Back from the West Coast, Gabe Kapler defended Jean Segura Friday morning in a heated radio interview with WIP's Angelo Cataldi.
As has been the case in previous Kapler-Cataldi showdowns, it was not a comfortable listen. Cataldi peppered the Phillies' manager with some hard but mostly fair questions about Segura's baserunning leading to Andrew McCutchen's season-ending ACL tear.
As a reminder, Segura popped a ball up to the right side of the infield with McCutchen on first base Monday in San Diego. Segura went down to one knee on his swing and then did not run hard to first base. Alert veteran Ian Kinsler saw this and let the ball drop, getting the out at first base before beginning a rundown during which McCutchen planted his knee in an awkward way and suffered the injury.
Segura has been a scapegoat by some for the injury. Not by the Phillies themselves or even McCutchen, but by a portion of the fan base. A portion that Cataldi probably misrepresented when he told Kapler that "the whole city, everybody thinks that was the reason."
Kapler does not see it as a straight cause-and-effect scenario. It is true that had Segura run, the rundown may have never occurred. It's also true that if a ball to McCutchen was called a strike, he may not have walked to lead off the game and wouldn't have been on first base to begin with. Or that if the Padres' second baseman was not an experienced veteran, the situation plays out the way it does 99 times out of 100, with the second baseman simply catching the popup.
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That's just the way baseball is. It's one of the reasons I can't stand when anyone, announcers included, looks back at a game after its completion and says, "They lost 6-5, but if not for that first-inning two-run homer they would've won!" Well ... no, because without that first-inning homer, the entire sequence of events which follows is different - from pitch selection to intensity to strategy.
This is not to say Segura is blameless. He accepted responsibility for not hustling. He was not benched, because as Kapler told Cataldi, "It wouldn't make Segura better and it wouldn't make the Phillies better." It's hard to argue that given the drop-off between Segura and whoever would have replaced him at shortstop for a game or two.
Cataldi accused Kapler of being out of touch with the fan base. It is true that a radio host who spends hours every weekday interacting with fans is, by nature, more plugged-in to what they are saying than an athlete or manager who is a few steps removed.
But Kapler's point to Cataldi is true, that the sample size of radio callers or those who respond angrily on Twitter is not indicative of the entire fan base. Most sports fans do not rush to the radio airwaves or feel compelled to participate in online discussions. I personally experience this all the time, where I will gather based on a few hundred replies to a tweet of mine that the fan base feels a certain way, but then experience something different when I interact with Phillies fans in person at the ballpark or around the city.
The sports media landscape can be a bubble. We are typically only hearing from the fans who feel passionately one way or the other - not the fans with more measured, unexciting takes.
It's safe to say that many more WIP callers wanted to lambast Segura than say, "Yeah it was an instrumental event but not the direct reason McCutchen tore his ACL."
And those that do hold the more measured opinion, their comments aren't as entertaining and therefore they may not have made it past a call screener. Controversy sells, in almost every facet of media.
Here is a transcript of the end of Friday's interview:
Kapler: "What I see happened, like I said, [Segura] stumbled out of the box. He didn't have his feet under him. Once he got his balance, he wasn't able to run as hard as he usually does. He acknowledged that and talking about acknowledgement, I'm acknowledging that. He can do a better job running out of the batter's box. Also acknowledging that our centerfielder at the time, our leadoff hitter, got hurt in a major way. I'm saying that's not Segura's fault and to say that is absolutely irresponsible."
Cataldi: "Oh it is? Well then you better tell the whole city, because everybody thinks that was the reason."
Kapler: "Angelo, you don't speak for the whole city."
Cataldi: "I talk to a hell of a lot more fans than you do."
Kapler: "You talk to the guys that call in, the men and women that call in."
Cataldi: "And the ones that email me and the ones that are on Twitter, and all of the other people. Are you trying to tell me you are more plugged into this city than I am? You've been on the West Coast for a week, Gabe."
Kapler: "I'll tell you this, what you are plugged into are the people that call in to your show. Not all of the fans in Philadelphia like you represent."
Cataldi: "We actually polled this question and 85 percent of the people said that Segura should be held accountable far more than you did. So that's over five, six thousand people. That's not enough either for you Gabe? How many do you need before you realize that you're actually not in tandem with what's going on in your city."
Kapler: "Your sample, the sample that you are drawing from, is a very specific sample."
Cataldi: "Last thing, would you do anything different this week, Gabe?"
Kapler: "I may have handled this show a little different. I am very frustrated with you. Right now, I'm pretty perturbed. I think you didn't handle this show in a fair and reasonable way, and that's probably the thing I am most disappointed in, is the way you handled this show."
Cataldi: "I'm disappointed in some of the answers, so I guess we're equal in that."
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