August 07, 2019
You'll have to forgive the Phillies fan in your life if they seem agitated these days. Just like last year, Philadelphia's baseball team has watched first place in the NL East slip away as its best players fail to produce as expected, and a Wild Card berth looks increasingly harder to land with each passing day.
The Phillies are 49 games away from the end of Gabe Kapler's second season as the team's manager, and the aforementioned frustrations, which are currently simmering, will reach a boiling point if the Phillies miss the postseason this fall. One common refrain from sports fans is to call for the coach, or in this case the manager. So, is Kapler on thin ice?
Not according to one MLB insider. USA Today's Bob Nightengale sat down with Kapler for a 45-minute interview and wrote a column about Kapler's job security on Wednesday. The takeaway from the column: Nightengale says "the prevailing belief among Phillies' executives is that Kapler's job is safe."
From Nightengale's column:
"If there’s anyone in the Phillies’ clubhouse who believes Kapler should take the fall if they miss the playoffs, that sentiment is being kept private. They laud Kapler’s communication skills, with Jean Segura talking about how Kapler actually used FaceTime on Monday to tell him he was batting fifth that evening, and utilityman Sean Rodriguez raving that rarely are players are caught unaware of how they’ll be used."
Now, before we get ahead of ourselves, Nightengale isn't an Adrian Wojnarowski-level scoop artist, where his report is taken as concrete fact. He's well-sourced, but he's not infallible, so it's not 100% certain that Kapler will return as the Phillies' manager for a third season in 2020.
But it's probably noteworthy that, as the Phillies are clambering to keep pace in the National League playoff picture, members of the organization feel confident telling a reporter of Nightengale's position that Kapler will survive the offseason.
On one hand, it makes sense to give Kapler at least one more year to make his case. The first year of a roster overhaul, much less one burdened with sky-high expectations, is never easy. Mega-signing Bryce Harper hasn't been bad, but he hasn't been the superstar the team hoped he would be. Rhys Hoskins has been inconsistent. Starting pitching has been equally so, and the bullpen -- hamstrung by an early-season David Robertson injury -- has been downright bad. If the front office can help Kapler out by plugging a few holes in the offseason, and he has time to work his stars in the right direction, patience could be the correct move.
But there's also a counterpoint: the Phillies simply haven't been very good under Kapler. They team, as of Wednesday afternoon, is 139-136 in his nearly two seasons as manager. They've failed to show growth throughout a season, instead regressing into frustration after hot starts. Right now, the team is incapable of capitalizing on runners in scoring position. It wouldn't be surprising to see the front office decide Kapler simply hasn't shown them enough through two seasons, and pull the plug.
If we're taking Nightengale's word, Kapler has (as of now) shown just enough to buy himself one more year. If the Phillies tank these final seven weeks and end up out of the postseason, and maybe behind the recently-resurgent rival Mets in the NL East, that decision could change.