Setting clubhouse boundaries is a smashing idea for these Phillies

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Setting clubhouse boundaries is a smashing idea for these Phillies

CLEARWATER, Fla. — At the start of spring training, Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said he would implement stronger clubhouse boundaries "that make it clear we are here to work every single day."

At the time, Kapler refused to offer examples of why he would run a tighter ship in his second season on the job.

Now, thanks to Carlos Santana, Kapler's reasoning is becoming clearer.

In an ESPN story posted Monday morning, Santana, now with the Cleveland Indians after spending 2018 with the Phillies, tells of smashing a television on the final weekend of the season after seeing "a couple" of teammates playing video games during a game against the Atlanta Braves at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies, who plummeted from first place in the NL East to under .500 over the final seven weeks of the season, lost their ninth straight game when Santana acted out.

The ESPN story was a topic of conversation in the Phillies' clubhouse Monday morning. Both Jake Arrieta and Rhys Hoskins downplayed the incident.

"There is some untruth to the story, some things that were not portrayed correctly," Arrieta said. "I don't believe that guys were playing video games during the game. That's something that I would not allow and a majority of the guys on the team would not allow.

"There was a lot of video-game playing and I was a part of it, too, but well in advance of the game — and that was something that we bonded over. 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 went on to say that Santana did his damage late at night, well after most of the players had departed.

Arrieta and Hoskins are both part of a group of players that, in concert with Kapler, have come up with a new set of standards for the clubhouse.

"I think this is kind of giving us a little bit of a roadmap of what we need to focus on this year, what needed to change in our clubhouse," Hoskins said. "One thing that I want to make clear is that this has absolutely nothing to do with Kap. 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 is great and everybody is bonding. But when you're frustrated and losing the way that we did at the end of the year, you start to search for answers. What are we doing wrong? People get frustrated. That's the natural flow of this game. Emotions run high and I think that's what we saw with Carlos last year. Nobody is knocking him for doing that. It happens. That's what happens in a room full of men when you're frustrated. But, like I said, 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." 

Arrieta said video-gaming would now stop an hour before the game.

He went on to explain that the Phillies' pre-game clubhouse was not some red-pinstriped version of Pee-wee's Playhouse.

"Everybody's wired differently, everybody locks in for a game differently," he said. "For one guy to think that video games are a disturbance to the team, is another guy's version of getting prepared for the game. You don't have to be sitting in front of the video screen watching videotape up until the first pitch to get ready for the game. Everyone is different in that regard.

"That's why I say communication (between Santana and teammates) should have taken place because 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?' 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."

It is not unusual for players not in a game to spend time in the clubhouse during a game. Arrieta said there would be more focus on being in the dugout during the game, starting with the National Anthem, this season.

Santana was traded to Seattle and then Cleveland this winter. The trade was not a result of his frustration; it was to open first base for Hoskins. Santana paid for the damage that he did to the Phillies' video equipment. He is not the first Phillie to get a bill for smashing a TV. It has happened in the past, usually out of frustration over performance.

"I like Carlos and I think he's a great player," Arrieta said. "I just think it boils down to not communicating, and that's it. I wish it would've happened. It didn't. But it's not something anybody in here is worried about. We're focused on March 28, really, and preparation for the Braves and getting our guys out of here healthy.

"It's just some crap that happened last year that was unfortunate, but once the year was over, we all pretty much forgot about it."

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Phillies' 2020 World Series odds are pretty surprising

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Phillies' 2020 World Series odds are pretty surprising

Most of the baseball world agrees that the Phillies are improved with the additions of No. 2 starter Zack Wheeler, shortstop Didi Gregorius, and the new contingent of manager Joe Girardi, pitching coach Bryan Price and hitting coach Joe Dillon.

The question is how much improved?

The Phils won 81 games last season, a year after winning 80. Both years, they totally collapsed in September. Both years, a good number of players were simply playing out the string, though the effort level was more questionable in 2018 than in 2019.

Even though the Phillies were quiet this offseason after their two big signings, and even though the NL East is still a beast, they should still exceed 81 wins. If they don't, there's a serious problem. If they don't, the GM probably won't be here to try to rectify things next offseason.

The over/under win totals are out and the Phillies' number is 85.5 at FanDuel and 84.5 at DraftKings.

I'd go over at 84.5. Think about how many injuries the Phillies suffered last season. Think about the talent gap between Wheeler and every Phillies starting pitcher behind Aaron Nola last season. The impact of Girardi, Price and Dillon won't be all that quantifiable, but it is realistic that this revamped coaching staff can conjure a few more wins out of the 2020 Phillies, whether it's in-game decision-making or better instructions given to young players who underperformed last season.

At DraftKings, the Mets' over/under is a game better than the Phillies' at 85.5. The Braves are at 90.5 and the Nationals 88.5. The Marlins are at 64.5, higher than only one team, the Tigers.

Much more surprising are the Phillies' World Series odds. They have the sixth-shortest odds to win it all. Seriously. They're +1800. Here is the Top 10:

Yankees: 3.5/1
Dodgers: 5/1
Astros: 6/1
Braves: 11/1
Nationals: 14/1
Phillies: 18/1
Mets: 20/1
Twins: 20/1
Red Sox: 22/1
Cubs: 22/1

Apparently, the expectation is that the NL Central will be bringing up the rear in 2020. Really, the only NL Central team that improved was the Reds. The Cardinals lost Marcell Ozuna, the Brewers lost Yasmani Grandal and the Cubs didn't spend money on a single major-league free agent.

Four of the top seven teams being NL East teams just shows you how much of a battle these next seven months will be for the Phils.

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Phillies prospects Spencer Howard and Alec Bohm make Baseball America's Top 100 list

Phillies prospects Spencer Howard and Alec Bohm make Baseball America's Top 100 list

Baseball America’s always interesting Top 100 Prospects list landed this week and the Phillies are represented with two players in the top half.

Starting pitcher Spencer Howard ranks 27th on the list and third baseman Alec Bohm 28th. Both players are projected to open the coming season at Triple A and get to the majors at some point in 2020. Both have been invited to major-league spring training camp, which begins in less than three weeks in Clearwater. See the complete list of Phillies’ in-house non-roster invites here.

Howard, a 23-year-old right-hander, was the Phillies’ second-round draft pick in 2017. We profiled him here.

In its story on the Top 100 prospects, Baseball America offered this take on Howard: Triple-digit fastball, swing-and-miss curveball and the ability to work the edges of the strike zone, Howard flashes front-end potential.

Bohm, 23, was the third overall pick in the 2018 draft. He hit .305 with 21 homers, 80 RBIs and a .896 OPS at three levels, including Double A in 2019. We profiled him here.

Baseball America offered this take on Bohm: Even with questions about whether he’ll have to move to first base, Bohm has the feel to hit and plus power to hit in the middle of the Phillies’ order, and soon.

Shortstop Wander Franco of the Tampa Bay Rays was ranked No. 1 on Baseball America’s list for the second year in a row. The Rays placed eight players on the list. Because of a loaded farm system, the Rays were unable to protect left-hander Cristopher Sanchez on their 40-man roster and the Phillies traded for him in November. Read about Sanchez here.

The Los Angeles Dodgers placed seven players on the list and the Minnesota Twins and San Diego Padres had six each.

The Miami Marlins led National League East teams with five players in the Top 100, including former Phillies pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez, who was traded for J.T. Realmuto a year ago. Sanchez ranks 16th on the list and is projected to arrive in the majors sometime in 2020.

The Atlanta Braves placed four players on the list and the Washington Nationals and New York Mets joined the Phillies with two players.

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