There was drama this week in Washington as the Nationals won the NL wild-card game, but the Phillies are proving that you don’t need to play October baseball to have postseason drama. The Phillies have spent another day without knowing who their manager will be in 2020, as the Gabe Kapler Decision stretches into Thursday. Pitchers and catchers will report to Clearwater, Fla. in four months. Let’s hope everything is sorted out by then.

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— Matt Breen (extrainnings@inquirer.com)

"Can you hear me now?" Phillies manager Gabe Kapler, communicating here with coaches during a spring-training game, is still waiting to learn if he's the manager for 2020.
JOSE F. MORENO / Staff Photographer
"Can you hear me now?" Phillies manager Gabe Kapler, communicating here with coaches during a spring-training game, is still waiting to learn if he's the manager for 2020.

Phillies owe Kapler, and everyone else, an answer

By now, you must have a pretty strong opinion on Kapler, who is perhaps the most polarizing manager in Phillies history. Either you think he’s presenting beautifully or you would like him to exhibit excellent teammate behavior somewhere else. Everyone, from the season-ticket holder in Section 417 to Chris from Roxborough calling into sports-talk radio, has an opinion on Kapler.

But regardless of how you view him, it should be easy to see that Kapler deserves better than the silence he has received this week from the Phillies. The season ended Sunday, and it has been more than a week since the team was eliminated from the playoff race. By now, a decision could have been made. Yet Kapler still does not know if he will be the manager in 2020.

The Phillies have instead hung Kapler out to dry as the front office — owner John Middleton and general manager Matt Klentak — determines the direction in which the team is headed. Kapler is under contract for next season, and he’s preparing as if he’ll be the manager.

“My job is to focus on managing the Phillies even after Game 162, and I will do that to the best of my ability,” Kapler said after Sunday’s season finale.

But there’s no way his days — especially now that there are no longer games to distract him — have not been anxious. The same goes for Kapler’s coaches, who could be sent scrambling for jobs if Kapler is not retained for next season. If so, every day is another lost opportunity for them to set up themselves and their families for 2020.

There was no bigger proponent of the team’s front office over the last two seasons than Kapler. He supported every decision — from signing Bryce Harper to trading for Jose Pirela — with great enthusiasm. Klentak made the decisions, and Kapler handled the questions.

Now, the Phillies owe their manager an answer on his future. They owe his coaching staff an answer. And they owe the ticket holders and radio callers an answer. It’s a business for everyone, and silence is not good enough.

The rundown

Curious to know how much money the Phillies have to spend this winter? Scott Lauber took a look at the team’s payroll and broke it down.

And why might the Kapler situation be taking so long to resolve? Lauber took a look at that, as well.

The Phillies did make an announcement this week, but it was that they were extending the protective netting behind the dugouts.

Important dates

Today: Cardinals at Braves in NLDS Game 1, 5:02 p.m.

Tonight: Nationals at Dodgers in NLDS Game 1, 8:37.

Tomorrow afternoon: Rays at Astros in ALDS Game 1, 2:05; Cardinals at Braves in Game 2, 4:37.

Tomorrow night: Twins at Yankees in ALDS Game 1, 7:07; Nationals at Dodgers in NLDS Game 2, 9:37.

Former Phillies manager Nick Leyva went on to coach with the Blue Jays, Brewers, and Pirates after leaving the Phillies.
Former Phillies manager Nick Leyva went on to coach with the Blue Jays, Brewers, and Pirates after leaving the Phillies.

Stat of the day

Thirty-one years ago today, the Phillies hired Nick Leyva as manager after Lee Elia was fired during the 1988 season. Leyva was the seventh Phillies manager in 10 years. He had been a coach for the Cardinals and was on the staff of two National League champions.

The headline over Bill Lyon’s Inquirer column after Leyva’s introductory news conference read, “Leyva won’t stand for losing.” The new manager said the “impression I got from the few times I watched this team was that losing was accepted here.”

Well, the 1989 Phillies lost 95 games and Leyva went on to get fired after 13 games in 1991.

From the mailbag

Send questions by email or on Twitter @matt_breen.

Question: Much has been made of the Phillies problems in the area of starting pitching in general, and the lack of improvement by certain members of that starting rotation in particular. I know that the “quality start” stat has fallen out of favor a bit since it seems that the current trend is to hopefully get 5 innings out of the starter then turn things over to the bullpen.

Regarding lack of improvement though, was wondering how quality starts compare between 2019 and 2018. How many quality starts did the team have, and how many were by someone not named Aaron Nola, both in 2019 and 2018? — C. Heckler via email

Answer: The Phillies this season had 67 quality starts, which account for 41% of their games and are their lowest total since 2007. If you thought the pitching was bad this season, the 1930 Phillies had only 41 quality starts. But they also lost 102 games. If you want to read more about the terrible 1930 Phillies, check out this article published in 2009 by The Society of American Baseball Research.

Anyway, the 2018 Phillies had 86 quality starts, their most since the Four Aces in 2011. Aaron Nola accounted for 22 of the 67 this season and 29 of the 86 last season. Nola has had at least 20 in three-straight seasons.

The Phillies blamed their struggles this season on their bullpen injuries, but those injuries would have been a bit easier to overcome if their starters had been able to pitch deep into games. Instead, they could rarely give them just a quality start.