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October 30, 2017

What they're saying: Gabe Kapler is unlike any manager the Phillies have ever had

I was at a wedding over the weekend, and as soon as people found out what I did for a living, the conversation inevitably moved on to one of two topics: "How 'bout them Eagles?" and "Who are the Phillies going to hire?"

And thanks to our own Ryan Lawrence – he has been all over the Phillies managerial news and was the first to identify Kapler as a potential candidate – I came away looking way smarter than I actually am. With reports saying the Phils were zeroing in on Dusty Wathan, and the sudden (read: surprising) availability of Joe Girardi and John Farrell, I offered a different response.

Gabe Kapler.

And the response was often, "Uh, who?" – with an occasional, "That guy who used to play for the Red Sox?" thrown in for good measure. 

At the time, I didn't know a ton about Kapler other than his playing career and the fact that he was pro-analytics guy currently working for the Dodgers. But now, like the rest of Philadelphia, it's time to start learning more about the guy who will be responsible for taking the Phillies rebuild to the next level and actually start winning games.

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.  [Ryan Lawrence,]

As you'll learn soon enough, Kapler is bringing more than just a fresh face and his love for analytics to the organization.

Here's a look at what they're saying about the Phillies' decision to hire Kapler as their next manager:

A numbers game

Matt Gelb | The Philadelphia Inquirer

As Matt points out, Kapler's lack of experience and his dependence on analytics to make in-game decisions could come into question once next season rolls around. 

It’s an audacious hire, one that pushes the Phillies to a progressive extreme the franchise has never occupied. The immediate test will be Kapler’s control of a clubhouse and his in-game tactics, given his scant experience in both areas. He has coached or managed for just one season, in 2007, at a low-level Boston affiliate. His hiring of a pitching coach will be critical. … 

He has 39,000 followers on Twitter. He has written for Baseball Prospectus, the industry’s analytics hub. He worked in player development for Tampa Bay after his career ended. He became an analyst for Fox Sports. On his lifestyle website, filled with testimonials from current and retired players, he once wrote: “Writing strengthens humans.”

So does, in his mind, the search for new information. He will rely upon analytics to make dugout decisions.  []

Kapler the Philosopher

Dan Levy | Billy Penn

If it's not obvious by now, Kapler's interests extend beyond baseball. As we pointed out, he's also a bit of a writer. But his writing isn't just about baseball analytics. Sometimes, he likes to get all philosophical on his blog.

Kapler worked for Fox Sports before going to work for the Dodgers. He also wrote for Baseball Prospectus with a concentration on analytics. He also has a blog.


If you watch “The Good Place," then that thought experiment should sound familiar.

If you don't watch that show, I highly recommend it.

Going outside the box

Brad Berreman | TBOH

Not only is Kapler young, but he's also the first outside hire since Terry Francona joined the club over two decades ago.

The Phillies have not made the postseason since 2011, with at least 89 losses in five straight seasons. So some fresh thinking is clearly needed. Kapler will be the first manager hired without ties to the organization since Terry Francona in 1996, and the youngest (42 years old) since Francona (37 when he was hired).  []

A familiar face on the staff?

Tim Kelly |

This is pure speculation, but Tim lays out a pretty clear argument as to why Raul Ibanez could wind up back in red pinstripes before long. 

With the Phillies reportedly set to name Los Angeles Dodgers director of player development Gabe Kapler their next manager, Ibanez could make quite a bit of sense as team's next hitting coach. Besides the fact that he had over 2,000 hits in his 19-year big league career, Ibanez is well connected to Kapler. Since Feburary of 2016, Ibanez has been a special assistant to Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers president of baseball operations. Friedman is one of the most respected executives in the league, especially by someone like Kapler. That Friedman brought Ibanez into the front-office almost immediately after his career ended won't be lost on Kapler. 

In addition to both having worked in the Dodgers front-office, the two have the common connection of both having worked at FS1. Their tenures didn't overlap at FS1, but they have mutual connections from their stint on the network. They also saw quite a bit of each other early in their playing careers, when Ibanez played for the Seattle Mariners and Kapler was with the Texas Rangers.  []

Not all positive

Jon Heyman | FanRag

Heyman was the first to report that Kapler would be the next manager, and apparently, those same things that make Kapler "different," could ultimately lead to his undoing.

Kapler has a keen interest in sabermetrics and nutrition, and while running the Dodgers’ farm system upset a few players by going to all organic food. … 

Kapler is a somewhat controversial figure who has some huge fans, but his intensity is seen by some as over the top. The Phillies obviously see it as a strength, though.  []

Here to stay?

Jay Rigdon |

He may have some detractors, but given the team he is inheriting and the fact that this is his first big-league job, Kapler should get some time to settle in and work out the kinks. If the talent on the farm develops the way many hope it will, that could lead to a long tenure for the new manager.

Communication, motivation, and a forward-thinking mentality. All wrapped up in a 42-year-old former player. Kapler was always going to get a shot at a major league job, and while the Phillies might be a few years away from contending, Kapler’s the kind of guy who should be around for the long haul.  []

Only time will tell if Phillies fan get on board with the Kapler hire and want him around long term. In the meantime: Hello, ladies… 

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