Phillies expect better clubhouse atmosphere

New rules, added veteran presence should improve off-field preparation

March 18th, 2019

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- There will be no more Fortnite, Pokemon, Dragon Ball Z, Ozarks or ping pong in the Phillies’ clubhouse in 2019.

Well, at least not in the hour before first pitch.

And definitely not during games.

The Phillies on Monday discussed an ESPN story that former teammate used a bat to bash multiple TVs in the Phillies’ clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park during the second-to-final game of the season. Santana had been upset that “a couple” players played Fortnite during games, even while the team suffered a historic collapse.

Manager Gabe Kapler and slugger said Monday they were unaware that players played video games during games. Jake Arrieta denied it happened at all. But they all said a group of players gathered and agreed that there will be more boundaries in the clubhouse this season, an acknowledgement that there were issues.

Kapler alluded to issues in February, saying the Phillies set boundaries “that make it clear that we are here to work every single day.” He declined to discuss specifics.

But some Phillies took advantage last season of a clubhouse with few rules. It snowballed in the season’s final two months, following outside roster additions in July and August and a 17-34 finish over the final 51 games. The feeling this spring is that those issues are buried, thanks to recent roster additions that include veterans like , and , who will help the players better police themselves.

“Look,” Hoskins said, “I think this is kind of giving us a little bit of a roadmap of what we need to focus on for this year, right? What needed to change in our clubhouse.”

Some of the issues last season were relatively mundane, like players still being in the clubhouse during the national anthem. Some were more disrespectful, like players hanging out in the clubhouse during games, either playing video games or just flipping through their phones. There is the continued belief that some players quit as the Phillies fell from contention, although Kapler denies that.

“I think in September our players could have been more engaged,” Kapler acknowledged.

The Phillies skipper met with the team in the season’s final days. He also met individually with players.

“When things aren't going the way that they should, it is always my responsibility to step up and be accountable for those things,” Kapler said. “And I will do that in this situation as well.”

Hoskins defended Kapler.

“One thing that I want to make clear is that this has absolutely nothing to do with Kap,” he said. “Kap is a great leader. He knows how to bring us together. He left it up to us players to kind of police ourselves. When you’re winning, the chemistry in here is great. Everybody is bonding, right?

"But when you’re frustrated and losing the way that we did at the end of the year, you start to search. You search for answers. What are we doing wrong? People get frustrated. That’s the natural flow of this game. And emotions run high and I think that’s what we saw with Carlos last year. It kind of made us aware that we as players need to do a better job of holding each other accountable and making sure that we’re all preparing for a game.”

Santana bashed at least two TVs in the team’s prep room, which sits across from the Phillies’ training room.

His anger had been building for some time.

“There was a lot of video game-playing and I was a part of it, too,” Arrieta said. “But well in advance of the game -- and that was something that we bonded over. A lot of young kids like to play games. Some people, two hours before a game, like to watch Netflix on their phone or Hulu or whatever, sit at their locker and do that. I like to be around the young kids that like to play. It brought us close together and it was something we had in common. It was fun. But as far as during the game -- and I’ve talked to a bunch of our guys -- I do not believe that was taking place.”

Arrieta said he wished he knew Santana was upset.

"We could have had a conversation about, 'OK, I understand that you maybe don't like guys playing video games, but what if someone doesn't like you on your phone watching a movie before the game?'” he said. “It's kind of the same thing. So, for me, it's just a matter of understanding that guys are different, guys like to prepare different, but at the end of the day no one should be watching Netflix or whatever during the game or video games."

Said Kapler: “We are putting steps in place to ensure that when tensions run high again, players communicate and look out for each other.”