Gabe Kapler, who manages the undefeated, 1st-place Philadelphia Phillies, joined 94 WIP this morning for his weekly phone call with Angelo Cataldi.
Kapler talked about a special night for Bryce Harper, explaining that he felt like returning to Washington was a tough and emotional moment for the Phils’ right fielder.
He also admitted that he was a bit surprised at the the reception Harper was given by Nationals fans:
It did (surprise me). It really did Angelo. It’s not that I wouldn’t expect the Nationals fans to be a little bit irked that Bryce chose the Phillies. But at the same time, I think the first thing that I would do as a fan is recognize the contributions of a player that gave everything he had for seven years and four playoff appearances. Look, I remember when I was with the Red Sox, and Johnny Damon went to the Yankees. He signed with the Yankees after the ’04 World Series, and then he came back to Boston. The first thing that happened was that he got a standing ovation, and then the boos came, of course the boos came after that. But before the boos came, you saw this acknowledgment and a tip of the cap in appreciation. So yeah, it was a little surprising.
Kapler, however, is not surprised that Harper has immediately connected with his teammates and the Phillies’ fan base, explaining that it was a “focus” and a priority for him after signing his 13-year, big money deal.
The manager is also 100% on board with the Phillies’ celebrations and handshakes, as explained after the jump:
Kapler: …David Ortiz had a handshake for every player he played with in 2004. So it’s not unheard of, it’s not a brand new thing. But it takes a lot of effort, and I think that’s where Bryce is, he’s put in a lot of effort. One of the things I find really cool, is that he has a handshake with Dong Lien, one of our strength coaches. And the thing I love about that is how good it makes Dong feel, to have that connection with Bryce Harper, with somebody with that kind of star power, and to feel that connected to that guy in that moment. I think Bryce understands that and it’s really played well.
Cataldi: Gabe, there’s maybe one possible negative, if the opponent keeps seeing that and thinks they’re overdoing it. We saw a little bit of that with the balls under the chin of Rhys Hoskins. You think that’s a response to all of what’s going on after the big moments for Bryce?
Kapler: I think it’s so commonplace in the game now, Angelo. I think certainly, the more successful you are, the more celebrations you have, the more likely it is that other clubs come after you. But I really do think it’s commonplace around the league. I’m curious to get your thoughts on that. There’s more celebration, there’s more emotion being shown. Like I said, handshakes are not unique to the Philadelphia Phillies. What’s your take on it?
Cataldi: Fans love it. We know from the calls we’re getting that the fans absolutely love it. That’s part of the show biz element of baseball today. I think they really enjoy it.
Kapler: I think so, too. And I actually think it’s really good for the game of baseball. It’s not to say that the Matt Williams style of hitting a home run, putting your head down, and sprinting around the bases isn’t cool, and I think there’s ways to (inaudible because my dog started barking at a squirrel)… but why not say, ‘hey both (styles) are great, both make our game unique, and both should be celebrated.’
So there you have it.
It’s part of the game. It’s fun. God forbid MLB fans have something to enjoy. God forbid the players have some personality.
If you don’t want the Phils to shake hands and flip bats, don’t let them score runs and hit dingers. Baseball retaliation is just as dumb as a hockey team losing 4-0 and deciding to just fight the other squad instead.
Seems simple enough to me.