Carlos Santana was a polarizing player during his one season in Philly — criticized by those focusing on the $20 million annual salary, respected by those who valued his plate selection, high on-base percentage and ability to play every day. More went into that debate — Rhys Hoskins’ displacement from first base was a prominent factor — and the Phillies were able to change course in a profitable way this offseason.
Not before Santana was able to make his presence felt, though.
An interesting story surfaced Monday at ESPN that should add a whole lot of respect to Santana’s name. Santana told ESPN that a couple Phillies played the video game “Fortnite” in a room in the clubhouse during games and it didn’t sit well with him for obvious reasons. It’s hard to believe any major-league player, young or old, would have believed this was OK.
Santana smashed the TV with his bat.
"We come and lose too many games, and I feel like they weren't worried about it,” Santana told ESPN. “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."
Santana has since been traded twice — by the Phillies to the Mariners along with J.P. Crawford for Jean Segura, James Pazos and Juan Nicasio, and then by the Mariners to the Indians for Edwin Encarnacion.
The Phillies needed to make the Santana trade for several reasons — improve the defense by moving Hoskins back to first base, improve shortstop by turning a player in Crawford, who might one day pan out into a proven top-of-the-order, into a .300 hitter in Segura.
It’s an example of leadership that Santana’s veteran teammates and management appreciated. There are several glowing quotes about Santana from manager Gabe Kapler and GM Matt Klentak within the piece.
Playing video games in a back room during a game is an extreme example of immaturity, but it’s a reason you shouldn’t dismiss the cliche phrases “clubhouse chemistry” or “veteran presence.” It all matters and it all can affect a team, especially when things are going south as they did for the Phillies in the final month last season.
Aside from Segura, the Phillies have added four other veterans in Andrew McCutchen, David Robertson, J.T. Realmuto and, of course, Bryce Harper, to go along with experienced players like Jake Arrieta and Pat Neshek. The Phillies have a good balance of youth and experience in their clubhouse, and despite the additions still have an average age younger than 28 in both the lineup and rotation.
Kapler also talked early in spring training about having higher expectations for clubhouse behavior this year — he’s not going to turn into a stern taskmaster, but a situation as ridiculous as the one Santana discussed shows that baseball wasn’t always the focus, even during work hours, for a few guys last season.
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