Gabe Kapler stood at midfield Sunday night at Lincoln Financial Field and watched the Eagles go through their warmups. The Phillies' manager was on the field during the national anthem and even watched the first few minutes of the NFC championship game from the corner of an end zone. The atmosphere, he said, was invigorating.
But before he entered the stadium, the well-read Kapler did some research. He wanted to know what Eagles coach Doug Pederson had been saying in the summer when a rocking Linc in January was far from anyone's imagination. Kapler came away with some inspiration.
The Eagles had made some offseason acquisitions, yet prognosticators still projected them for roughly eight wins. Kapler read that Pederson remained bold about his team's chances.
"He was essentially banking on the development of Carson Wentz and some of his younger players," Kapler said. "The message was, 'Hey, if we get some development, we're a really talented team, and who knows how good we can be?' That was the message he sent to his players, and that was the message he sent to his fans."
Kapler has attacked his first Phillies offseason with a similar message. The manager has talked all winter about the development of his young players. He will match that youth with Carlos Santana, the veteran first baseman the Phillies signed in December. Kapler has been bullish, predicting last week that the Phillies could see "a load" of wins in 2018. The Eagles' run to the Super Bowl came a season or two earlier than expected. Most expect the Phillies to compete for a playoff berth in 2019, not 2018. But as Kapler — and everyone else — learned Sunday, timelines are sometimes inaccurate.
"You think about our club and you can think about it in a very similar fashion. Do a lot of things need to come together for us to be a team that goes deep into the postseason? Sure. I think that's true for every major-league club," Kapler said. "But is it something that we can sink our teeth into and look to the Eagles for inspiration? I think the answer to that question is yes. And can we look to the way coach Pederson approached the fans of Philadelphia and the city of Philadelphia and said, 'We believe in this group'? That's exactly how we feel. We believe in this group. We believe in the front office. We believe in the information. We believe in the talent."
Kapler eventually left the field Sunday night and found his seat. He watched the Eagles steamroll the Vikings, and the rest of the night was surreal. He had been to an Eagles game earlier this season, but Sunday night provided Kapler a taste of what it feels like to win in Philadelphia. He will leave in a few weeks for his first spring training as the Phillies' manager. And he will arrive there with some inspiration.
"Just about every fan and sort of shareholder in the Eagles' success said the same thing to me," Kapler said, "and that was, 'This is what it can be like for you guys, and it can be more.' So many people illuminated back to 2008 and how powerful it was for them. The takeaway was the connection that was made between what was happening at the Linc on Sunday night and what happened in 2008 during the parade, celebrations, and competition. It was an overwhelmingly powerful experience."
The Phillies announced that Bobby Abreu, Larry Bowa, Brad Lidge, Charlie Manuel, Dan Plesac, and Mike Schmidt will join the team in spring training as guest instructors. It will be Abreu's first time in the role. …The Phillies hired Yale catching coach Craig Driver as their second bullpen catcher. He also will be involved with coaching the catchers.