CLEARWATER, Fla. — As the Phillies limped to the finish line with 20 losses in the final 28 games last season, some players basically checked out.
"I think in September our players could have been more engaged," manager Gabe Kapler confirmed to reporters in Jupiter, Fla., on Monday. "With the players I thought could have been more engaged, those conversations were had. I addressed every situation that clearly needed to be addressed last year in appropriate settings."
Kapler spoke in response to an ESPN story that told of how Carlos Santana smashed a television at Citizens Bank Park after seeing a couple of teammates playing a video game during a ballgame against the Atlanta Braves on the final weekend of the season.
Phillies pitcher Jake Arrieta did not deny that some team members played video games in the clubhouse last season. He added that he did not believe video games were played during games.
Kapler said he was unaware of any of his players playing video games while the baseball game was in progress — "That's unacceptable, 100 percent," he said — but he did not deny that Santana trashed some equipment in the video room.
"In the middle of the summer, the chemistry of the clubhouse was very good," said Kapler, whose club was in first place in the NL East in early August. "As we struggled at the end, understandably, tensions ran high. When that happens, players tend to react.
"Carlos became frustrated as happens in high-tension situations. He responded by smashing up some TVs. I don't think that's uncommon. I don't think it's uncommon to see players get frustrated in high-tension situations. That happens in every clubhouse environment. "
Kapler said he spoke personally with Santana after the incident and addressed the team in a meeting. The manager opened spring training last month by saying he planned on having more clubhouse boundaries in his second season.
"We are putting steps in place to ensure that when tensions run high again, players communicate and look out for each other," Kapler said. "I care deeply about our clubhouse culture and we are collectively doing everything we can to continue to monitor these situations, and to improve that."
On Monday, Rhys Hoskins defended his manager and said the incident involving the video games and Santana's reaction was not a poor reflection on Kapler's leadership.
What does Kapler think?
"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."
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