Gabe Kapler modeled his managerial style after Joe Maddon’s, which would have made it an interesting move for the Phillies if they replaced the fired Kapler with the freestyle manager who had molded Kapler’s laid-back ways of leadership.
But it never came close to happening.
Maddon agreed Wednesday to a three-year deal to manage the Los Angeles Angels, the job to which he had been linked since the Chicago Cubs fired him at the end of the season. Maddon did not interview for any other jobs after the Angels created a vacancy for him by firing Brad Ausmus after just one season.
Maddon grew up in Hazleton and still has deep roots in Luzerne County, but a return to Pennsylvania was not in the cards. Instead, Maddon heads out west to manage the team with which he broke into professional baseball, and the Phillies narrow their search.
The Phillies met earlier this week with Joe Girardi and Buck Showalter and were scheduled to meet Wednesday with Dusty Baker. Those are the only candidates to emerge so far, and a source said this week that Girardi and Showalter are the early favorites.
All three are veteran managers with established track records. All three have been to October, won Manager of the Year awards, and succeeded under the pressure that a market like Philadelphia can bring. The group has a combined 53 years of managerial experience, something the Phillies are clearly valuing in their search.
“Look, I think any time you’re in this position, you should be looking to do everything you can to make sure you make the best decision,” Phillies managing partner John Middleton said last week. “And you should start, if you have people who are proven managers, you should absolutely include them on your list.
"But look, somewhere out there, there’s the next Craig Counsell [Milwaukee Brewers manager], and you need to look for that, too. So, we’re going to try to find those people as well and interview them.”
Of the three, Girardi would be the ideal bridge between new-age analytics and old-school baseball. Girardi managed the Yankees for 10 seasons, made the playoffs six times, and won a World Series title as a premier in-game strategist while forcing himself to embrace the analytical ways of the team’s trailblazing front office. But the Mets also appear to be interested in Girardi, which could drive the price up.
Baker has been to the postseason nine times with four teams. The San Francisco Giants had losing records in 1991 and ’92 before Baker was hired in 1993 and managed them to 103 wins. Phillies president Andy MacPhail was the Cubs president when Baker arrived in Chicago in 2003. His first year with the Cubs ended a win shy of the World Series after the team had lost 95 games the season before.
He managed the Cincinnati Reds to two division titles and took the Washington Nationals to the playoffs in 2016 and ’17, more than 20 years after he turned around the Giants. Baker has a track record, and at 70, he’s older than any previous Phillies manager.
Showalter is less keen on analytics but has ties to the Phillies front office. He was hired by MacPhail in 2010 to manage the Orioles and worked in Baltimore under a front office that included current Phillies general manager Matt Klentak and assistant GM Ned Rice. So the Phillies know what they’d be getting with Showalter, who has made five trips to the postseason and has success at making quick fixes to underachieving teams.
But Girardi also has ties to MacPhail. He played for the Cubs in 1990s when MacPhail was president there and MacPhail offered him the Orioles managerial job after Girardi had won the 2006 NL Manager of the Year but was fired by the Marlins, capping a bizarre season. Girardi turned down MacPhail.
A year later, he was hired by the Yankees, and he topped the defending champion Phillies in the 2009 World Series. After that loss, Middleton famously declared that he wanted his trophy back. A decade later, the Phillies are still searching for it, but their quest could lead them to the manager who took it from them after he turned down the man who became their president.