Let’s briefly revisit the ninth inning of yesterday’s game between the Phillies and Orioles. With the Phillies holding a 4-1 lead, Gabe Kapler handed the ball to Edubray Ramos to record the game’s final three outs and nail down a win. Or so we thought.
Ramos threw six pitches, all strikes, to record punch outs of both Jonathan Schoop and Mark Trumbo.
Certainly, it appeared Ramos was well on his way to earning his second save of the season, but before Chris Davis stepped into the box, Kapler emerged from the dugout to summon the embattled Hector Neris from the bullpen.
What the hell? Why?
Utilizing an additional reliever to protect a three-run lead with two outs and nobody on base is an unorthodox decision, and it was a move that was predictably blasted by fans on Twitter:
RAMOS STRIKES OUT SCHOOP AND TRUMBO AND KAPLER MAKES PITCHING CHANGE FOR NERIS TO PITCH TO DAVIS ARE YOU FRIGGING KIDDING ME
— john McGuoirk (@mcg222) May 16, 2018
Kapler over-managing. 2 outs bottom 9 w/Trash Davis coming up & a pitching change. Garbage analytics
— YoNut25 (@yonut25) May 16, 2018
Phils 24-16 love it! But kapler is ridiculous taking Ramos out after he strikes 2 out in ninth and puts neris in totally stupid!
— Connie Kilgarriff (@Con_Kilgarriff) May 16, 2018
Totally stupid is right! I bet Matt Klentak’s Geek Squad showed Kapler some, like, Microsoft Excel spreadsheet that made him do it. I just hope the people who traveled down I-95 gave him a piece of their mind.
Edubray Ramos strikes out his first two batters swinging, but Gabe Kapler is bringing in Hector Neris to face Chris Davis to close it out. Kapler hearing boos from Phillies fans that made the trip.
— Todd Zolecki (@ToddZolecki) May 16, 2018
Yes! They should have booed his perfectly sculpted posterior. They rightfully let that analytics-dork manager whose team has the second-best record in the National League and is off to the franchise’s best start through 40 games since 2011 have it! If it’s not what’s always been done, then it’s bad. And poor Edubray Ramos. To think he had a SAVE taken away. He must have been so upset.
It doesn’t matter that the Phillies have won six of their last seven games. Or that they have the NL’s third-best run-differential, or that they’re on pace to win 97 games nearly a quarter of the way through the season. I don’t like HOW they won the game. Us fans deserve, nay, demand an explanation!
“Let’s be very clear. I just want to be clear about one thing: This is about the talent of the players. Once we’ve established the talent of the players, we want to really know what that talent looks like. So we know that Ramos’ slider is very effective against right-handed hitters. It’s been true for over a year. So we give him that opportunity. That creates that confidence. He’s going to walk out of there feeling like a million bucks. Guess who else is going to feel like a million bucks? Hector Neris. He just got a huge out for us. It’s not always going to work out like this. But this is what we believe, putting our pitchers in the best positions to have success.”
Wait. So his decision was rooted in matchup-strengths and logic, while also creating the ancillary benefit of building confidence in a talented late-inning relief pitcher who could clearly use a pick-me-up after a disastrous stretch? That actually…makes sense.
What doesn’t make sense is the uproar:
#Phillies Listened to Gabe Kapler's post game interview……He's full of s#it. Been that way from game one of the season. He's explanation for taking out Ramos in the 9th is pure bs.
— GMoney (@BBerryman) May 17, 2018
Is this where we’re at now? Complaining about how the Phillies win? Sure, Kapler’s move can certainly be construed as “over-managing,” but this was not a case of a manager needlessly removing his Cy Young candidate ace on Opening Day with the game’s balance undecided. This actually made some sense. This was an opportunity for him to get a key piece of his bullpen some traction after a tough week. I’m no Gabe Kapler apologist. He’s made his share of questionable decisions–and that’s a generous phrasing of words–this season, but what exactly is the problem? That Neris probably appreciated the gesture? That Ramos had another successful ninth inning appearance? That we had to sit in front of the television or refresh MLB Gameday at work for an entire extra seven minutes to see that final In Play, out(s) of a Phillies win? Again, emphasis on win.
Of course, one could make the argument that Kapler ran the risk of unnecessarily putting the game’s outcome in jeopardy by removing Ramos. How would the clubhouse respond if they had lost that one? After all, they were two base runners and a three-run homer away from knotting it up. With the way Neris has been going lately, that’s not an entirely implausible outcome.
My guess? They would respond the same way they have all year, which is with resilience. And I would think they understood what Kapler was aiming to accomplish. You don’t think there’s some players in that locker room who saw and appreciated what he was doing for a guy that this team is going to need to rebound? This was a move that took the human element into consideration, and that’s why I applaud it.
Kapler is weird, he makes me feel weird, and he most certainly arouses my curiosity. He’s different, and he’s going to do stuff his way. Dare I say that he is firm in his convictions. You may not always like the decisions spawned by those convictions, but here’s a word of advice for those upset by his tactics yesterday: If he’s going to win, then take a deep breath, let go of your inhibitions, and give him the benefit of the doubt.