With nearly two weeks left in the season, general manager Matt Klentak said he was not ready to talk about 2020 when asked whether Gabe Kapler would return for a third-season as manager.
“Until we play the last game of 2019, we’re not going to start talking about 2020,” Klentak said Wednesday afternoon.
Next season is the final year of Kapler’s three-year contract. And it seems that Kapler has the support of Klentak, who did not sound like a general manager waiting to fire his manager.
“I think he's doing a very good job. Is he perfect every day? No. Are we all perfect every day? No. Have we had our share of challenges? Of course we have,” Klentak said. “But I think the group is playing hard down the stretch. We still have a chance. I think a lot of the subtle improvements we've seen this year have been the product of our manager and coaching staff.”
But John Middleton, who pushed earlier this season for Charlie Manuel to return as the hitting coach, might make the ultimate decision. The Phillies entered Wednesday’s game with an 0.6% chance to make the playoffs after investing nearly $500 million in the roster.
Kapler’s job has been challenged by injuries, which included losing nearly an entire bullpen and the leadoff hitter. Klentak credited Kapler for the team’s base running, managing the shorthanded bullpen, and defensive improvements. But a manager’s future is usually not determined by the way the infielders are placing tags at second base or the improvement in a catcher’s framing of pitches.
“Winning is what matters for his job, for my job, for anybody in this game,” Klentak said. “That’s the cold, hard truth. I know that. We all know that. But not every season is the same as the one that came before it or the one that comes after it. The circumstances change. The player personnel can change. Expectations can change. There are a lot of things that are different year in and year out.”
“I highlighted a few areas where I think our manager and coaching staff have done a terrific job," he said. "Whether those contributions are enough to get us in the playoffs or not remains to be seen. We have 13 more games. But, I think there have been a lot of positives.”