Jeff Passan’s story about the Phillies’ clubhouse woes late last season has been the talk of the town today. The synopsis, in case you missed it: as the Phillies’ season was slipping away, some players were allegedly playing the video game Fortnite during games. Former Phillies first baseman Carlos Santana got upset about that, so he smashed the clubhouse TV with a bat.
As Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports, Phillies starter Jake Arrieta takes issue with Santana’s version of events. Arrieta said, “There is some untruth to the story, some things that were not portrayed correctly. 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.”
Arrieta added, “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 also said Santana smashed the TV late at night, when the clubhouse was mostly empty. In other words, Santana was doing it more as a way to express frustration while avoiding the immediate blowback his actions would incur. According to Arrieta, Santana never communicated his displeasure beforehand.
A lack of communication, not video gaming, is the issue. MLB clubhouses have long been a collective petri dish of masculine id. Players are taught that one emotion – anger – is acceptable; all others are unprofessional. Hence why bat-flipping has, until very, very recently, been a baseball culture no-no, but throwing 99 MPH baseballs at other players’ heads to exact revenge is seen as appropriate behavior. Generally speaking, players aren’t taught conflict de-escalation skills, nor are they taught how to resolve their differences verbally. Santana, who turns 33 years old next month, likely didn’t have the tools to express himself because players – and men at large – are socialized to stamp down their emotions and convert it into anger. Anger is the language every man in the clubhouse speaks.