Manuel says players got message at team meeting
Phillies' front office not happy with behavior during Saturday's blowout loss
PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies' front office thinks this is no time to goof around.
General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Friday the team needs to play well before the All-Star break or there could be changes to the 25-man roster. So when the front office watched players giddily shower Jonathan Pettibone with sunflower seeds and place a batting helmet and paper cup (with gum as an adhesive) atop his head Saturday during a FOX in-game interview in a 13-4 loss to Atlanta, it did not sit well.
It sparked Amaro and manager Charlie Manuel to call a team meeting before Sunday's game.
It sounded like they had a tough audience waiting for them.
"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."
Asked about the meeting, Amaro said, "I have nothing to say."
Did it go well?
"Nothing to say," he repeated.
"I'm not going to comment at all about that," Lee echoed.
The Phillies have occasional meetings throughout the season, but this one carried some additional significance with Amaro and the front office involved (Manuel usually calls meetings to talk to his team). But on a typically quiet Sunday morning, there was a flurry of activity with doors opening and closing, and catching coach Mick Billmeyer summoning pitching coach Rich Dubee and bullpen coach Rod Nichols from the bullpen so Amaro could speak with the entire coaching staff.
The clubhouse closed to reporters a short time later.
"They expressed their views about certain things," Michael Young said. "Our responsibility was to listen and apply everything that we do as a team toward getting better. But we definitely know that we're at a point in the season where it's important to crank out some wins. There's really no way around that. It was good. We're a team. Everything we do is going to be as a team. We talk about things in here. The message is to make everybody better."
"I don't want to talk about that," Manuel said. "What goes on in there [the clubhouse] is what goes on."
But Manuel said following a 7-3 victory over the Braves he thinks his players understand the importance of these upcoming games.
"I think they got the message," he said. "They know the importance of the games all the way up to the Trade Deadline."
Players' hijinks during games are nothing new. They try to stay loose during the grueling 162-game schedule, but while their antics had absolutely nothing to do with the team's poor play Saturday, some believe appearance matters. The Phillies have one of the highest payrolls in baseball, but they finished Sunday 43-46, 7 1/2 games behind the Braves in the National League East and 7 1/2 games behind the Reds for the second NL Wild Card.
Some thought it did not look good. Lee felt differently about it.
But simply, this is a meeting that never would have happened if the team was playing well. But with the season on the brink, things like this get magnified.
It is nothing a winning streak can't fix.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.