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October 10, 2019

Natalie Egenolf: Can we actually trust Klentak, Phillies to get it right with their next manager?

They better, or else the team will be looking for a new general manager next offseason...

After 11 days of deliberation, a decision has been made on the fate of the Phillies manager Gabe Kapler — fired, after a tumultuous two-year roller coaster at the helm of an organization so desperate to appease their fan base that their owner seems to be making his decisions based, at least in part, on what they want. 

As time creeps closer to a decade since this city's had a playoff-contending baseball team, the question no longer remains if the manager of the past two years was to blame for the team’s performance — the organization certainly deemed him the man to take the fall — but is there any trust left in an organization who has had five managers in the last seven years? 

A myriad of injuries (including a season-changing Andrew McCutchen injury in June, statistically proven to be the worst injury to a team in all of baseball), a bleak pitching rotation, and a sluggish offense can all be blamed for this season. We now have Klentak and MacPhail to trust to turn this around. What’s problematic about this, and the future of the Phillies, is that the indecision on Kapler proves that somewhere in the organization there is a disconnect on decision-making which could be symptomatic of a team that has no direction off the diamond.

The new-school analytics vs. the old-school, gut-feel approach to team management is a new type of issue that is plaguing the MLB. Change is never easy, but how can organizations keep up when there has been no textbook answer for success in the new wave of America’s pastime? 

In his statement on Kapler’s release, owner John Middleton confidently stated that “with Matt [Klentak] leading our search for our next manager, I am confident that we will find the right person to lead us.” 

Oh, okay then. Two weeks ago, Klentak endorsed Gabe as his guy — but the names that keep circulating in the rumor mill as possibilities to lead the future of the clubhouse aren’t necessarily indicative of a pure Kapler-esque approach that Klentak clearly seems to prefer.

If Klentak is leading the charge, how could he possibly be satisfied in choosing someone like Buck Showalter, who not only has the type of resume to push back on a GM like Klentak but is also about as old-school as they come? Or even Joe Maddon, for that matter, a 65-year-old who, while credited for being adaptive to the new-school approach to the game, is still based in an old school mindset? Recent reports alluded to Klentak having some influence on the lineup. And, if those reports are true, I doubt someone like Maddon, or Showalter, or Joe Girardi, or Mike Scioscia, who have over 100 years of experience combined, would be willing to shift a lineup at the behest of the GM. 

Regardless, the names in the mix are all experienced in the game, so for those who prefer the “balanced approach,” that’s probably what they’ll get. I’m just not sure how balanced it will be if the future manager has no interest in compromise and a track record to tout for ultimate decision making power.

This blatant endorsement of Klentak leading the next search should show that he is being given his second chance — and if this selection doesn’t work out, odds are that he will not be given a third. 

The majority of the listeners on 97.5 The Fanatic throughout the season called for a regime change. The expectations heading into the season were higher than they’ve been in recent years and "stupid money” was spent — alas, to no avail. The fans will now wait for another massive offseason to hopefully contend next year under, yet again, someone new.

Whether you believe Kapler was solely to blame for the Phillies woes or not, one thing is certain: the GM and team president are now under more of a microscope than ever before and they can't hide behind their manager any longer. 

They must choose wisely.

MORE: Natalie Egenolf: The last time the Phillies made the playoffs...

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