On Saturday's nationally broadcast Fox game, the one where the Phillies and their fans really could have used a Little League style mercy rule, the Fox broadcasters did an in-dugout interview with Jonathan Pettibone.
Not content to let a rookie have his moment in the sun uninterrupted, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee took the opportunity to have some fun. They put a batting helmet on Pettibone's head, and in this GIF that you can see from Crossing Broad, they showered him with sunflower seeds. Harmless fun in the middle of a lost game?
Well, that's not how the front office saw it. Instead, Ruben Amaro and Charlie Manuel saw it as an embarrassment to the team on national television. Before Sunday's game, Amaro and Manuel called a team meeting and let the players know that they acted inappropriately given the horrible game Saturday and the team's overall record. After the meeting, both players and management were tight-lipped, though Cliff Lee did not sound happy. Todd Zolecki has the details here.
This morning, the unwieldy and never-silent-for-more-than-a-few-minutes TGP administrative email chain lit up with a discussion of the team meeting. We had very different opinions about the meeting, from one blogger wondering "if this wasn't a tactical move to try to unify the team for a final push, Dallas Green-style" and others complaining that Ruben Amaro is just a geek whose dictionary at Stanford was missing all entries between "fumy" and "funambulator."
So, rather than turn our discussion into a basis for an internal blog civil war splitting us into those who have fun and those who sit at home on Saturday nights reading math formulas in their mother's basements (hmmm, wonder which side this author is on), we thought we'd share our responses with you.
Here are four of our reactions to the team meeting. Share your thoughts in the comments.
Joecatz: Maybe it's the former athlete in me here, but I think it was warranted. The golden rule when I played was have fun when your winning, not when your losing. I was never on national television, but I would think that, with the trade deadline looming, while your losing to the division leader on national TV, acting like some macho frat boys and hazing a rookie is in bad taste.
Lastly, Athletes respond to ass kicking not ass kissing. It's in their blood. Sometimes, a stupid thing like this, is the perfect igniter for a good old fashioned ass kicking. It's like when you get in a fight with your spouse over using the last of the salad dressing, and it ends up a 30 minute drag out about something else entirely. At least the air is cleared.
How you react is the real issue. Hopefully the results are positive. I don't care if they took it positively or negatively as long as they took it to heart and change what they need to change to go out and play hard between now and the deadline.
Liz Roscher: Fun is not allowed on the Phillies. They are a professional team, dammit. I remember in 2011, when they were winning left and right, no one looked like they were having fun. That's just not the kind of team the front office wanted them to be. The same seems true now. God forbid they enjoy themselves. It's gotta be a slog sometimes (most of the time), and if they don't break up the monotony, going to work has to be a nightmare.
It seems like at least a few players agree as well. In Todd Zolecki's article, Cliff Lee seemed particularly upset about the (supposed) reprimand.
"I'm not doing the in-game interview today," Cliff Lee barked at a Phillies media relations staff member beforehand in front of a MLB.com reporter. "If they're going to get mad about that, we're not doing them anymore."
Well now. It's not like Lee is a rookie who isn't paying attention. He's been in the majors since 2002. He knows what it takes to break up the tension, especially when your team is being stomped by a division rival. If he was the pitcher in that game, or Hamels, or Pettibone, then I'd understand. But I don't think attaching a cup to the top of someone's batting helmet is going to hurt anyone. It's harmless, ridiculous fun, and Lord knows we all need that right about now.
dajafi: I wasn't watching the game, but it sounds like the optics were terrible. Team's getting crushed on national TV, the fans are sweltering in absurd heat, the Visigoths of Sell are coming over the seventh hill of the WFC Empire, and you're playing with Pettibone's hair? Really?
This isn't about arbitrary exercise of power by suits with an allergy to fun. It's not even Roy Oswalt making a face behind Rich Dubee on camera. It's showing some basic awareness of the team's desperate situation and giving the impression that they, y'know, care. Charlie Manuel isn't a hardass; that's why the players love him, and probably has something to do with their crazy great second half track record. I don't think Amaro is either, actually; smug ex-jocks might be a lot of things, but totally humorless usually isn't one of them.
Anyway, Todd Zolecki was right on in the conclusion to his piece: this is nothing a winning streak wouldn't cure.
David S. Cohen: I'm with Cliff here. The season is 162 games long. The only way to get through it is to have some fun,
even when especially when the team is losing. It's absolutely ok in my mind, in fact I'd go so far as to say preferable and desirable, for players to do what they did on Saturday rather than sitting around sulking through another loss. Otherwise, in a game in which only 1 team wins the World Series each year, it'd be a grim-reaper slit-your-wrists business, and I don't think anyone wants that.
And so what if they looked like macho idiots on TV? First, they're professional baseball players, so by nature they're macho idiots. That's who we root for and follow. If that's our problem with these guys, then we should choose something else to spend our time obsessing about. Second, it's baseball, so over the course of the season, every team is going to get stomped by a division rival at least once, probably many more times. It happens, it even happens on national TV, and when it does, if you look like a sourpuss who is dejected beyond repair, what good is that doing anyone?