Pssst. Gabe. Over here. You don't know me, but I want to help you. I hacked the space this newspaper and website usually wastes on that hack Bob Brookover, and now I'm offering some free advice that you can ponder during the long offseason.
My sources tell me that on a scale of the all-time head coaches and managers in this town, you are a lot closer to Chip Kelly than to Charlie Manuel right now. But with some fixes, we can get you upgraded to Andy Reid status in no time. That would be great, wouldn't it? You're both Southern California natives with similar appetites and body types.
So here are some things for you to think about this offseason while you eat berries, spinach, kale, purple cabbage, and large quantities of eggs.
Lose the nicknames. There's nothing wrong with calling some people by their nickname, but not everybody needs to have one. Some of the ones you used during the 2018 season were ridiculous. Sometimes it was difficult to tell whom you were even talking about.
Please do not call Pat Neshek "Shaq Daddy" ever again. There was only one Shaq Daddy in the history of professional sports, and there is never going to be another. "Knappy" for Andrew Knapp is bad. "Alf" for Jorge Alfaro is worse. "King" for Scott Kingery must end.
Embrace the Phillies' past. The photographs of Muhammad Ali, Albert Einstein, and Mahatma Gandhi on your office walls make it clear that you care about history and have been motivated by a lot of great people. Everyone around here admires that you were a 57th-round draft pick who spent 12 years in the big leagues. Your work ethic is impeccable.
And everyone around here is willing to acknowledge that the Phillies' history does not compare to the New York Yankees', Boston Red Sox's, St. Louis Cardinals', or Los Angeles Dodgers'. But there have been some great moments, great players, and great baseball men who spent a good amount of time here, and many of them are still employed by the team.
Right now would be a good time for you, general manager Matt Klentak, team president Andy MacPhail, and managing partner John Middleton to consult guys such as Pat Gillick, Charlie Manuel, and Larry Bowa. They might not know as much as you guys about analytics, but they know baseball and their opinions should be sought and cherished. I got the impression this season that they were mostly ignored.
Managing the players is more important than managing the game. Gabe, you obviously spent a lot of time thinking about how you wanted to run a game. Matchups mattered a lot to you, and redefining the way you used your bullpen and made out your lineup card will be what we remember most about your first season. But the game, regardless of what the numbers say, is still about the players, and the genius of Charlie Manuel was that his players would do anything for him. I do not think we can say the same about you and your players right now.
I'm not suggesting there was a revolt, because I don't think there was. But players, like most people, are creatures of habit and like routines. Too many moving parts cause confusion. The idea that guys can be seamlessly moved to different positions might work for a small minority of big-league players, but not for everyone. A jack of all trades is nice, but it would be even better to have masters at some positions. It will lead to better defense. I think it would also help if the bullpen had more defined roles, and I know I'm not alone in that opinion.
It's OK to call a bad performance bad. You've already heard about this from Andy MacPhail, so we won't spend too much time on it. It took until the season's final weeks for you to come around and acknowledge that your team played horrendous baseball for the final seven weeks and that the defense needs some fixing.
One of the more interesting exchanges you had with the media was when you were asked if you considered calling a team meeting and showing some frustration with the way the team was playing. You essentially said there was no evidence it would help. There is no evidence it would hurt either, and at that point, you needed to try something different. There's nothing wrong with being critical. In fact, done right, it is a great teaching tool.
Fundamentals matter. You said in the final week that the team will spend more time on fundamentals next year in spring training, which is good because more than one scout told me during last year's spring training that your team was not spending enough time on fundamentals. When Terry Francona became the Phillies manager, he used to have a 27-out drill during the final two days of spring training before Grapefruit League games started. With the eight position players in their spots, he hit fungos and made the players catch the baseball and work on game situations until they recorded 27 outs.
Francona's teams lacked talent, but if you go check how they did on defense, you'll find they were good. I'd suggest doing the 27-out drill, but have your players set up in the various shifts you intend to deploy.
You should have kept Sammy. Your biggest mistake as a rookie manager, in my opinion, was nuking almost the entire coaching staff after you became manager. You kept Rick Kranitz and made him the pitching coach, your best coaching decision. He knew most of the guys on your pitching staff, and perhaps that's the reason your team improved more in pitching than in any other area.
The staff ERA was lowered from 4.55 to 4.14. The strikeouts were up and the walks were down. Pitching was the strength of your team and the primary reason you got to 15 games over .500 before the collapse. I thought you should have kept Matt Stairs as hitting coach, and it was an even bigger mistake to let third base coach and outfield instructor Juan Samuel walk away. I don't think it was a coincidence that most of your hitters took a step backward in 2018, and I believe Samuel's departure contributed to Odubel Herrera's decline at the plate and in the field.
Welcome to Philadelphia. I know you were hired a while ago and you've gone through an entire season, but you're not truly a part of the Philadelphia sports scene until you get into a heated exchange with a radio personality. Your back-and-forth with Angelo Cataldi was pretty mild compared with some of your predecessors, but a rite of passage nonetheless. When you get a chance, ask Charlie Manuel about his office invitation to Howard Eskin in 2007.
Anyway, for your sake and the Phillies' sake, I hope next year is a better one. You obviously care about your job a lot, and I hope these words help in some small way. Brookover will be back next week.
Sincerely, Anon E. Moss
(Pssst. Anon E. Moss is really Bob Brookover. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org)