October 29, 2017
The Phillies will name Gabe Kapler their new manager this week, possibly as soon as Monday, a baseball source confirmed to PhillyVoice on Sunday night.
Kapler, a 42-year-old native of Hollywood, Calif., replaces Pete Mackanin, who was dismissed from the managerial post a month ago. Kapler spent the last three years working in the Los Angeles Dodgers front office as the director of player development.
Heading into this weekend, Kapler was reportedly one of two finalists for the vacant Phillies manager job along with Triple-A Lehigh Valley manager Dusty Wathan. It’s unclear if Wathan, who spent 10 years managing in the Phillies minor league system, will have a place on Kapler’s coaching staff.
The Phillies confirmed Kapler's hiring late Monday afternoon. An introductory press conference will be held later this week, after the conclusion of the World Series.
Although Kapler is sans big league manager experience (and hasn’t worked on a major league coaching staff, either) his appointment manager is hardly surprising. He has been labeled as a budding managing prospect for the last couple of years.
In the last decade, there has been a growing trend of hiring younger, less-proven candidates as managers (the two managers in the World Series are prime examples) and also astute baseball men who can act as an extension of the front office inside the dugout. During that same time, the incorporation of analytics into the game has increased.
The Phillies were late to the sabermetrics party – something managing partner John Middleton readily admitted after dismissing Ruben Amaro Jr. as general manager two years ago – but have made populating their once-bare analytics department with the best and brightest candidates they could find a priority in the last two years. The Phillies obviously believe Kapler, who finished his 12-year playing career with the Andrew Friedman and Joe Maddon-led, progressive Tampa Bay Rays, fits that criteria.
After retiring, Kapler, a former 57th-round pick (1,488th overall) in the 1995 MLB Draft by Detroit and a member of the 2004 Red Sox World Championship team, worked at Fox Sports as an analytics-friendly writer and analyst.
Three years ago this month Kapler worked a live, alternate broadcast of a National League Championship Series game on Fox Sports 1 (while Fox handled the regular broadcast). The alternative Fox Sports 1 broadcast was set up so a "panel of experts,” including Kapler, could “dissect the game and players through a sabermetric lens.”
“I think people watching can expect a different sort of broadcast — one that facilitates flexibility of thought and one that will appreciate people who are truly passionate about a different way to look at baseball in general,” Kapler said at the time. “I think you’ll see people who celebrate predictive metrics over metrics that have told the story about what has happened, and focusing on metrics that can tell the story about what may happen going forward.”
Additionally, Kapler started a lifestyle blog, on nutrition, fitness, and health. He also wrote two years ago about the idea of building a winning culture.
It’s fair to say that Kapler – who we identified as a possibility for the job a month ago – quickly established himself as a pretty unique candidate in some capacity in baseball following his playing career. After Friedman left the Rays to join the Dodgers, he was able to bring the Southern California native into his front office.
Two years ago – a year after he joined the team’s baseball operations department – Kapler interviewed for the Dodgers manager job and finished as a runner-up to Dave Roberts. Kapler’s managing experience has been limited to one year in the minor leagues (at Low-A Greenville in 2007) and for Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic (2013).
Still, Friedman spoke glowingly about his new front office hire three years ago.
“Gabe has a tremendous mind, a thirst for knowledge and he’s a great leader of people,” Friedman told ESPN.com at the time. “His passionate enthusiasm is something that I think is going to resonate throughout our entire minor-league operations.”
Kapler is likely to inject that same enthusiasm into one of the youngest rosters in baseball in Philadelphia in 2018. He’ll be charged with developing a slew of promising but mostly inexperienced players and getting the most out of their respective talents as the Phillies take their rebuild forward with an eye on finishing with a winning record for the first time in seven seasons.
“In my mind, we have reached a turning point in this rebuild,” general manager Matt Klentak said exactly a month ago, when the managerial search began. “We have turned over this roster considerably over the last two years and especially in the last few months. We see our roster right now is littered with young players who look to have a very, very bright future.
"It’s time to look forward. … We want to make sure the candidate we bring in is the best person to connect with our players and our fans to connect with our front office ultimately to help this team win.”
And now it’s up to Gabe Kapler to take the young Phillies into that winning direction.
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