ATLANTA - It wasn't so much that somebody decided enough was enough and ordered the big-screen television in the clubhouse turned off an hour-and-a-half before the first pitch. Heck, the way the Phillies have been hitting, or more specifically not hitting, it's kind of surprising it took this long.
The significant aspect is that it wasn't one of the team's tribal elders who issued the edict. Not Chase Utley or Ryan Howard or Jayson Werth or Shane Victorino or Raul Ibanez or Roy Halladay or Jamie Moyer.
It was manager Charlie Manuel.
That's not the reason the Phillies lost for the ninth time in 11 games, 2-1 to the Atlanta Braves yesterday at Turner Field. It's not the reason they've scored 14 runs in that stretch.
It's an interesting insight into the psyche of a team that has hit the skids, though. After the game Manuel riffed for several minutes on the subject of complacency and how success can spoil people and the importance of not assuming you'll win today because you won yesterday.
"I got upset when I came in and saw everybody looking at movies. We had a whole audience in there looking at movies and [bleep]. And I thought, 'What the hell? We should be getting ready for the damn game.' I don't like things like that," said Manuel of the clubhouse television, which earlier had been showing "Gran Torino."
And that's fine, as far as it goes. But most managers prefer not to have to police the clubhouse themselves.
Any student of Phillies lore knows that, back in the day, catcher Darren Daulton filled that role. "We're just a bad shade of bad right now," he said in a similar situation years ago, acting as a lightning rod, taking heat off the rest of the room.
Former Phillies third baseman Scott Rolen is that guy for the surprising Cincinnati Reds. "You've got the loud guys, the vocal guys, but with him, it's the eye contact, the silent treatment," leftfielder Jonny Gomes told the New York Times. "He looks right through you when he wants to. It's kind of like when you're 8 years old and you disappoint your dad."
That the Phillies don't have a player like Daulton or Rolen at the moment obviously isn't a fatal flaw. After all, this is a team that has won three straight division titles and has been in each of the last two World Series.
It does raise the issue, however, of whether it might be just a little more difficult to pull out of the startling free fall than it would be if one of the stars was inclined to exert a little more peer pressure.
"We've definitely got guys who step up on our team. At the same time, if you want to know the truth, I think when it really gets down to it anymore, on our team, I kind of think it's my job. I think a lot of our big core players expect me to do that," Manuel said. "They're not the vocal type, but they don't have to be, neither. Who they are is what makes them good."
There comes a time, though, when the whip must be cracked. And he made it clear he's more than willing to be that guy if he suspects corners are being cut.
"Believe me, I don't miss nothing. Hey, just because I don't say something about it, I will get you. I will lay for you. I'll set you up and I'll get you," he promised.
Some of this, undoubtedly, is simply frustration from coming to the ballpark day after day expecting his renowned lineup to break out and, day after day, being disappointed when it doesn't.
Some of it, though, appears to stem from a legitimate concern that some people are straying from the approach that made them successful in the first place.
"Now, if you get complacent and you get satisfied sometimes because you got a big deal or you make more money and you know that you're set. Or if you're a bench player and you come over here and you get a 2- or a 3-year deal or something like that and you feel good about yourself. There's nothing wrong with that, but, at the same time, we still want those people to have the same drive they've always had," he said.
"Success changes you. Winning changes you. People sometimes don't even know that. But you'd better stay the same if you think you're going to be as successful as you have been. Success is great, but at the same time knowing how to handle it and keeping it for a long time is even better."
For the record, Utley and Victorino said they don't detect complacency in the clubhouse.
Manuel even suggested he wasn't talking only about players.
"I see a whole lot of cockiness, big-headedness and complacency. Sometimes I feel like, as a manager, it's hard to kick all the complacency out. Because of the things that go into everything. The surrounding things and how baseball is run. The big thing is the attitude part and the resilience and the complacency. And it works together," he said.
The Phillies tried a lot of things yesterday to come out of their doldrums. Coach Pete Mackanin posted a lineup card written out in cursive instead of his usual calligraphy. They didn't hit on the field. Jayson Werth was in the leadoff spot for the first time this season. Batting-practice pitcher Ali Modami was the batboy.
What they need most, of course, is more offense. It's fine for the hitting stars of this team to be quiet as long as their bats aren't.
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