When the Phillies finally announce their decision on Gabe Kapler (most likely at 1:05 p.m. on Sunday afternoon in the most Phillies way possible) it could mean the end of a grand experiment. Kapler, the GM hand-picked new age manager who was destined to lead a squad of talented athletes to the promised land on the back of analytic strength and old-school managerial hunches, could be out of a job if Phillies Managing Partner and Principal Owner John Middleton tires of yet another year of deluded expectations and pulls the plug on the controversial manager.
If he does relieve Kapler of his duties he then should take a long, hard look at his front office and yank the cord out of that life-support system as well.
If Kapler is canned there is no way Phillies President Andy MacPhail and GM Matt Klentak should expect to keep their jobs either.
If there’s one thing about this Phillies season that’s 100% certain, it’s that the shit sandwich is so big that it can’t possibly be eaten by just one person. If anyone is going to have to take a bite, it can’t just be Kapler. Klentak and MacPhail need to open their mouths, have a big bite, and let the rancid juices flow down their chins because they’re just as much to blame for this rotten year as the skipper.
We all know the case against Kapler. A possible over-reliance on analytics (whether by his choice or the front office), a spotty at best use of a less-than-stellar bullpen that gave him limited options, and a bewildering love and devotion to less than adequate players (*COUGH* Sean Rodriguez *COUGH*) on a roster that had strong postseason aspirations at the start of the year.
He is what he is. I’d lean towards keeping him another season, to see what he can do with a team that isn’t riddled with injuries and can trot out better than AA bullpen talent, but it would be a short, short leash. I would shed no tears if Kapler was sent to the big Cross-Fit Gym in the Sky (of unemployment). I get it, he has possibly worn out his welcome in the city and the team.
But what makes absolutely no sense is the scenario in which Kapler is fired and Klentak and MacPhail are allowed to keep their jobs. If Kapler is gone, then those two should be dragged out of Citizens Bank Park kicking and screaming right behind him.
Klentak built this team. He signed Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, and Andrew McCutchen. That’s good! He did nothing to address a starting rotation that had one of the worst collapses in baseball history in August and September of 2018, entering 2019 with the same group of underwhelming pitchers not named Aaron Nola. That’s bad!
What excel spreadsheet, what long forgotten advanced metric did the quantitative analyst nerds dig up to convince Matty that it was a great idea to entrust team success to Jake Arieta, Vince Velasquez, Zach Eflin, and Nick “I’ve already given up four earned runs in two innings by the time you read this” Pivetta?
You don’t need a computer to tell you Velasquez is going to give your team less than an average at best chance of winning a ballgame when he’s throwing 88 pitches by the third inning and can’t stop delivering belt-high fastballs that get crushed to Ashburn Alley 9 times out of 10. Maybe if Klentak had assembled a crack bullpen it wouldn’t have been so much of a problem, but alas, you know how that story ended.
Add to the embarrassment of Klentak forgetting to put on his big boy pants when the Phillies courted megastar Manny Machado and Matty didn’t even have the door to CBP unlocked or someone waiting to greet Machado and his less than thrilled wife says all you need to know. He left a superstar out in the Philadelphia cold to be harassed by rogue union electricians and practically drove him to the sandy beaches of San Diego. Can’t say I blame him.
Middleton had to strap on his best toupee and step in to sway Bryce Harper to Philadelphia lest Klentak try to arrange a meeting at the Las Vegas Lounge during $4 well drink night.
And what does MacPhail do to better this team each season? What does he do at all? I’m channeling my inner “Bobs” from “Office Space” when I say, “What would you say you do here, Andy?” At some point in a president’s career he has to produce some kind of results, correct?
MacPhail was hired in 2015 as a special assistant to Pat Gillick and succeeded him in 2016. From 2016 to 2019 the Phillies have amassed a 298-350 record. NOT TOO GOOD! Is he helping to make decisions on players? If so, you need to take a nice bite of the shit sandwich like the rest of the gang, Andy. Is he not making decisions on players? If he isn’t, then what in God’s name is he doing? WHAT IS IT THAT YOU DO HERE, ANDY?
If Kapler gets the boot, fine. We shall shed no tears. If Klentak and MacPhail are left with their jobs it makes little to no sense. Will Joe Maddon put up with the meddling? Is he going to listen to Klentak lecture him about his use of the bullpen when it deviates from what his precious spreadsheets tell him? If they both stay, is there any doubt the dubious decisions on player personnel will continue? Why would we expect anything to change?
The trio are all linked. If one link is broken, the entire chain needs to go as well.