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Gabe Kapler: ‘Difficult’ ending to managerial tenure with Phillies

The former Phillies manager recalls the challenge of waiting 11 days after the end of last season to learn of his fate.

Giants manager Gabe Kapler speaks during the Major League Baseball winter meetings.
Giants manager Gabe Kapler speaks during the Major League Baseball winter meetings.Read moreGregory Bull / AP

SAN DIEGO — It took 11 days from the end of last season for the Phillies to fire Gabe Kapler, leaving the former manager in a state of limbo that was both awkward and uncomfortable.

“Those 11 days were challenging because I definitely wanted the opportunity to continue to manage the Phillies,” Kapler said Tuesday from the winter meetings here at the Manchester Grand Hyatt. “I wanted to see the work that we put in, and I wanted to see it through the finish line. In my mind, that finish line was still in the future. But it was difficult.”

Ultimately, managing partner John Middleton had other ideas. Despite receiving support from general manager Matt Klentak and team president Andy MacPhail, Kapler was let go with one year left on his contract. Less than two weeks later, the Phillies replaced him with Joe Girardi, who had won a World Series and made the playoffs six times in 10 seasons with the New York Yankees.

Kapler wasn’t out of work for long. The San Francisco Giants hired him last month to succeed eventual Hall of Fame manager Bruce Bochy. First, though, he had to wait while Middleton deliberated on his future. Middleton met with Kapler several times during the process before flying out to California to fire him in person.

“The last words [to Middleton] were, ‘Thank you for the opportunity,’ ” Kapler said.

Kapler led the Phillies to a two-year record of 161-163. He admitted to learning several lessons from his first managerial tenure, notably the value of making decisions that build a player’s confidence even if it runs counter to an analytical formula.

“I think that one of the things that I learned is that sometimes those small strategic advantages come at the expense of some confidence from a player,” Kapler said. "I think I did a better job in 2019 than I did in 2018 of blending those two things, blending the small strategic advantages with the confidence level of the players, and I think I’m going to do a better job having learned some of those lessons in ’18, in 2020, without over-correcting.”

Asked if there was anything he could have done to keep his job with the Phillies, Kapler kept it simple.

“Probably win more baseball games,” he said.

Kapler won’t have to wait long next season to face his former team. The Phillies will visit San Francisco for a series April 27-29. The Giants won’t play at Citizens Bank Park until Aug. 7-9.

“Sometimes there’s a real silver lining to those situations," Kapler said. "I think the Philadelphia Phillies got a great manager in Joe Girardi, and I think I have an opportunity to manage a club that I’m incredibly excited about.”