He didn’t have to do it.
Rhys Hoskins could have put on his Patagonia trucker’s cap and his golf shorts and fled from the Phillies’ clubhouse, slipped behind the wheel, turned up the radio and put his confrontation with a Phillies fan out of his mind.
That would have left his teammates and his manager to explain his unacceptable actions. That would have given sports talk shows around the region, and around the country, fill-in-the-blank fodder for at least 24 hours.
Hoskins didn’t run away. He stayed.
Heated exchange with fan: After his worst moment in his brief career as a Phillie, Hoskins stayed in the clubhouse in order to face a phalanx of reporters and explain why he had a heated exchange of words with a patron seated above the Phillies’ dugout in the sixth inning.
With runners on second and third, with one out, trailing 2-0, Hoskins had struck out swinging; then, after the ball slipped past the Yankees catcher, Hoskins had failed to run to first base quickly enough to be safe. It was an egregious mistake. It was the sort of miscue Hoskins, a Chase Utley-type throwback player who usually is two steps ahead of the play and always is looking for an edge, seems incapable of making. But he made it.
Then he made another.
Hoskins heard a heckler and he fired back on the way to the dugout. Then, after he removed his helmet, he emerged from the dugout to make this suggestion to the fan, if our lip-reading is correct: “go home.”
It was petulant, and immature, and unprofessional — just the sort of reaction you’d expect from a frustrated player playing his 117th major-league game.
Facing the music: But Hoskins comports himself like a player who has played 1,117 major-league games. Monday night’s indulgence was beneath him. He knew it. So he showered, got ready to go, waited for the press to arrive, and addressed it:
“I’m aware of what happened, obviously,” he said. “Someone said something in the stands that obviously triggered me. I was pretty frustrated at the at-bat I’d just had and compounded the mistake. Got caught up in the moment. Shouldn’t happen. Can’t happen. But it did.”
Showing leadership: His manager, Gabe Kapler, played in the era when players became less and less accountable for their actions, especially when their actions were unseemly. Kapler also played among players who would never shirk their responsibility to explain their performances, regardless of how embarrassing they might have been.
Those players are called leaders.
“I think it’s very representative of who I’ve come to know Rhys as,” Kapler said. “Just a total pro. Understanding of what people need from him. Understanding that he has to be accountable for his actions. And willing to meet tough conversations head-on.
“He’s a very capable leader for this club.”
The offseason trade of shortstop Freddy Galvis left a vacuum in the leadership department. Hoskins played just 50 games last season, but he acts like he’s been a big-leaguer forever. Even veterans falter.
Embarrassed by his actions: Hoskins wouldn’t recount what the fan said. He said he didn’t remember what the fan said, or what he said, or even what the fan looked like. “I wish I could,” he said.
He clearly was embarrassed that he hadn’t checked to see if the ball got past the catcher, and misinterpreted a question about that facet of the incident as an accusation that he didn’t run on purpose:
“I’m not deliberately not running,” he said. “I don’t believe that’s the kind of player that I am.”
The kind of player he is waits in front of his locker for an extra 15 minutes to face the music.
It was unclear whether Kapler or any other Phillies official suggested to Hoskins that he stay and address the issue, but Kapler and Hoskins did discuss it.
“Rhys always says and does the right thing,” Kapler said, omitting the word almost. “He’s imperfect. He gets frustrated like anyone else. We talked about it. It’s behind us.”
Putting the issue behind him: Thanks to his forthrightness, now it’s behind all of us.
“I think it’s a necessary thing,” said Hoskins. He knew the camera would betray his tiff. “Today’s world, I know everything gets caught. I just kind of assumed that it was. I was in the wrong. It’s right to address it and move on from it.”
Hoskins had struck out looking in his previous at-bat, in the fourth inning, and he discussed the call with plate umpire Joe West, but Hoskins insisted that West’s called third strike had no bearing on his loss of composure two innings later.
That was hard to believe; but, after taking the heat for the kerfuffle with the fan, it was completely believable.