Priority No. 1 for Dave Dombrowski and the Phillies front office last offseason was to improve the roster from an on-field perspective. As it turns out, the clubhouse needed some attention as well.
Dombrowski said that Kyle Schwarber was the first free agent the team contacted once the lockout ended. He was the team’s primary target mostly because he was one of the better power bats on the market. Schwarber’s intangibles also appealed to the Phillies, who signed him to a four-year, $79 million contract.
In an interview with Sportsradio 94 WIP on Friday, Dombrowski spoke on the leadership qualities and winning pedigree that Schwarber brings to the team.
We really liked the situation of being what we call a “gamer.” Somebody who has won championships, somebody that gets your uniform dirty. He’s been in the playoffs year in and year out. We have not had that type of individual with the Phillies organization and I think that we have a lot of good players — a lot of quality individuals. But I think adding a person like that who has won, knows how to win, is not afraid to say things in the clubhouse … I don’t want to put this pressure on him — á la a Darren Daulton type of guy. Many years ago, I was around in the late 90s when I was with the Florida Marlins and of course he was here with the Philadelphia Phillies. … Somebody that’s not afraid to say things, that leads by example, but is also willing to say things. I think it was really important for us to add that type of individual. Now just having those characteristics but not being a good player, that wouldn’t have been enough. But the type of hitter he is, the year he had last year working with Kevin Long, our new hitting coach, he seemed like the perfect fit for our ballclub.Dave Dombrowski on Kyle Schwarber.
Dombrowski, who was the Marlins general manager at the time, acquired Darren Daulton from the Phillies at the trade deadline in 1997. Former Marlins pitcher Alex Fernandez recalled how Daulton’s no-nonsense leadership style played a big part in the team’s World Series run.
“He chewed our ass because he goes, ‘This is a country club here. What are we trying to accomplish here? We ain’t going to win anything by being this way,'” Fernandez told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in 2017 following Daulton’s tragic passing at the age of 55 from brain cancer. Daulton also went 7-for-18 in the 1997 World Series against Cleveland.
It’s hard to make any definitive statements about the Phillies clubhouse in recent years, especially since the media had not been allowed in during the pandemic. While the Phillies’ best players have largely been the reason why they have been close to .500 since 2018, the lack of winning and September collapses make it evident that a personnel shakeup was needed. Two sources told Scott Lauber of the Philadelphia Inquirer that the 2021 clubhouse was “a little cliquey.”
Schwarber and Nick Castellanos are paid for their presence in the lineup, but the Phillies have already benefited from adding the pair from a chemistry perspective. Castellanos, a ten-year major league veteran, suggested that Mickey Moniak travel with the team as he recovers from a broken hand that will sideline him for four to six weeks. Moniak, 23, would have started for the Phillies in center field on Opening Day if he didn’t get hit-by-a-pitch in his last at-bat of the spring.
“What I told him is that, even though he’s on the IL, I think it’s important for him to travel with us,” Castellanos told Lauber before Opening Day. “He’s had such a good spring. This unfortunate accident, I wouldn’t want him to feel disconnected. So my message to him was, ‘Hey man, travel with us. Be a part of it.’”
Dombrowski also praised Castellanos’ attitude, saying he brings a certain level of toughness that’s needed in Philadelphia.
“He’s also got that toughness to him that gets your uniform dirty, that plays the game hard, that brings that sort of grittiness to it,” Dombrowski said. “And we’ve tried to incorporate the thought ‘Philly tough,’ somebody that can just be really tough here and be the type of individual that our fans latch on to. That’s a nice sidebar, but what’s most important is what he brings to the ballclub on the field and how they play the game. That’s how Castellanos plays the game too.”
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