Have you been watching the postseason? It might have been hard for Phillies fans to stomach watching the Nationals win the pennant, but you have to admit that you were a bit envious of the way they did it. The Nationals have pitched their way to October, providing some credence to the demands from Phillies fans for the team to upgrade its starting rotation over the last 12 months.
The Phillies, we know, ignored those requests and bet big on their young arms. Now, they’re watching what the Nationals are doing. Free agency will begin next month, 10 days after the Nationals finish the World Series, and the Phillies know they have to address their rotation this winter. And there could be two big arms — Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg — on the market. Count the Phillies in.
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Phillies could have a manager by next week
And then there were three. The Phillies’ search to replace manager Gabe Kapler has reached its final stages, as the team will hold follow-up interviews over the next few days with Dusty Baker, Joe Girardi, and Buck Showalter after meeting with all three managers this week.
Those three — all with established track records — are believed to be the only three candidates for the job. A decision is expected to be finalized next week. Girardi and Showalter are considered the favorites. General manager Matt Klentak and assistant general manager Ned Rice are leading the search, but managing partner John Middleton and team president Andy MacPhail will have a say.
Two years ago, Klentak took a gamble on Gabe Kapler, whose only managerial experience was a year of guiding a Class A team during a brief break in his playing career. This time, Klentak is targeting a proven commodity. The three candidates have a combined 53 years of managerial experience.
The World Series will begin Tuesday, and Major League Baseball frowns on teams making news during its marquee event. But there will be a break in the action next Thursday, which could be a chance for the Phillies to announce their decision. The follow-up interviews will be done by then, and Klentak should have enough time to make his choice.
But that will just be another step in a busy offseason. The new manager will have to at least hire new hitting and pitching coaches. Klentak needs to rebuild his bullpen and bolster the starting rotation. The Phillies will have a busy winter.
First, they have to find a manager, and it appears that they are close to doing that.
Kapler got fired, Marcus Hayes writes, because too many young Phillies regressed under his watch. “It was the job of Kapler, pitching coach Chris Young, and hitting coach John Mallee to develop sluggers Rhys Hoskins, Odubel Herrera, and Maikel Franco and starters Nick Pivetta, Vince Velasquez, and Zach Eflin. Kapler and his coaches tried specific, unconventional strategies. Those strategies failed.”
Joe Maddon signed Tuesday with the Angels, but he was never really a candidate for the Phillies job as he seemed interested only in heading out west. Of the three finalists, Buck Showalter and Joe Girardi appear to be the favorites ahead of Dusty Baker.
If John Middleton still trusts Klentak to be the Phillies GM, then Scott Lauber writes that he must allow him to pick the new manager. “Otherwise, there’s really not much point in Klentak’s being here. There were times Friday during a 57-minute news conference at Citizens Bank Park when Klentak looked as though he wasn’t sure why he was there.”
Tonight: Astros at Yankees in ALCS Game 4, 8:08 p.m.
Tomorrow: Astros at Yankees in ALCS Game 5, 7:08 p.m.
Saturday: If necessary, Yankees travel to Houston for Game 6, 8:08 p.m.
Sunday: Game 7 of the ALCS, if needed, 7:38 p.m.
Tuesday: ALCS winner hosts the Nationals in Game 1 of the World Series, TBD.
Stat of the day
Gabe Kapler was asked to interview this week with the Cubs and Giants for their manager vacancies, which leads you to believe that the fired Phillies manager will manage again. If so, Kapler would be just the third Phillies manager in the last 35 years to manage again after his time was up in Philadelphia.
Pete Mackanin, Ryne Sandberg, Charlie Manuel, Larry Bowa, Nick Leyva, Lee Ellia, and John Felske managed their last games in a Phillies uniform while Terry Francona and Jim Fregosi found managerial work elsewhere. The Phillies are not exactly the Temple football of major-league manager jobs.
From the mailbag
Send questions by email or on Twitter @matt_breen.
Question: So the Phillies are down to three manager choices, who is it going to be? — Max B. via email.
Answer: Thanks, Max. I think it will be Joe Girardi, the man who took the trophy in 2009 that John Middleton has been desperately searching for ever since. Not only has he won a World Series, but Girardi would be the ideal bridge between continuing to use analytics but also returning feel to the dugout.
That’s what the Phillies missed most during the last two seasons, and Girardi will give them that. He’s a proven winner who showed in New York that he knows how to adapt to today’s game.