As Philadelphia Phillies fans, we naturally equate “good” and “bad” with whether the team wins or loses and if a certain player performs well or not. There are plenty of times where the Phillies will lose a heartbreaker and one of the guys goes 0-4, plays poor defense, and comes up small in a big moment. We get angry, frustrated, and, dare I say, maybe overreact just a bit. But all passionate sports fans feel like this about their respective team. Our mood changes with the successes and pitfalls of the Phillies for good and for bad. Do we know it’s somewhat irrational that something I have no control over and is really just a game has that much effect over me? Yes, yes we do, but it’s part of us and we love the Phillies.
When players don’t live up to expectations it’s easy, as fans, to get frustrated and to express those frustrations with boos at the stadium, angry tweets, or overall negative sentiments. But the truth is, these players care, these players want to do great and when they don’t perform up to their expectations, they are their own biggest critique.
On Wednesday night after a nightmarish game by Trea Turner where he went 0-5 and booted a routine grounder that would have ended the game, he owned his struggles. He acknowledged that he hasn’t been good, that this is the worst year of his career. He stayed two hours after the game to hit in the batting cage and do whatever he can to work himself out of this extended slump.
According to a story by Matt Gelb of The Athletic (subscription required), there was one player who stuck around late into the night with Turner and some coaches providing as much support as he can to his teammate. Nick Castellanos was by Turner’s side in the cage pelting him with words of encouragements. He was quoted to say, “He’s a competitor and he’s very smart. So, as a teammate, the only thing I can do is: I’m here for whatever it is that he needs. I’m here.” Castellanos went through his own struggles in 2022 where he significantly under performed his expectations after signing a big contract. But he bounced back in a big way in 2023, even making the All-Star game. However, numbers aside, Nick Castellanos is showing what makes him him. He’s a true leader, a true teammate, a true friend. He cares about the game of baseball so much but he cares about the guys he suits up with even more. It’s evident with the way he talks about them that he loves them and wants them to be great, probably even more then himself.
While Castellanos was mired in his season long slump last year he didn’t pout, he put his head down and worked on fixing his swing. He focused on being the best teammate and person he could be. Since the day he came to Philadelphia it was evident how important his family is. His wife and kids are at most games, cheering him on right behind the dugout. He brings his little ones to the podium for press conferences and does a handshake with his oldest after homeruns. Individual struggles aren’t as daunting when you have a support system like that.
Similar to Turner now, Castellanos had very public struggles. He was the aim of a lot of vitriol from fans and the Philadelphia media. But when it came down to it, he showed up every day and put all of his efforts into being better. Philadelphia fans are passionate, but they are smart too and they realize when a player needs the support. Castellanos repaid the fans for their support by showing up in the playoffs, having clutch hits and making, surprisingly, game saving defensive plays in right field.
Turner is going through it right now. You can see the angst in his demeanor, the hurt in his post game interviews. He wants to be better and, similar to Nick last year, is doing everything he can to fix it. He needs the support that Philadelphia has shown to its athletes in the past. Turner will turn it around, he’s too good not to. And when he does, this Phillies team will be even more scary because they are playing well even without their $300 million shortstop playing up to his standard.
After Tuesday night's game where Castellanos hit a two-run homerun that would end up being the game winner, he said “sometimes baseball doesn’t go the Phillies way, and everyone gets mad at us but you're not going to find a group of guys that care more and want to win for each other than guys in this dugout”. Turner has the support of his teammates, his loved ones and he’s going to get it from the fans in a big way. It’s going to be a sight to be seen when the Phillies and Turner return home and get a warm welcome from the Phillie faithful.