The Decision has finally been made. Gabe Kapler, it was decided Thursday by managing partner John Middleton, will not manage the Phillies for a third straight season.
Now, The Search begins.
First, however, we will get to hear from Middleton, team president Andy MacPhail and general manager Matt Klentak during a 1 p.m. news conference Friday at Citizens Bank Park.
It will be a chance for the media to ask things such as:
1. Why did it take so long to decide Kapler’s fate?
2. How much influence did public opinion have in the Kapler decision?
3. How much blame do MacPhail and Klentak deserve for the disappointing 2019 season?
4. How much blame does Middleton deserve?
5. Why was trainer Scott Sheridan one of the casualties of the Phillies’ disappointing season?
6. What are the Phillies looking for in a new manager?
7. How much input will Middleton have in the hire after being the lead man in firing Kapler?
8. How much input does the new manager get in a coaching staff that is already mostly full?
9. What changes need to be made beyond the manager for the Phillies to catch the Braves, Nationals and Mets?
10. Does Middleton anticipate being aggressive in the free-agent market again?
It should be an interesting afternoon at One Citizens Bank Way, but not nearly as interesting as watching your team in the postseason.
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What lies ahead for Gabe Kapler
When the Phillies hired Gabe Kapler as their manager in November 2017, it was not a unanimous decision. At least a few people in the organization thought the job should have gone to Dusty Wathan, who had served 10 seasons as a minor-league manager with the team and helped groom some of the young players who were ascending to the big-league level.
But Kapler was general manager Matt Klentak’s choice and team president Andy MacPhail and managing partner John Middleton thought Klentak deserved the opportunity to select the guy he thought was best for the job. Klentak was clearly enamored with Kapler and might have thought he was getting a younger version of Joe Maddon, who was one year removed from ending the Chicago Cubs’ World Series drought.
Maddon had managed Kapler in Tampa Bay and considered the overachieving outfielder a good candidate to one day at least coach in the big leagues.
“I told him at some point he was going to coach," Maddon said at the winter meetings in 2017. “Obviously he’s very bright. Inquisitive, very inquisitive. He was a really great conduit between the office and the clubhouse as far as talking to young players. I thought he did a great job of leading.
"His relationship with me, I was really impressed with, like I said, with the intelligence level and inquisitiveness. I thought it was really interesting. Sincere, not fabricated. This is like real. And the way he played the game, so hard and so proud, square-jawed, just everything about him, he’s really focused all the time. So I thought he would be a coach before all this occurred.”
In retrospect, Kapler probably needed some more time in the minors as a manager or in the major leagues as part of a coaching staff. One of the things we all immediately knew about Kapler was that he was different from any other manager who had worked in Philadelphia.
Klentak embraced that different and thought everyone else would, too. Maddon, after all, is also very different. But he had honed his quirky way of doing things by spending long periods of time as a minor-league manager, a major-league coach under Mike Scioscia, and even as a minor-league hitting instructor.
Kapler’s on-field experience consisted of one year of managing at the low-A level with the Boston Red Sox’s affiliate in Greenville, S.C. He was only 31 at the time, and he went back to playing the next season.
Maybe Kapler can still be the next Joe Maddon. Maybe his disappointing Phillies experience will be the launching pad for a successful future as a major-league manager. That is what happened to Terry Francona, who figures to one day be honored in Cooperstown. Francona was accused of being too much of a player’s manager during his time in Philadelphia. He altered his approach some and went on to win two World Series with Boston before reaching another World Series and winning three division titles in Cleveland.
What adjustments would Kapler have to make?
I think he needs to be more clear that he is in charge and he has expectations that must be met. At his first winter meetings, he talked about rules being overrated and even unnecessary.
“So one of the ways that you sort of police it is by challenging,” Kapler said. “And when people aren’t living up to expectations, it’s sharing that there’s no rule against what you just did; however, there is a consequence for the action and here’s what it is. It’s not always the same. It’s not always that you pull a guy out of the game. It might be that he might lose his teammate in the locker next to him. His teammate might have less confidence in him because of that decision.”
That sounds like a Utopian clubhouse to me. In the real world, the manager needs to be firm in letting his player know what the consequences are for failing to meet expectations and he must stand firm on applying those consequences. That is one area in which Kapler fell short as a manager.
Matt Breen has all the details about managing partner John Middleton’s decision to fire Gabe Kapler.
Guess who’s on the hot seat now that Kapler is gone as manager? Our Scott Lauber explains why, of course, it is general manager Matt Klentak.
Who’s going to replace Kapler? Lauber takes a look at some of the possible big-name candidates, including Joe Maddon, Joe Girardi, Buck Showalter and Mike Scioscia.
Compliments of Rob Tornoe, here’s a more global reaction to Kapler’s firing.
Today: News conference at Citizens Bank Park explaining the Kapler firing, 1 p.m.
Tonight: Washington at St. Louis, Game 1 of the NLCS, 8:08 p.m.
Tomorow: Washington at St. Louis, Game 2 of the NLCS, 4:08 p.m.
Tomorrow night: Yankees at Houston, Game 1 of the ALCS, 8:08 p.m.
Oct. 22: Game 1 of the World Series
Stat of the day
Houston, with a major-league-leading 107 wins, and the New York Yankees, with 103 wins, will begin the American League Championship Series on Saturday night, and whichever team emerges victorious will be the World Series favorite.
But the two remaining National League teams — Washington and St. Louis — entered this postseason as certifiably hot.
On May 23, the Nationals were 19-31 and had the second-worst record in the National League. Since then, they are 78-40, including their four postseason victories. The Yankees are 74-42 since that date, and the Astros are 77-39.
On July 12, the Cardinals were 44-45 following a loss in their first game after the All-Star break. Since then, they are 50-28, including their three postseason wins over Atlanta. The Yankees are 58-28 since that date, and the Astros are 59-22.
From the mailbag
Send questions by email or on Twitter @brookob.
Question: What do you think of Bryce Harper’s chance of winning a gold glove this year? He had, I believe, fifteen outfield assists, his throws were outstanding and his miscues were minimal. He hustled all the time, dove for balls and came to play every day. I was amazed at his defense, considering what I had read in the off season. Thanks.
— Don M., via email
Answer: Thanks for the question, Don. Harper did have an outstanding season defensively and definitely deserves consideration for the first Gold Glove Award of his career. The award is voted on by coaches and managers, and they are not allowed to vote for their own players.
Harper finished tied with San Diego’s Hunter Renfroe for the most outfield assists in the National League at 13. This is just a guess, but I think the Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger will end up being the NL Gold Glove winner in right field because he had a more prolific offensive season. He, too, is a tremendous outfielder.