Matt Klentak was in his second season with the Angels when the team traded for Jason Vargas. Klentak, then an assistant general manager, was near the same age as the team’s new pitcher and got to know Vargas that season in the clubhouse.
Now the Phillies’ general manager, Klentak said he saw how much Vargas’ teammates liked him and “what kind of competitor” the lefthander was. So Klentak, who traded for Vargas on Monday from the Mets, said he was surprised last month when Vargas nearly came to blows with a Mets beat writer.
“When that initially happened, my first thought was, 'That was so out of character for Jason Vargas to be caught up in anything like that.' The guy that I knew in Anaheim. It's just not who he is,” Klentak said. “He's not an overbearing personality at all like that. He's very popular in the clubhouse with everybody. He's very likable. On the mound, he's a very hard worker and a good teammate. It just didn't add up.”
Klentak said earlier this season that the Phillies would check into a player’s personality before adding them to their club. They learned their lesson last season, he said, by adding veterans during the season that did not mesh. It was worth wondering what type of research the Phillies did into Vargas after he cursed off News Day’s Tim Healey in the clubhouse at Wrigley Field, threatened to knock him out, and then had to be held back from him. A few minutes earlier, Healey had been cursed at by Mets manager Mickey Callaway after Healey told the manager “I’ll see you tomorrow.” A day later, Vargas said it was “unfortunate for all parties” and an “unfortunate distraction.”
“We did ask a lot of questions and learn a lot about that,” Klentak said. “I’m sure you guys will ask around, if you haven’t already, about Jason and what his teammates and coaches think of him. You really can’t find anybody to say a bad word about this guy. I think that was an isolated episode that obviously created a lot of buzz. But I don’t think that was a reflection of who Jason Vargas is at all. I think it’s quite the opposite. I think this guy is going to be a big plus for our clubhouse.”