A few weeks ago, when the Phillies were in the midst of a stretch in which they won four of 15 games, the team veterans had a discussion. At that point, they didn’t have many wins to celebrate, but they wanted to do a better job of celebrating the wins they did have.
There was a sentiment that because expectations were so high heading into the season, the wins were being taken for granted. Kyle Gibson described them as “monotonous.”
“It was a feeling of, we’re expected to win, so don’t get too excited,” he said. “Act like you’ve been here before. And I don’t think that’s a healthy perspective to have.”
So they came up with a plan. A few of the guys had been on teams that toasted individual players after wins, for moments big and small. Bryce Harper said he did it with the Nationals, and saw Jake Arrieta do it with the Phillies. It was something that he always liked — a way to highlight playing the game the right way. Kyle Schwarber had never toasted players on other teams, but he was drawn to the idea and decided to make it his own.
Since that conversation, Schwarber has been toasting players after Phillies wins. This is not a formal presentation. After a game, and after the media has cleared out of the clubhouse, he calls up players who made an impact. Sometimes it’s something as obvious as a home run, but sometimes it could be for an important out, or a 1-2-3 inning in a high-leverage spot.
“It’s kind of a first, but I like it,” Schwarber said. “It keeps the positive thoughts and energy rolling in for the next day. There’s going to be times where guys might not have the game that they want, but they make a nice play out in the field — so you bring that up. It makes people realize that winning is not always about one aspect of the game. It could be at the plate, it could be baserunning, it could be defense, whatever it is.
“We all came up with the idea — Bryce, Gibby, Rhys, J.T. Realmuto. We wanted to do a better job of celebrating wins. It’s not easy to win a baseball game. It’s not a formal thing. You just shout it out. Maybe hold a beer, maybe a water, maybe an apple juice.”
It wasn’t the first time Matt Vierling had been toasted. On June 7, after he and Alec Bohm hit home runs off Josh Hader, Schwarber called them out. On June 9, Schwarber decided to celebrate the team as a whole. They were facing a tough pitcher in the Brewers’ Corbin Burnes, the Cy Young Award winner, and were able to get him out of the game by the fifth inning.
“When we were in Milwaukee, we grinded out Burnes,” Schwarber said. “We got him at 100 pitches through under five innings, so then they had to go to the bullpen. Those are good things that people might not see, but that’s a win. That guy could go easily six or seven or eight, and we got him out in 4⅔. So that’s an overall great job, guys, great job, team.
“It’s all about making sure the little things are recognized. Nick Nelson was big in that game. [Zach] Eflin grinded. There have been a couple of plays at third base that Bohm has made to save some runs that might go unseen. I think it was on an 0-for day, about a week ago, he made a really nice play at third base. Those plays save us runs and that helps us win the baseball game. Those are things that’s nice for him to hear, especially if it’s an 0-for day. You might be grinding, but he makes some nice plays and saves us.”
Said Bohm: “It’s a long season, you know? So I think when you slow down and recognize, ‘Hey, that’s a winning play,’ it points out the things we should be trying to repeat.”
The Phillies have won 10 of their last 11 games going into Tuesday. Their recent stretch of success is likely due to a mix of things: a managerial change, an easier schedule, and the top of the lineup starting to heat up.
But part of it could also be due to the fact that for the first time in a long time, they are savoring their wins.
“It’s all about being able to recognize the good when the good is out there,” Schwarber said. “And being able to keep the positive energy high. Making sure that the little things are being recognized.”