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Report: Phillies Have 'Toxic' Culture in Player Development, Minor Leagues

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 30, 2021

Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images

A bevy of problems have allegedly emerged throughout the Philadelphia Phillies organization, including a "toxic" culture within player development, according to The Athletic's Matt Gelb.

"There were people, both tenured and newer employees, who no longer felt empowered to coach," Gelb wrote. "Player development blamed scouting for a lack of talent and scouting blamed player development for a lack of progression."

He reported a partnership with Driveline Baseball, which has become more popular for its approach to talent development in recent years, proved to be an issue for the franchise:

"The Phillies, a team executive said, discovered the Driveline culture did not embody the kind the Phillies wanted in their farm system. Feedback was handed down and rarely traveled up. Perspectives that challenged Driveline precepts were not considered valid and, worse, not respected. The Phillies made dozens of staff changes, but important holdovers were asked to do things they weren’t capable of doing, or just did not want to do because they had contempt for the person telling them to do it, according to team sources. Grudges festered both ways."

The Driveline dynamic was representative of wider organizational fissures throughout the Phillies. There was a general lack of cohesion from top to bottom in terms of how to approach player development and what tactics to use.

"There was no consensus buy-in to what the Phillies were doing," per Gelb. "They were pushing swing changes and modern pitching philosophies forward, but no one knew what direction was the right one."

He also wrote how Philadelphia's front office "over-invested in technology and under-invested in people."

The Phillies came under scrutiny earlier this month after USA Today's Bob Nightengale reported Advocates for Minor Leaguers was looking into allegations the team reprimanded minor leaguers who showed solidarity with peers demanding better pay and working conditions.

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Harry Marino, executive director of Advocates for Minor Leaguers, said he had heard of "backlash" and "some troubling reports" after some Phillies minor leaguers wore wristbands that read "#FairBall."

Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski told Nightengale that "to my knowledge, no player got in trouble for this," though the wristbands had been addressed with the players.

On Wednesday, the Phillies announced the hiring of Preston Mattingly as their new director of player development.

Mattingly has a tall task on his hands. In addition to helping reform the issues laid out by Gelb, he'll have to replenish a farm system that Bleacher Report's Joel Reuter ranked 27th following the 2021 draft.

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