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Former Phillies GM Lee Thomas had to play the waiting game, too | Extra Innings

Gabe Kapler has had to wait to find out about his future as Phillies manager, but he should not have to wait nearly as long as Thomas waited in 1997.

It's Friday and Gabe Kapler (left) is still waiting to hear from managing partner John Middelton about his status as Phillies manager.
It's Friday and Gabe Kapler (left) is still waiting to hear from managing partner John Middelton about his status as Phillies manager.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

It’s Friday, and Gabe Kapler is still the manager of your Philadelphia Phillies. All indications are that Kapler will remain the manager at least through the weekend as managing partner John Middleton continues to wrestle with his decision.

The list of teams searching for a new manager reached seven Thursday when Mickey Callaway was fired by the New York Mets. For those scoring at home, Callaway joined the Angels’ Brad Ausmus, the Cubs’ Joe Maddon, the Pirates’ Clint Hurdle and the Padres’ Andy Green as managers who have been fired. The Giants and Royals are also looking for new skippers after the retirements of Bruce Bochy and Ned Yost.

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Gabe Kapler’s wait not unprecedented in Phillies history

It seems cruel and unusual to make Kapler wait so long to find out his managerial fate for 2020, especially since he could already be out there interviewing for the seven other jobs available. But the Phillies have been down this road before.

The Elias Sports Bureau does not keep track of such things, but perhaps the longest wait ever for a general manager to find out his fate after a season came in 1997. The Phillies, expected to finish last that season, met expectations, but manager Terry Francona’s first team also went 44-33 after the All-Star break after a 24-61 start.

At season’s end, president David Montgomery was asked about general manager Lee Thomas’ job status and said this: “In terms of a vote of confidence, I’m sorry. We have a baseball management team in place, and I can’t be any more direct than that. For those who want more, I’m sorry to disappoint you. If it comes to a point any of us aren’t doing the job in order to improve, people or process will not get in the way.”

Thomas was completing his ninth full season as general manager and the Phillies had not posted a winning record since 1993, when they reached the World Series. Had Montgomery decided to move on from Thomas at the end of the 1997 season, a lot of people probably would have understood. Thomas even said he expected to be fired in June after Montgomery replaced Bill Giles as team president.

Instead, Thomas stuck around through October and November. He ran the organizational meetings in Clearwater, Fla. and conducted the team’s business at the Nov. 19 expansion draft in Phoenix. His final act as GM, in fact, was acquiring Bobby Abreu from Tampa Bay for Kevin Stocker, thanks in large part to a strong pitch from his assistant Ed Wade.

Asked for the umpteenth time at the expansion draft if Thomas would be the GM in 1998, Montgomery said, “I don’t know what I can say to make it any clearer than I already have.”

Three weeks later and two weeks before Christmas, with the free-agent period still in full swing, Montgomery fired Thomas. The reaction around baseball was unkind to Montgomery.

From Jayson Stark’s column in The Inquirer:

One National League baseball man we surveyed used these words to describe Montgomery’s handling of this affair: Terrible and atrocious and incredible.

Another was appalled.

``To do this toward the tail end of the free-agent period,'' the second man said, ``toward the tail end of the period where you can still find a reasonable deal on the market, after the expansion draft, after the protected list, after a review of the whole organization, it’s not right. And to take a 61-year-old man with two kids and fire him right before Christmas? It’s just not right. Nothing about it feels right."

Kapler’s wait does not figure to be nearly that long, but it still is not right, either.

The rundown

Apparently, Carlos Santana reads Extra Innings and we sure are happy to have him on board. The Cleveland Indians first baseman responded Thursday to a comment made by Phillies pitcher Jake Arrieta about how the team’s clubhouse was better in 2019 without Santana in it. Santana had revealed during spring training that he had smashed a clubhouse TV late last season when he saw some of his teammates playing the video game Fortnite.

Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon cited the Mets’ absence from the postseason as the main reason Callaway was fired Thursday, and our Matt Breen noted that Middleton could say something similar if and when he fires manager Kapler.

Sports betting is all the rage these days, and our Ed Barkowitz caught up with Houston furniture store owner Jim McIngvale to explain why he came to New Jersey to place a $1.5 million bet on his hometown Astros to win the World Series.

Important dates

Today: Tampa Bay at Houston, 2:05 p.m. on FS1

Today: St. Louis at Atlanta, 4:37 p.m. on TBS

Tonight: Minnesota at N.Y. Yankees, 7:07 p.m. on MLB Network

Tonight: Washington at L.A. Dodgers, 9:37 p.m. on TBS

Stat of the day

On this date in 1980, Mike Schmidt hit a two-run home run off Montreal’s Stan Bahnsen in the top of the 11th inning to give the Phillies a 6-4 victory at Olympic Stadium that clinched the team’s fourth National League East title in four years.

It was Schmidt’s major-league-leading 48th homer of the season, and it sealed his first of three National League MVP awards. The Phillies, of course, went on to win their first World Series in franchise history. The late Andy Musser made a great call of “He buried it” on Schmidt’s dramatic home run.

From the mailbag

Send questions by email or on Twitter @brookob.

Question: Where do the Phillies draft next June? Who are some of the key college or high school names to keep in mind? Isn’t it time for the Phils to draft a pitcher in the first round? Is Aaron Nola the last hurler drafted by the Phillies in the first round?

Thank you,

— Greg S., via email

Answer: Thanks for the question and thanks for being such a loyal reader. The Phillies will draft right where you’d expect a .500 team to draft. They have the 15th overall pick in the first round.

I’m not even going to begin to guess whom the Phillies might pick in the first round because I don’t have a vast knowledge of amateur baseball. Nola is the last pitcher the Phillies took in the first round, but I don’t think you can lock in on a pitcher if there is a better position player available when you are selecting. I think every team should put together its board and stick with it.