Major League Baseball’s clubhouse has rapidly evolved because of the age of social media. Long gone are the days in which Daryl Strawberry would leave the clubhouse during games to have sex with fans.
But every once in a while, you hear a shocking story that makes you reconsider the status of the modern day clubhouse, like when Chris Sale went all Edward Scissorhands on some throwback jerseys or when David Wright threw out Noah Syndergaard’s lunch like a middle school bully.
It turns out these tirades are more common than you might think. Just ask Cleveland Indians first baseman Carlos Santana.
Santana, who played for the Philadelphia Phillies last year, told ESPN he once smashed a TV with a bat while teammates were playing Fortnite during a game in the Phillies clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park last season.
The Phillies were in the midst of a nine-game losing streak in September and Santana was apparently unhappy with his teammates’ lack of focus.
“I see a couple players — I don’t want to say names — they play video games during the game,” Santana told ESPN. “We come and lose too many games, and I feel like they weren’t worried about it. Weren’t respecting their teammates or coaches or the staff or the [front] office. It’s not my personality. But I’m angry because I want to make it good.”
Congrats, Santana, you’ve officially graduated from veteran pro baseball player to suburban mother of two. Maybe he’s just more of an Apex Legends kind of guy. (For those that don’t know, Fortnite is a video game that blew up last year and its biggest competitor is Apex.)
All jokes aside, this really is a fascinating story.
If the players were actually on the sticks during the game, they’d have to have been starting pitchers or injured players who knew for sure they wouldn’t be playing that day. Four of their starters — Aaron Nola, Zach Eflin, Vince Velasquez and Nick Pivetta — are all 26 or younger, which is a ripe age to be playing video games.
Many major and minor leaguers play Fortnite and other video games, though. Some, like Minnesota Twins pitcher Trevor May, even stream their gameplay live to thousands of viewers at a time.
But this story presents real issues that more teams than just the Phillies likely have to deal with. How do you ensure 10-year veterans mesh with 20-something millennials? Should players who know they won’t be playing be forced to watch the game from the dugout or should they be able to go off and relax in their own way? And, as front office officials across other sports have worried, does Fortnite have a negative impact on pro athletes?
I’ve never seen what goes in the clubhouse during games. But in the hours before and after, players are usually on their phones, watching TV or playing games like ping pong or Fortnite. Video games should fall into that harmless category, but I think Santana’s feelings of disrespect are warranted if it occurred mid-game.
Jake Arrieta, a teammate of Santana’s last year, apparently remembered a different version of what transpired. He said the TV smashing happened after the game.
Regardless, Phillies head coach Gape Kapler said he will be setting some “boundaries” in the clubhouse this year without specifically mentioning any details. Of course, that clubhouse will look a little different with the signings of Bryce Harper and Andrew McCutchen and the acquisitions of JT Realmuto and Jean Segura.
Maybe Fortnite did lead to the Phillies’ late-season skid that ended in missing the playoffs. Hopefully they — whomever it was — earned enough victory royales to make up for it.