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October 10, 2019

Gabe Kapler will not return as Phillies manager after two seasons

Well, the debate over who is to blame for the Phillies failure of a season in 2019 seems to have concluded. The team seems to have pegged its scapegoat as reports surfaced Thursday morning that manager Gabe Kapler will be let go by the Phillies.

This report from Bob Brookover of The Philadelphia Inquirer comes not long after NBC Sports Philadelphia's Jim Salisbury reported that he heard that a decision and announcement would come sometime Thursday.

The report was confirmed with a press release from the Phillies a few minutes later, with a quote from Middleton about why he felt a change was necessary. He also said that GM Matt Klentak would be leading the search to find Kapler's replacement. 

“Several years ago, I promised our loyal fans that I would do everything in my power to bring a world championship team to our city.  I will never waver from that commitment.  During the second half of this season and continuing into this week, I have evaluated our organization extensively, a process that included talking to many people both internally and around the league.  Reassuring to me was the endorsement that people outside the Phillies gave to the progress we have made recently, both organizationally and on the field.  Nevertheless, with the knowledge that I have gained from my evaluation, combined with my personal reflection on the 2019 season, I have decided that some changes are necessary to achieve our ultimate objective. Consequently, we will replace our manager. I am indebted to Gabe for the steadfast effort, energy and enthusiasm that he brought to our club, and we are unquestionably a better team and organization as a result of his contributions. With Matt leading our search for our next manager, I am confident that we will find the right person to lead us.”

And here's what Klentak, who is clearly not going anywhere himself, had to say about their decision to let go of Kapler:

“On behalf of everyone in our Baseball Operations department, I want to thank Kap for his tireless commitment to the Phillies over the last two years,” said General Manager Matt Klentak. “When we hired Kap, it was our goal to develop a positive, forward-thinking and collaborative culture throughout the organization that would allow us to compete with the best teams in the league year in and year out. While we have fallen short in the win column for the last two years, I can confidently say that Kap’s efforts have established a strong and sustainable foundation for this organization moving forward. In the coming weeks, John, Andy and I will work diligently with others in our Baseball Operations department to find the right individual to build upon the existing foundation and bring a championship home to Philadelphia.”

As for Kapler, the now former Phillies manager pointed the finger directly at himself and even found a way to compliment his players on the way out the door, which, knowing him, was probably to be expected:

“I am grateful to John, the Buck family, Andy, Matt and the entire Phillies organization for giving me the opportunity to lead this team for the last two years. I have tremendous respect for this organization, this franchise and this city,” said Kapler. “We came into 2019 with very high hopes. We fell short of those, and that responsibility lies with me. The next Phillies manager will inherit a team of talented, dedicated and committed players. There has been nothing more fulfilling in my professional career than the opportunity to work with the players on this team. I will forever value the relationships I developed with them. As I move on, I know that this organization is in a great spot and will see a lot of success going forward. My hope is that I helped contribute to a developing culture in the organization that flourishes in the years to come. I’ve come to care for this franchise and have the best wishes for this group in the future. The passion and devotion of the Phillies fan base both inspired and humbled me daily. It was an honor to grow, develop and learn with this team. I’m looking forward to what the future brings, and I know I’m a better leader and person for having had this opportunity.”

As for the other guys on Kapler's staff, the release says that Charlie Manuel, who replaced fired John Mallee, will not return as hitting coach in 2020 and will return to his role as an advisor, and confirms earlier reports that pitching coach Chris Young is out as well. But much of the rest of the staff has been invited back for 2020, despite the team not know who its manager will be:

Pitching coach Chris Young will not return in that position in 2020 and hitting coach Charlie Manuel will resume his role as senior advisor to the general manager. The remainder of the coaching staff has been invited back for the 2020 season: Bobby Dickerson (infield), Craig Driver (bullpen catcher/receiving), Paco Figueroa (first base), Jim Gott (bullpen), Pedro Guerrero (assistant hitting), Dave Lundquist (assistant pitching), Bob Stumpo (bullpen catcher/catching), Rob Thomson (bench) and Dusty Wathan (third base).

The team also announced that head trainer Scott Sheridan and assistant trainer Chris Mudd would not have their contracts renewed for next season.

Kapler was a younger, less conventional hire when he took over in 2018, leading the Phillies to back-to-back mediocre seasons: first 80-82 and then a one-win improvement to 81-81. Philly famously spend hundreds of millions of dollars on Bryce Harper, Andrew McCutchen and a slew of others while also improving the team via trade to pretty much no avail.

A bevy of injuries and a barely serviceable (if that) starting pitching staff made the Phillies' improved line up more or less irrelevant. Kapler did the best he could, sometimes tinkering perhaps a bit too much to try and whip the team into competing shape.

World Series winning manager Charlie Manuel was even deputized to come in as the team's hitting coach in August but it really did little good as Philly fell out of Wild Card contention as the fall arrived.

Kapler has been a lightning rod for debate since his hire here by GM Matt Klentak, using analytics more than nearly every other manager in baseball — a controversial approach in old school Philadelphia.

With the season in the rearview, many in Philadelphia were starting to get frustrated by the long delay. More than half a dozen other teams made decisions on managers before the Phillies did, and John Middleton — the team's managing partner — seemed to be quite unsure on how to handle the decision. But he made one, it seems, and now the Phillies can focus on 2020 instead of looking back at 2019.

There seem to be a bevy of high profile candidates for the job that have been floating around with openings in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Kansas City and San Diego. World Series winners Joe Girardi and John Farrell appear to be on the midst of being hired again. 

Joe Maddon, recently fired from Chicago, is also a name to watch as the Phillies begin their search for a new skipper. So is former Orioles manager Buck Showalter, who has a connection to the organization via it's GM Klentak — the two worked together in Baltimore.

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