Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg believes he has a good handle on his clubhouse despite the fact that four of his players, by word or action, have been critical or disrespectful of him over the last two weeks.
“Yes, yeah,” Sandberg said when posed with that question on Wednesday afternoon.
Cole Hamels was the latest to show displeasure with Sandberg. He was visibly perturbed when Sandberg removed him from Tuesday night’s game after the pitcher allowed a game-tying home run in the eighth inning. Hamels had thrown just 84 pitches to that point, but had struggled in the previous inning.
After the game, Hamels used calculated non-answers to avoid questions about the situation before abruptly ending his interview session with reporters (see story).
Sandberg sought out Hamels on Wednesday afternoon.
“I had a brief conversation with him,” Sandberg said. “It wasn’t a big deal. He was upset with what had happened in the seventh inning and he was upset with the leadoff home run (in the eighth) when he had a chance to go deep in that game. But he knew that he was in there for an at-bat-at-a-time style of situation. And the home run erased that possibility.”
Hamels did not follow baseball protocol and wait for Sandberg to arrive at the mound before he started off the field. He handed the ball off to Sandberg in stride as he began to exit the field. Kyle Kendrick pulled the same act, even more dramatically, 11 days earlier in San Francisco and the next day apologized for “showing up” his manager.
A person with knowledge of the situation said Sandberg was ticked off by what Hamels did. Publicly, however, Sandberg absolved Hamels of disrespecting him.
“You know what, I gave him a verbal when I was about six feet from the grass, 'Hey, we’re going to pick you up right here, Cole. Nice job,'" Sandberg said. “So he thought that that was the release to let him go. I just clarified that with him. He was upset about the home run.”
In addition to the actions of Kendrick and Hamels, pitcher David Buchanan and outfielder Domonic Brown have made comments that were interpreted as being critical of Sandberg in recent days. Sandberg had next-day meetings with both players.
You can blame this on the frustration that has developed over the course of a long, losing season, but a pattern of criticism and disrespect directed toward the manager seems to be developing.
Sandberg was asked if he was alarmed by the incidents that have occurred.
“I just deal with it and have conversations,” he said.