Gabe Kapler's presence next to Phillies GM Matt Klentak at Tuesday's press conference sure made it seem like he's safe for the rest of the season, and Klentak confirmed as much when he said no other coaching changes are currently on the table.
The press conference was called to discuss the dismissal of hitting coach John Mallee, who will be replaced by Charlie Manuel, the most successful manager in franchise history.
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It is a short-term move, which Klentak said multiple times Tuesday. The Phillies appreciate Manuel's stepping up into the role for the regular season's final seven weeks but do not anticipate Manuel remaining the hitting coach beyond the 2019 season.
Manuel will arrive Wednesday night, at which point the Phillies will have 43 games left to turn around a disappointing season.
While Kapler kept his job this week, he is now in a no-win situation. Because if the Phillies do make a turnaround, a lot of the credit will go to Manuel for providing a spark. And if the Phillies continue to lose, much of the blame will still be placed at Kapler's feet.
It is not ideal for a polarizing manager who has yet to solidify himself in a town as tough as Philadelphia to have the most beloved manager in team history lurking over his shoulder.
But believe it or not, Kapler is genuinely behind the move. He doesn't operate the same way as so many managers, coaches or executives across professional sports. Kapler would rather converse with his harshest critics than dismiss or lash out at them. He wants as many well-qualified voices as possible helping out.
"The first thing that comes to mind for me is it's always going to be nice to have somebody who has had success in this market, both as a manager and in many other capacities, to be able to pick his brain," Kapler said. "I think it's great."
The easy, outside perception is that the Phillies are shifting from Mallee's new-school methods to Manuel's old-school philosophies. It's not really the case. Manuel, who has served in recent years as a special adviser to Klentak and a minor-league hitting instructor, has played a role in developing the offensive philosophies the Phillies preach from the lowest levels of the minor leagues up through the majors. Manuel, too, wants players to be selective and to drive the ball in the air. He just doesn't go about it in as complex a way, nor is he married to the modern terms for concepts that have existed for decades.
"It's not that simple. I think the messenger is changing, but I think the message will be largely the same," Klentak said.
Just last week, when the 2009 Phillies reunited at Citizens Bank Park, Manuel was the first alum in the media room and wouldn't you know it, he almost immediately started breaking down different Phillies' swings for a few of us.
"I don't think anybody in baseball or this world loves hitting more than Charlie," Bryce Harper said.
Kapler, Klentak, Harper and Rhys Hoskins were all asked Tuesday about the actual role of a hitting coach. Kapler and Klentak talked about different players wanting different amounts of information. Some rely on the hitting coach to constantly remind them about a pitcher's tendencies, about head-to-head data and about mechanics within a game. Others don't care about the information. Others avoid it altogether.
Harper is one example of a player who doesn't want much information. "Guys flip the book on me so much," he said.
Hoskins is the opposite. The more data he can receive, the better.
"I like specific information right before the game or in the batting cage at 4 o'clock or when a reliever comes into the game, I like to know certain things," Hoskins said. "Charlie and I, I'm sure, will talk over the next couple days and go over those things. It's all about being prepared."
"I've talked to a couple of players today," Kapler added. "We're in the customer service business. We're going to give them the information they want, how they want it. They're going to determine whether it's simple or whether it's more complex."
At a certain point, Mallee's messaging was no longer effective. The Phillies can talk all they want about the former hitting coach's preparedness, but this is a results-oriented business. And when a disappointing offense gets even worse after the All-Star break, especially against beatable teams, some sort of change needs to occur. The move was due. Many would say it was overdue. This Phillies team ranks 25th or worse in runs, batting average and slugging since the All-Star break. There is no excuse for that.
"It's just a different perspective that's been on the outside looking in," Hoskins said. "Maybe [Manuel] sees things a little bit differently and can provide a different wording to say something that we've been hearing. Maybe. Maybe not. Again, it has everything to do with what we do when we step in the box."
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