Even before the offseason was officially underway, as two teams duked it out in the World Series, the offseason for the other 28 teams started off with a bang, with Dusty Baker (Washington Nationals), Terry Collins (New York Mets), Pete Mackanin (Philadelphia Phillies), Joe Girardi (New York Yankees), and John Farrell (Boston Red Sox) all getting their walking papers as managers. This winter has shown the baseball world, in explicit detail, that just because your team earns a postseason berth, it doesn’t guarantee your job safety. Baker, Farrell, and Girardi all led their teams to playoff appearances, with the latter dropping the ALCS to the Houston Astros in a gut-wrenching series that went the distance.
Three of the vacancies filled quickly, with the Nats tabbing Dave Martinez as their guy, Boston bringing back a familiar face in Alex Cora, and the Mets placing their faith in pitching guru Mickey Callaway. Between Games 5 and 6 of the World Series, we learned from FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman and Robert Murray that a fourth spot had been filled, as the Philadelphia Phillies will hand the proverbial keys to the castle over to Gabe Kapler, the Director of Player Development for the Los Angeles Dodgers. This move comes as a bit of a surprise, as it was being reported last week that the organization was “zeroing in” on Triple-A Lehigh Valley manager Dusty Wathan, presumably due to his familiarity with the organization, the front office, and the players within the organization. Farrell had reportedly interviewed for the vacancy, too, before the Phils made their decision. The Phillies made the hiring of Kapler official after the World Series ended last week.
Kapler, 42, spent 12 years as a Major Leaguer, suiting up for six different teams, most notably as a member of the 2004 Boston Red Sox squad that put an end to the “Curse of the Bambino” by winning the World Series. Kapler took a year off from his playing career in 2007 to manage the Red Sox Single-A affiliate, leading them to a 58-81 record. The past three years have seen Kapler serving as the Director of Player Development for the Los Angeles Dodgers, as well as missing out on the managerial job in favor of Dave Roberts two years ago.
It had always been believed that Philadelphia were seeking an analytically minded manager, as a complement to analytics guru and current GM Matt Klentak, and it seems they have found their guy. In fact, ESPN profiled his acceptance of the analytical side of baseball in their managerial profile of him a couple of years back. Kapler has been a vital part of the Dodgers success over the past three years, playing a key part in the development of young stars such as Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, Austin Barnes, and Chris Taylor.
He’ll have no shortage of development opportunities in Philadelphia, as young stars J.P. Crawford, Jorge Alfaro, Maikel Franco, and Jake Thompson have seen their share of major struggles, while others have seen stretches of struggles. During his tenure with the Dodgers, Kapler managed to eviscerate all junk food from the club house, in favor of healthier organic food. With that in mind, it’ll be interesting to see what lengths he’ll go to in Philadelphia, as he looks to lead the Phillies back to prominence in his first true managerial position.