February 18, 2019
The Phillies should call a news conference later today to announce that they will never hold another news conference involving their front office people or their manager. They are terrible at them – embarrassingly bad.
For example, who – if anybody – prepared manager Gabe Kapler for his first press gathering last week in Clearwater? Embattled by allegations that he covered up a sexual assault four years ago in Los Angeles, Kapler managed to say the one thing you cannot tell the fans here. His exact words were: “That’s not a question I’m going to be addressing.’’
The truth is, Kapler has dealt only once with a crisis that could lead to his immediate banishment from the dugout and the sport, entirely on his terms. He issued a 1,300-word statement claiming he had no knowledge of the scope of the allegations when he bypassed the police and suggest a dinner meeting with all parties involved.
I speak to Kapler every week. He is in the top 10 percent of sports figures in the basic art of communication. By refusing to discuss the situation, he is inviting fans to wonder what he’s hiding. If he had answered questions last week, he would have provided the closure everybody needed.
Kapler’s boss, GM Matt Klentak, has had an excellent off-season, acquiring four big new pieces to a roster that should challenge for the division title. Still, because owner John Middleton hinted at even bigger things with his “stupid” money comment, Klentak will be judged on the outcome of the Bryce Harper and Manny Machado sweepstakes.
The very last thing fans wanted to hear was Klentak proclaiming breathlessly that he has already had “an objectively excellent off-season.” No, he hasn’t – not without Harper or Machado. His victory lap was not just premature; it was ridiculous. Once again, Klentak proved he has very little connection with Philadelphia.
And even less connected is the all-but-invisible president of the team, Andy MacPhail, who held his annual waste of time known as the state-of-the-team address. This year he accepted the baton from Klentak and also took a deep bow, this time by saying about Kapler: “In my entire history, there's never been a hire that was as fully vetted as this one.”
First of all, most fans – more than three years into his tenure – couldn’t pick the team president out of a police lineup, so citing his long tenure in baseball means nothing to them. And secondly, if he’s so sure everything checked out fine, why isn’t he urging his manager to answer questions about it? Clearly, MacPhail was happy with Kapler’s private explanation to him. Don’t the fans deserve the same consideration?
The bottom line is, the Phillies are finally a winning team again, a ballclub that should excite fans and improve business. It’s long overdue for the people running the organization to figure out the best way to speak to their fans. Last week was definitely not it.