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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