Players take accountability for season's struggles after manager steps down
By Nick Suss
PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies aren't pretending the news doesn't hurt.
"I'm still numb," interim manager Pete Mackanin said. "I think the whole team is. Everybody is kind of surprised that it happened. He just woke up this morning and came to the conclusion that that was what he was going to do. It's not fun. It's kind of a somber day."
Former manager Ryne Sandberg surprised the entire organization Friday by announcing his resignation. Sandberg, who was 119-159 over his three seasons at the helm, said he hadn't made the decision to resign until the morning of, and he didn't address his players and coaches about it until after he had formally made his announcement to the media.
After Sandberg addressed the team, some of the Phillies' veterans held a closed-door meeting in the clubhouse to address the news. Afterwards, most players were discreet about what Sandberg said to them, with first baseman Ryan Howard saying he believes that discussion should be left "in the clubhouse." Outfielder Jeff Francoeur, on the other hand, said Sandberg left the team with the parting wisdom that this was his decision, and he felt it was his time to move on.
"Talk about some changes coming, and mostly just told us it was time for him to get out of the way and let something else happen," Francoeur said. "I know, for me, thoroughly, I enjoyed playing for him."
Though Sandberg said he thought it was time to resign, Mackanin, some of the players and even general manager Ruben Amaro said they believe accountability should belong to more than the manager. In their minds, the manager has some bearing on a team losing, but the players and the front office have just as much control over this.
Cole Hamels agreed with this idea, swinging the pendulum of accountability further toward the players.
"I think we have to be responsible for everything we do," Hamels said. "The losses are all on us too. If we go 0-for-5 or if I lose a ballgame, we're not able to close out a game properly, that's all on us."
With that accountability in mind, the players were aware there is a game to be played Friday and that their minds needed to shift back onto baseball. Howard was particularly vocal about this, saying that he understands this news is "tough to soak in," but that baseball has to be the first priority right now.
And though that assertion might sound idyllic, Mackanin said he would be surprised if any player is thinking about their former manager when they step onto the diamond.
"I've gone through things like this before myself. I've been released, fired, traded," Mackanin said. "And it's funny, but the minute the game starts, the guys will be into the game and they'll be concentrating on that; for the game at least, they won't be thinking about it. Afterwards and maybe for a day or two it stays with you, but after that you move on. That's the way the business is."
Nick Suss is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.