Admittedly, I haven’t watched a minute of Phillies baseball this year. We’ll get it rolling when the Sixers and Flyers wrap it up.
That said, I feel totally confident in asserting that people who are ready to fire Gabe Kapler after four games, a sample size comprising 2.46% of a 162 game season, have totally lost the plot.
These are probably the same people who wanted to fire Doug Pederson and Brett Brown, one coach who won a Super Bowl and another whose team is 32-12 since Christmas. It’s always been crystal clear that emotional knee-jerk reaction is simultaneously the best and worst trait of the Philadelphia sports fan. Lose one game, fire the coach. Win one game, we’re going to the World Series. It’s so predictable and myopic and it makes us look like simpletons.
So let’s back it up for two seconds here and take a breath. Gabe Kapler is brand new to the gig. The guy is going to go through some growing pains, same way that Pederson did in 2016. Does that automatically mean he’s the right guy for the job? Of course not! But it’s intellectually juvenile to make any kind of grand declaration on April 4th.
Instead, direct your attention to Kapler’s appearance on the 94 WIP morning show, a stunningly candid and constructive discussion with host Angelo Cataldi, who pressed the manager on the key topics everybody is bitching about on social media:
Angelo Cataldi: This is the angriest I’ve seen the city at a manager in the first week of his tenure. This city is upset beyond belief of what they’re witnessing. You’re aware of that?
Gabe Kapler: “Yeah, I’m definitely aware of it. I’ve said from the start that I understand the passion of Phillies fans, and that includes how passionate they are when they see a mistake, and what happened with Hoby was, unquestionably, a significant error. I get it.”
Cataldi: Can you explain to us what it is so at least, at this point, we’ll go, ‘okay, they’ll fix that, it’ll never happen again.’
Kapler: “Sure. We’re putting processes in place in the dugout to ensure that we have crisp, clear communication with the bullpen, and that’s the best I can share with you, man. It’s obviously, I’m not gonna be here and point fingers. It’s one of those things that I would never do. At the end of the day, everything that happens on the field is my responsibility. We’ve addressed the specifics internally so that it never happens again, and I trust that that reassurance will be something that the fans can sink their teeth into.”
Angelo went on to ask Kapler if he’s fully committed to the statistical analysis behind his moves:
Kapler: “What I’m fully committed to, Angelo, and one of the messages that is really important for me to convey to the fans, is that I’m a ‘baseball guy’ at my core. My responsibility is to be open minded to any bit of information coming our way. Yea, there are matchups I’m paying attention to. So analytics is a fancy word for information. Am I going to use that information to help guide decisions, to make the best decisions for the Phillies? Absolutely. But have I been in a major league dug out as a player for 12 years? Have I been working in player development for the last three years and really understanding what makes players tick? Absolutely. So the grinder in me, the baseball guy in me, is paying attention to what’s happening on the field and making decisions accordingly. Now, the one thing I don’t want to do is let those observations get us too emotional and let us make a decision that’s not rooted in some degree of truth. So I want to create a healthy balance between some of that information that we’re gathering, to help us make decisions, and that baseball guy, and allowing that to come out, and really trusting the core group around us and the experience of the bench. I’m doing a little bit of both, Angelo. That’s the correct answer to your question.”
The money quote, and the thing you saw people arguing about on Twitter this morning (and all weekend, really), was Kapler’s doubling-down on his decision to pull Aaron Nola after 68 pitches in the fifth inning of the season opener in Atlanta.
Here’s what the manager said when Cataldi asked him if he would make the same decision again:
Kapler: “If it came up again, on opening day, when we knew that Aaron Nola’s spot is going to come up in the rotation on regular rest, coming off of Spring Training, and I factored in how absolutely deadly Hoby Milner has been against Freddie Freeman in his career – two things were happening there, we had a plan that we were going to keep Nola short in the first outing of the season. So we executed on that. We knew that he was going to be on regular rest. We knew he was coming off Spring Training. We knew we wanted to keep him healthy and strong in September and October and in today’s start. We were seeing beyond that moment and what was best for Aaron Nola to keep him healthy and strong. We knew that Hoby Milner matched up beautifully against Freeman and (Nick) Markakis. It didn’t work out. I understand the hindsight kind of changes the equation a little bit. But if I could do it all over again, knowing that we were going to use a lot of relievers on opening day and the second day because we wanted to get guys into games, yes, I would do it exactly the same way. I stand by the decision. I think it was best for the Phillies. I think it was best for Aaron Nola.”
It’s a great interview. Cataldi shelves the goofy Wing Bowl persona and asks some damn good questions. And credit to Kapler for not dodging any of them.
You can listen to the rest here: