in 2014. This was mostly thanks to several players who are thought to be “bad clubhouse guys.”

Okay, we all know that Jonathan Papelbon might not be the most team-first guy around. That isn’t news. (Despite that the young relievers actually seem to look up to him as a mentor and have given him credit for helping in their development.)

And while Phillies fans may love Cliff Lee, this isn’t the first time that he’s been accused of being somewhat of a negative presence. Lee’s situation seems somewhat like that of John Kruk where he has a public persona that doesn’t quite match up with reality.

As for Marlon Byrd? This is the first time I’ve heard of him being a bad guy. I mean, the Phillies should have had a pretty good idea of how he fits in a major league clubhouse, but they still brought him back. (Then again, this is the same team that signed Delmon Young. So who knows?)

While I don’t completely discount the effect that strong leadership and a good clubhouse atmosphere can have on a team, I also believe that the team’s success shapes the clubhouse atmosphere more than the atmosphere affects winning.

To prove my point, I’ll now digress into a probably completely irrelevant comparison to my co-ed softball team.

Am I the Jonathan Papelbon of softball? Image credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Over the years, my team has had a inconsistent level of success. We’ve had seasons where we’ve succeeded and finished near the top of the standings. We’ve also had seasons where we’ve struggled to win more than a couple of games. (If you’re curious, the inconsistency is mostly due to the league’s constant shifting of teams from division to division in order to create competitive balance.)

I’ve noticed that our level of team chemistry often corresponds directly with how much success we’re having. When we’re winning, we come off as a happy, cohesive bunch who enjoys each others’ company. When we’re losing, it feels like we’re at each other’s throats.

On a more personal level, I’ve noticed that my witty personality seems to be received differently based on the score of the game. For instance, if we’ve got a comfortable lead, and one of my teammates pops up with the bases loaded, they tend to laugh at my comment of, “Hey, way to get those runs home!” On the other hand, if we’re facing a major deficit, such a comment usually merits glares and a few nasty words in return.

Does my biting humor make me a fun guy to have on the team? Or does it make me somewhat of a negative influence? It seems to depend on the situation, and I’m willing to guess that the same can be said for some of the “bad guys” on the Phillies.

For instance, Cliff Lee seemed to have no trouble fitting in with the 2009 Phillies. And Jonathan Papelbon owns a World Series ring. Their negative personalities didn’t seem to hurt their teams too much.

With that in mind, I think that if the Phillies really want to improve the team, they need to worry about filling the roster with talented players first, and “good clubhouse” guys second. They need to ask themselves this question: What is going to help the Phillies more in 2015 – Cliff Lee being healthy and pitching well, or Lee being traded away and replaced with someone who might be a little more fun to be around?

Get a talented team that wins games, and I think the clubhouse problems will take care of themselves.