The Fortnite Incident
In 2018, the Philadelphia Phillies were limping toward the finish line, en route to an 8-20 September record. On the season, they finished with a much more respectable 80-82 record. However, the team lost steam down the stretch, and a lack of focus could have played a role.
A story came out in March that former Phillies first baseman Carlos Santana smashed several TV’s with a baseball bat back in September 2018 in response to some of his teammates playing Fortnite during games.
Here’s what Santana had to say to Jeff Passan of ESPN:
"“I see a couple players — I don’t want to say names — they play video games during the game. We come and lose too many games, and I feel like they weren’t worried about it. Weren’t respecting their teammates or coaches or the staff or the [front] office. It’s not my personality. But I’m angry because I want to make it good.”"
That was the culture that Kapler allowed to take place in his first season as the Phillies manager.
If a player wants to play video games in their time away from the game, then that is their prerogative. However, Phillies pitcher Jake Arrieta shed some light on the underlying issue in that same piece from Passan:
"“You have to set certain rules and boundaries. At a certain point, your focus needs to shift toward preparing for the game. And some people like to lock in on their phone and watch a show. I’m OK with that. I really don’t care if you want to play Fortnight up to a half-hour before the game. If that’s what locks you in, I don’t mind that. But during the game? That’s a different story.”"
Evidently, Kapler bred a culture where it was acceptable to play Fortnite during actual baseball games. That was not acceptable to the veteran voices, and they had to step up and fill the leadership void that was never truly filled by the manager.
It would have been a great opportunity for Kapler to hold his players accountable, but instead, it became a massive failure on his part. Perhaps, Kapler was not aware of this issue.
However, that may not reflect well on him, either.