The Phillies' benching Tuesday of Maikel Franco is a pretty good example of players being treated differently based on how integral they are to winning.
Franco was out of Tuesday's lineup after not running full-speed down the line on a groundball to third base with the bases loaded and two outs in the third inning Monday. It was the second time in three innings the Phillies stranded the bases loaded against Clayton Kershaw. Justin Turner's throw was wide of first, and if Franco was running hard, he may have beaten the play. He wasn't running hard, and the inning ended.
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Kapler did not call it a "benching" by name but it's clear that it was. Franco is also experiencing some groin tightness but not significant enough to keep him out.
"Maikey took responsibility immediately," Kapler said. "He said he had a hard time sleeping last night over it. He did mention that his groin was tight and that was the reason he wasn't able to get down the line. And I said look, I can't put you in the lineup today. He said he was ready to play today. I said I still can't put you in the lineup today because if you're not able to give us that 100 percent effort down the line in that situation last night, it's not right for me to start you today.
"He understood that and accepted full responsibility for it."
It's interesting that Kapler chose this player, this instance to send a message. It's easier when it's a player like Franco, isn't it? A player the Phillies have benched multiple times over the last two seasons. At different points, Franco has been benched in favor of J.P. Crawford, Asdrubal Cabrera, Carlos Santana, Sean Rodriguez, Brad Miller and Scott Kingery.
Hustle has been an ongoing issue for the 2019 Phillies. Jean Segura had the two most egregious offenses, not hustling on the play that led to Andrew McCutchen's torn ACL, and then again on a bloop to left field to lead off a game against Max Scherzer. It was an issue with Cesar Hernandez. It came up for Rhys Hoskins and Bryce Harper, too.
In none of those instances was the player benched. Kapler said after the two Segura incidents that he did not believe benching Segura was the right way to get through to him. Which may be true. Different guys respond differently to punishment. (Segura, by the way, was out of Tuesday's lineup with a heel bruise.)
It's still pretty convenient that Franco was the only one to be benched the next game.
"I had a conversation with our club about how important it is to bust our asses down the line," Kapler said. "The one thing we can control all the time is our effort level. I just thought the time was right to address it with Maikel.
"I think you guys know that these decisions or me taking a player out of the lineup in a punitive way is not my natural way of handling these type of situations. In this particular situation, I felt it was critical to address right after some of the other incidents we've had. I had a conversation with the club. I shared with them that it's not an acceptable level of effort. We have to do a better job so I thought this was the right time to make a change in this situation."
That's all well and good. These conversations or responses to a lack of hustle just might have been more effective when the topic came up six weeks ago.
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