NEW YORK -- Never mind Jake Arrieta’s objection to Bryce Harper losing his cool. Even Harper conceded that he can’t harass an umpire so relentlessly that he gets kicked out of a game, although the reality for a player who shows as much raw emotion as the Phillies’ superstar is that his 12th career ejection won’t be his last.
The most damning part of Arrieta’s diatribe after Monday night’s 5-1 loss to the Mets was the pitcher’s attack on the Phillies’ focus and effort.
Standing in the middle of the clubhouse and surrounded by reporters, Arrieta accused his teammates of being "flat" and said he was "not happy with the way we showed up" for the opener of a three-game series against the rival Mets after rain delayed the start of the game by 95 minutes. He gave up four runs (three earned) in six innings, an imperfect outing but good enough to win if he'd gotten more support.
A day later, with the benefit of time to digest the Phillies' fourth loss in five games, manager Gabe Kapler agreed with Arrieta's criticism and vowed to address it.
“I thought Jake was spot-on in identifying that we need to be focused as a team on winning baseball games,” Kapler said. “I thought he was spot-on in identifying that we didn’t come out with our best energy [Monday] night. I think there’s some truth to that in the last game in Colorado as well [on Sunday]. So, one of the things I’m heavily focused on now is seeing the tone they set [Tuesday] knowing that this is an important game.”
Within the clubhouse, there was a sense that a few more hits will go a long way toward improving the energy level.
The Phillies are built around a high-powered offense. But they scored only 15 runs and were 7-for-39 with runners in scoring position in five games entering play Tuesday night. It's easy to appear flat when the offense goes cold.
Asked on Monday night if he was troubled by the team’s effort, Arrieta said, “It’s troubling, yeah. I’m out there doing everything I can to win a game. I need my guys behind me and they weren’t.”
Said Kapler: “One of the things that we pride ourselves on around here is bringing good energy to the ballpark everyday, bringing a high level of intensity, a high level of diligence. And whenever that’s not evident, it’s always bothersome. That’s one thing we can control every day.”
Kapler spoke by phone to Joe Torre, who is in charge of meting out discipline for MLB, to give his perspective of Harper’s ejection. Home plate umpire Mark Carlson told a pool reporter Monday night that he believed Kapler made physical contact with him, perhaps because he was shoved by Harper.
"I was very cognizant of the space I had between me and Mark and feel like I respected that," Kapler said. "I felt nothing. It doesn't mean there wasn't some contact, but it wasn't like, oh [shoot], there was just this bump. I never felt like I got uncomfortably close to him by any stretch. As always, my main goal is to protect Bryce."
After any ejection or on-field incident, MLB reviews the umpire's report and video of the situation to determine if suspensions are warranted. Neither Kapler nor Haper had heard anything from the league before Tuesday night's game.