Could Gabe Kapler resurface as a National League manager as soon as next season?
Our friends at NBC Sports Bay Area laid out the case for Kapler to replace Bruce Bochy in San Francisco. It stems from the solid working relationship Kapler had in Los Angeles with Farhan Zaidi, the Dodgers' general manager from 2014-18 who just completed his first year as the Giants' head of baseball operations.
Kapler was a finalist with Dave Roberts to become the Dodgers' manager prior to 2016. Zaidi, after that process, was among those who recommended Kapler to the Phillies. Kapler didn't make a believer of everyone in the organization, though. It is no secret that at least one high-profile Dodger made clear he did not want to play for Kapler.
Will Kapler get another job so soon? He went two games under .500 in two seasons with the Phillies. The Phillies outperformed their run differential both years by a total of six games. Offense and defense were issues in Year 1, pitching in Year 2.
A few Phillies pitchers took umbrage with Kapler's managing patterns. Understandable. Kapler made bullpen decisions that past Phillies managers hadn't. Some worked, many didn't. Aside from Hector Neris in the ninth, it was less about roles and more about using the best pitcher in the highest-leverage situation. More often than not, "the best pitcher" wasn't good enough. The results may have been different if veteran relievers stayed healthy. It got to a point in the second half of 2019 that the Phillies rarely had more than two relievers who could reliably get through an inning a couple of times per week.
In contrast, key everyday players like Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto and Rhys Hoskins had nothing but good things to say about their former skipper.
Was Kapler the main reason the Phillies collapsed two Septembers in a row? No, that was more about a lack of impact players in 2018 and a glaring lack of depth in 2019. It's hard to see even a bullpen whisperer like Bochy figuring out the right formula here in 2019.
Results, though, will always matter more than anything else in sports. Results often trump circumstance. Kapler didn't do enough to make the Phillies better in 2019, to push this long stretch of non-winning baseball forward. The Phillies went from 66 wins in 2017 to 80 in Kapler's first year but only 81 in his second. In a season of enormous expectations following a spending spree, a manager will rarely ever be safe after a one-win upgrade. An 86-win season like the Mets had may have resulted in Kapler getting a third year.
After that rough second half, bringing him back would have been a tough sell. The fan base was out. It never really was in.
Kapler loves managing and the assumption here is that he still wants to. Every manager knows he is hired to one day be fired, but this can't be how Kapler wanted this phase of his career to play out. He may receive offers to join a front office in a role similar to the one he served with the Dodgers. He could get a TV job back tomorrow.
Outside of Philadelphia, the other seven teams in need of a new manager are the Mets, Cubs, Padres, Angels, Giants, Royals and Pirates. It seems unlikely the Mets or Cubs would turn to Kapler. A case could be made for the other clubs. Joe Maddon is the logical shoo-in for the Angels gig.
It will be interesting to see where Kapler resurfaces and if he does, whether his in-game and leadership tactics are the same.
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