Turn out the lights, the party’s over. The Phillies season ended Sunday with a defeat against a 105-loss team that was managed by a utility infielder. The Phillies used seven relief pitchers, struck out 10 times, left 13 runners on base, and did not get a hit with a runner in scoring position. The final nine innings were a condensed version of a disappointing year. Now, a crucial offseason begins.
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Jake Arrieta had a front-row seat in the Phillies dugout seat for the last six weeks, providing the perfect vantage point to watch his team collapse for the second-straight season.
The starting pitching was not good enough, Arrieta said, and the team’s injuries were tough to overcome. So he packed his locker in September for the second-straight year after reaching October for three straight seasons before signing with the Phillies.
A collection of things went wrong, Arrieta said. But is manager Gabe Kapler in that collection?
“That’s the last thing on my mind,” Arrieta said. “I have ultimate faith in Kap. I think he’s a great manager. I guess it remains to be seen. I don’t really have much more for you other than that. I would like to see him back.”
The Phillies began the season with questions about their clubhouse dynamics after Carlos Santana revealed during spring training that he smashed a TV because the players were playing too many video games. The Phillies may not have reached the playoffs, but the clubhouse seemed like a better environment.
“Well, the culture was better here this year without him,” Arrieta said. “I can tell you that.”
“Why it was better without Santana? We had better guys in the clubhouse,” Arrieta said. “That’s it. A lot more veteran presence.”
A good amount of that group will report in less than five months to Clearwater, Fla. for spring training. Arrieta will be healed by then from the surgery he underwent in August to remove a bone spur from his elbow. His view will no longer be constrained to the bench. He should be joined by some new faces in the starting rotation. And it remains seen if he’ll have a new manager.
The Phillies might fire Gabe Kapler, but Scott Lauber asks if management dealt him a fair hand. If Kapler is fired, the deciding factor will be that he missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons. But maybe he would have reached the playoffs if the front office handed him a better roster or did not punt at the trade deadline.
The final game of a disappointing season ended with Gabe Kapler shaking John Middleton’s hand as he walked out of the dugout. Was this goodbye? “I love managing that group of players. I love working with that staff. Love working with this front office,” Kapler said.
J.T. Realmuto said he expects Gabe Kapler to return as manager. “We feel like he’s done a great job for us. He gets the guys to play hard. We all love playing for him,” Realmuto said.
It was a miserable second half for Rhys Hoskins, and Scott Lauber details what went wrong and what Hoskins hopes to learn from his season. “I don’t think there’s any sugarcoating it, right? I think that, for lack of a better word, it sucked.”
Today: The Phillies begin the offseason.
Tomorrow: Brewers at Nationals for National League Wild Card, 8:08 p.m.
Wednesday: Rays at Athletics for American League Wild Card, 8:09 p.m.
February 22: Phillies face Tigers in spring opener, 1:05 p.m.
March 26: Phillies open 2020 season in Miami, 4:10 p.m.
If this is the end of the Gabe Kapler Era, it would be the first time since 1895 that a Phillies manager’s tenure lasted just two full seasons. Kapler is the 10th Phillies manager with a tenure of two seasons, but only Arthur Irwin had a full two seasons like Kapler. The others — like Pat Corrales and Lee Elia — either were hired in the middle of their first season or fired during Year No. 2. Irwin played himself at shortstop for one inning during the 1894 season, which maybe Kapler considered doing in the final weekend after the Phillies lost Jean Segura and Scott Kingery. Kapler has managed 323 Phillies games, which is more than Dallas Green (299) but fewer than John Felske (384).
Send questions by email or on Twitter @matt_breen.
Question: When in 1950 at age 8 I became a Phillies fan I thought I really knew how to pick a great team to follow. Much more aggravation (like this year) than joy (I did attend the last game of the 2008 World Series). If it was my money I would replace Gabe Kapler with Joe Maddon for 2020. What do you think of my idea? — Jack B. via email.