As the Phillies begin the search to replace deposed Gabe Kapler, they have meetings lined up this week with two of the 25 winningest managers of all time.
Dusty Baker is scheduled to interview with the Phillies on Wednesday, according to a source with knowledge of the situation, after receiving permission from the San Francisco Giants. For the last two seasons, he has worked as a special adviser to Giants CEO Larry Baer.
The Phillies also will meet with Buck Showalter, a second source confirmed Sunday night, likely before they talk with Baker.
Baker, 70, has 1,863 career regular-season victories, the 15th most in baseball history, over 22 years with the Giants (1993-2002), Chicago Cubs (2003-06), Cincinnati Reds (2008-13), and Washington Nationals (2016-17). A three-time National League manager of the year, he has steered teams to 14 winning seasons, seven division titles and nine postseason appearances, but has been to the World Series only once with the runner-up Giants in 2002.
It will mark Baker’s first managerial interview since he was fired by the Nationals after the 2017 season. He has seemed content to serve in his role with the Giants and watch his son, Darren, play for the University of California. But a source said Sunday that Baker “absolutely” wants to manage again and has a strong desire to reach 2,000 career wins, a mark reached by only 11 managers.
Showalter, 63, has 1,551 regular-season wins, 24th on the all-time list, over 20 years with the New York Yankees (1992-95), Arizona Diamondbacks (1998-2000), Texas Rangers (2003-06), and Baltimore Orioles (2010-18). He’s had 11 winning seasons and reached the playoffs five times. He sat out this season after being let go by the Orioles, but has interest in managing again.
It’s unclear whether the Phillies have an interview lined up with former Yankees manager Joe Girardi, although they are planning to meet with him, according to multiple reports Sunday.
Showalter and Baker have associations with prominent members of the Phillies’ front office. They both worked for team president Andy MacPhail, Baker in Chicago and Showalter in Baltimore. General manager Matt Klentak, assistant GM Ned Rice, pitcher Jake Arrieta, and infield coach Bobby Dickerson were also with the Orioles for at least part of Showalter’s tenure.
Baker, meanwhile, managed Bryce Harper for two years in Washington and, by all accounts, they got along well. After Baker got fired, he told the Washington Post that Harper is “probably the most knowledgeable baseball guy I’ve been around,” strong praise considering he has been in the game for 52 years, including a 19-year playing career in which he was teammates with Hank Aaron in Atlanta and played for Tommy Lasorda in Los Angeles.
During a 57-minute news conference Friday, Phillies managing partner John Middleton, MacPhail, and Klentak were vague about outlining the qualifications they are seeking in the next manager. Although Middleton noted the importance of trying to find “the next Craig Counsell,” a nod to the Milwaukee Brewers’ first-time manager, it’s widely believed that they are prioritizing experience after choosing Kapler, who had never been on a big-league coaching staff before he got hired two years ago.
The Phillies’ interest in Showalter, Baker, and likely Girardi would seem to confirm that suspicion.
“We certainly know what proven, experienced managers don’t have jobs and are looking,” Middleton said. “We also know where those managers have indicated a preference to go and where we are slotted in their personal pecking order.”
It seems likely that Middleton was referring to Baker, Showalter, Girardi, and Joe Maddon, all of whom are receiving consideration for several of the eight managerial vacancies and were expected to draw interest from the Phillies.
Kapler ran a relaxed clubhouse with few rules for players. A more experienced manager might bring more structure or even discipline. Middleton noted last Friday that he spoke to Kapler in July about his handling of players who didn’t hustle, specifically his decision not to bench them.
Showalter and Baker also figure to command a higher salary than Kapler, who made $803,000 this year. Showalter made $4 million in his final season with the Orioles, while Baker had a two-year, $4 million contract with the Nationals.
Middleton decided to fire Kapler over the objection of Klentak and MacPhail. Klentak, in particular, was a strong advocate to keep Kapler. Nevertheless, Middleton said Klentak will initiate the search for the new manager and presumably present his preference to ownership.
“I don’t think there’s a relationship more important in a baseball organization than the manager and GM," MacPhail said on Friday. “If those two aren’t simpatico, you really have issues. I believe it’s John’s and my goal that Matt go out and start the search. At the end, he’s going to have to have the approval of John and I, just like with Gabe. John or I could have vetoed Gabe; we chose not to. But I can’t imagine us hiring somebody that Matt is not fully on board with.”