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Phillies prospect Nick Williams benched again for lack of hustle

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Earlier this month, Phillies outfield prospect Nick Williams was benched by Triple-A Lehigh Valley manager Dave Brundage because he didn’t run out a fly ball that was eventually dropped. It happened again.

On Monday night, Williams grounded out in the bottom of the eighth inning, making him 0-for-4 on the night. As Greg Joyce of LehighValleyLive.com recounts, Williams was slow to run out of the batter’s box and slow to return to the dugout, so Brundage pulled Williams in favor of Carlos Alonso.

Williams was “extremely” surprised that he was benched, and said that he wasn’t given an explanation by Brundage. “I didn’t say anything, I just took my seat. I don’t know. I have no explanation,” the outfielder said.

Williams, considered the Phillies’ third-best prospect, is hitting a productive .285/.329/.460 with seven home runs and 36 RBI in 287 plate appearances with Lehigh Valley. He is expected to make his major league debut at some point in the second half, though if he is perceived as failing to hustle, that could potentially delay his major league debut. Williams was part of the six-player return the Phillies received last year from the Rangers in the Cole Hamels trade.

For what it’s worth, Williams’ offense seems rather minor here. He was a few seconds late to the dugout compared to the average player. It was 75 degrees and the IronPigs haven’t had a day off since June 13. That includes a double-header on the 18th. They won’t get a day off until July 11. Williams was probably dragging a bit from a rough night, the humid weather, and the grind of the regular season schedule. Williams also tossed his helmet down the tunnel after returning to the dugout, likely frustrated from an 0-for-4 night when he felt like he was putting good swings on the ball.

Baseball traditionalists have for years jumped on stats people for not considering players as human beings, but rather as data points. Here, the traditionalists — who tend to be overwhelmingly in favor of teaching young players these kinds of lessons — never consider factors like players being worn down by the weather or the schedule. They expect them to be at 100 percent functionality day in, day out like robots. Players are allowed to be tired. They’re allowed to be frustrated.

If I’m Phillies GM Matt Klentak, I’m sending a message to Brundage that the life lessons he’s trying to teach Williams aren’t worth souring the kid’s motivation or his attitude, nor is it worth cutting into his playing time when he’s on the cusp of being a major leaguer.

MLB calls umpire union statement about Manny Machado discipline “inappropriate”

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Earlier today the Major League Baseball Umpire’s Association made multiple posts on social media registering its displeasure at what it feels was the league’s weak discipline of Manny Machado following his run-in with umpire Bill Welke. It was an unusual statement, as it’s not common for umpires, individual or via their union to comment on such matters.

This evening, in an official statement, the league called it inappropriate:

“Manny Machado was suspended by MLB Chief Baseball Officer Joe Torre, who considered all the facts and circumstances of Machado’s conduct, including precedent, in determining the appropriate level of discipline.  Mr. Machado is appealing his suspension and we do not believe it is appropriate for the union representing Major League Umpires to comment on the discipline of players represented by the Players Association, just as it would not be appropriate for the Players Association to comment on disciplinary decisions made with respect to umpires.  We also believe it is inappropriate to compare this incident to the extraordinarily serious issue of workplace violence.”

That final bit, about workplace violence, is something that I didn’t really consider when I read the umps’ statements, but it’s a damn good point. In an age where people are literally shooting up workplaces, umpires making reference to that kind of thing in response to a player throwing a bat is pretty rich indeed. And in pretty poor taste.