In case you missed it, here's a part of my story on the Phillies team meeting Friday. You can read the rest here.
TORONTO - The visitors' clubhouse at the Rogers Centre is small, with minimal floor space between the rows of lockers that line each wall. After Friday night's game, manager Charlie Manuel stood on the carpet in the middle of the room, according to several Phillies players. He spoke passionately, but did not shout. The players sat in folding chairs in front of their lockers, most looking at Manuel and listening.
The manager had not held a team meeting since the beginning of spring training. In March, Manuel told his players to remember how they became World Series champions - by focusing only on the moment, avoiding distractions, and functioning as a cohesive unit.
He rarely addresses the group as a whole, believing that words have more power when carefully chosen. He resisted the growing urge to express his frustration until Friday night. Before that night's game, Manuel said that berating professional athletes rarely achieves the desired result. He admitted that he still was looking for the right strategy to address the Phillies' poor play as the team lost 11 of 13 games. They hadn't just been losing. They also were playing sloppy defense, carelessly wasting at-bats, running the bases mindlessly, and pitching ineffectively.
Friday's game was especially difficult for Manuel. He watched Toronto starter Ricky Romero no-hit his team through six innings, a tough spectacle for the old hitting coach to endure. He saw the usually reserved Chase Utley bark at an umpire for the second night in a row, and saw Cole Hamels ejected at the end of a disappointing start.
Finally, he noticed that his players were perhaps taking their losing streak too lightly. Manuel does not mind levity in the clubhouse, even after a loss. He likes a loose team. But he didn't think that the joking he had seen lately was appropriate, considering how badly the Phillies were playing. He decided it was time for a meeting.
The Phils' clubhouse remained closed for 20 minutes after the game, double the usual time. When the doors opened, several players were willing to discuss the state of the team, but Manuel's speech remained an internal matter.
Interviews yesterday morning offered a better glimpse. According to several players and others with knowledge of the meeting, Manuel addressed the team for about 10 minutes. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. was in the clubhouse, but not an active participant in the meeting, a player said.
The manager stood in the middle of the room.
"It was nothing too dramatic," one player said. "He told us we were better than this."