Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Jean Segura drew near universal criticism when he failed to hustle a ball out to lead off the second game of the Phillies-Washington Nationals double-header Thursday. Segura blooped a ball into left-center field, but because he didn’t hustle out of the box, what could have been a double turned into a single. Manager Gabe Kapler’s decision not to pull Segura from Thursday’s game or leave him out of the lineup Friday – despite his admission that Segura’s effort on the play was “unacceptable” – turned the situation into a referendum on Kapler’s managerial tenure.
Some went as far as suggesting that the Phillies part ways with Kapler and insert a manager with an established track record, such as Joe Girardi. That – in season, at least – isn’t going to happen. But Girardi is currently an MLB insider for Radio.com and offered a very nuanced assessment of the situation.
“You hope that your veteran guys police it, but you know what? The real veteran leader is gone, he’s hurt – [Andrew] McCutchen. So I don’t know where you go for veteran leadership in this lineup. So then the manager has to step in,” Girardi said to Joe Giglio on SportsRadio 94 WIP Friday. “And I remember, we [the Yankees] used to have this issue with Robbie Cano a little bit. I said ‘Look, Robbie, I know you go to post every day and you play every day. But I just want you to see what it looks like.’ That’s the most important thing, because I don’t think players ever sit down and watch it. And I’m going to bet for Jean that it was out of frustration that he didn’t run, it’s not that he’s being lazy. But you have to see how that frustration looks and how it can cost your club sometimes. And once they understand it [you hope the situation resolves itself]. And if you have to sit them down, you sit them down.”
The counter argument from those who sided with Kapler – and probably Kapler himself – is that in the midst of a slump, it’s hard to make the case that benching one of the best offensive players on the team will help the team to break out of said slump. Girardi was sympathetic to this argument, especially given that the Phillies are without McCutchen and Odubel Herrera, while Maikel Franco has become a non-factor since a hot stretch to start the season.
“The problem when you sit them down is who do you have better to replace Jean Segura? We’ve seen how many divisions or Wild Card spots have been lost by one game – god, it would be a shame to lose it because he wasn’t playing.”
In the defense of Kapler, Segura did homer in Thursday night’s game, something he obviously wouldn’t have been able to do from the bench. At the same time, there’s a school of thought that suggests that even if it reduced the Phillies chances to win one night, a message needed to be sent to Segura. He gave a questionable effort running to first base after slipping in the batter’s box on the same play where McCutchen ultimately tore his ACL earlier this month. When he was with the Seattle Mariners last September, manager Scott Servais pulled him from a game for a less-than-ideal effort on the basepaths.
There’s also an optics component to this. In the two instances that Segura has shown questionable effort, Kapler has spoke to Segura behind closed doors. He hasn’t publicly excused the effort – or lack thereof – by Segura, but he also hasn’t come out and buried him. And Girardi believes that’s the right approach.
“I was not big on criticizing players in public. Players know when they screw up. My job is to put them in spots and to help them to grow as players and not to screw up,” Girardi said. “So I was not going to ridicule them in public, but I was going to get on them when I had to get on them. That’s the bottom line. And I would tell the media “Look, we talked about it.’ You can say things to let the media know that it’s being handled without actually ridiculing the player.”
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