Phillies hire Gabe Kapler as manager

Phillies hire Gabe Kapler as manager

Update: Monday, 4:40 p.m.

The Phillies made it official on Monday afternoon: Gabe Kapler is their new manager.
Kapler, who has never managed in the majors, beat out Dusty Wathan, the Phillies' highly successful Triple A manager, for the position. Former Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell, who led that team to a World Series title in 2013, was the other finalist for the job.
According to sources, Kapler, who is known for his progressive, out-of-the-box thinking, wowed club officials with his energy and intellect during the interview process. A former outfielder for 12 seasons in the majors, Kapler has served as director of player development for the Los Angeles Dodgers since 2014. He had been considered for that club's manager's job two years ago. The position went to Dave Roberts, who now has that team in the World Series.

"Gabe has a track record of leadership, winning, progressive thinking and working with young players, and we fully believe that he is the right person to guide this organization into the future," GM Matt Klentak said in a statement.
At 42, Kapler becomes the youngest Phillies manager since the team hired 37-year-old Terry Francona before the 1997 season. He is also the first Phillies manager since Francona without previous ties to the organization. Larry Bowa, Charlie Manuel, Ryne Sandberg and Pete Mackanin had all played or worked in the organization before being hired to manage the club.

"I'm equal parts honored, humbled and excited by the opportunity with the Phillies, an elite franchise in a city rich in history, tradition, sports excellence and with amazingly passionate fans," Kapler said in a statement. "I believe there is no better place to build a winning environment, and I take that task very seriously."
It is not a surprise that the Phillies hired an outsider. John Middleton, the team's controlling partner, has spoken several times over the last few years about the importance of bringing change and outside perspectives to the organization. That started with ownership's hiring of Andy MacPhail as club president in June 2015 and Matt Klentak as general manager in October 2015. Klentak's top lieutenants, Ned Rice and Bryan Minniti, were also hired from outside the organization.
Kapler brings something else that is important to Middleton and the front office. He is educated in the language of analytics and committed to using them in all phases of the game. The Phillies were one of the last teams to embrace the use of analytics, but are now a powerhouse in that area with a 14-man staff that is slated to grow.
Analytics is not the only area where the Phillies are seeking to develop competitive advantages. The club has also become devoted to nutrition initiatives and that is one of the out-of-the-box areas that Kapler is committed to.
Kapler's only managerial experience came at the Single A level in the Red Sox organization in 2007, but that, obviously, was not seen as a weakness by Klentak. The 37-year-old general manager began his search for a new manager after reassigning Mackanin to the front office during the final week of the 2017 season. Klentak said he was looking for a new voice and a new style to lead a young Phillies roster. He was also clearly looking for someone who aligned philosophically with a young front office committed to the use of analytics. Now he has his guy in Kapler.

Yankees GM calls Phillies' Rob Thomson one of the best in business

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Yankees GM calls Phillies' Rob Thomson one of the best in business

CLEARWATER, Fla. – According to New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, “the Phillies got one of the best,” when they hired Rob Thomson as bench coach.

“It was tough to see him leave,” Cashman said. “He is a great coach, an exceptional baseball man. His knowledge of the game is off the charts.

“Gabe Kapler has someone at his side that he can trust to have everything lined up properly all the time and that will free up Gabe Kapler to focus on whatever he wants to focus on at the given time. Rob Thomson will keep the rudder steady every step of the way."

Thomson, 54, spent 28 years in the Yankees organization, most recently as Joe Girardi’s bench coach. He was one of five people (along with Eric Wedge, Hensley Muelens and Carlos Beltran) to interview to become Girardi’s successor during the offseason (see story.) Aaron Boone got the job.

Timing worked in the Phillies’ favor in hiring Thomson. There was a lag between when Thomson found out he would not be the Yankees’ manager and Boone’s hiring. The Phillies offered him their bench coach job and he took it.

“He would have been a candidate to return here, without question,” Cashman said. “It would have been the final call of Aaron Boone, but I would have recommended him highly to Aaron Boone. I gave (Phillies GM) Matt Klentak the highest recommendation.”

Thomson described himself as a good self-evaluator. He’s not sure he’d be cut out to manage every team, but he believed he’d have been a good fit for the Yankees job. He knew that organization, its operation and its players well.

“I understand that it’s part of the business,” Thomson said. “Brian and his staff, who are very smart people, had a certain person in mind and it wasn’t me. So you have to move on and refocus.”

Kapler did extensive research on Thomson and said he often heard that Thomson was “the best in the business at planning and running a spring training camp.”

Cashman concurred.

“Gabe Kapler has as good a right-hand man as you can find,” he said.

One plugged-in baseball observer described Thomson as similar to the late John Vukovich – a loyal-to-his-manager baseball taskmaster – only with a little less volume in his voice.

“He’s tough,” Cashman said. “He will be brutally honest. He’ll say what a player needs to hear, not necessarily what a player wants to hear. And he’ll always relate well to players because he always has their best interest at heart.

“The Phillies got one of the best.”

New bench coach Rob Thomson is Yankees’ loss, Phillies' gain

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New bench coach Rob Thomson is Yankees’ loss, Phillies' gain

CLEARWATER, Fla. – It will probably hit Rob Thomson sometime on Sunday. That’s when the New York Yankees visit Spectrum Field, the Phillies’ spring-training home.

Thomson spent 28 seasons in the Yankees’ famous pinstripes, serving in player-development, front-office and coaching roles.

Most recently, he was the bench coach for former Yankees manager Joe Girardi. Thomson was one of five people interviewed to replace Girardi after last season. Aaron Boone got the job, but Thomson wasn’t a free agent for long. The Phillies quickly scooped up the 54-year-old baseball lifer and installed him as new manager Gabe Kapler’s top lieutenant.

On Sunday, Thomson will look across the diamond and see his past.

But all he’s thinking about is the future.

“I feel like I’m part of the Phillies family already,” he said. “The people have been great. They’ve welcomed me right in.

“I’m here to support Gabe in any way I can. I’ve got his back all the time.”

Phillies management wanted a veteran coaching presence around the 42-year-old Kapler, whose only managing experience came a decade ago in the low minors. New pitching coach Rick Kranitz held that position with three other clubs over 10 seasons. New hitting coach John Mallee previously held that position with the Astros and Cubs.

Thomson worked on Joe Torre’s staff before working under Girardi. He lived through the Yankees’ growth as one of baseball’s analytic giants. He's just what the Phillies and Kapler were looking for.

“I ask everybody everything all the time,” Kapler said. “I contacted no fewer than 20 people about Rob and heard nothing even remotely negative. I weigh that more than a six-hour interview. You might nail the interview, but you can’t fake your career.”

Kapler’s most valuable appraisal came from Girardi, who said Thomson was an incredible teammate.

“In my opinion, that’s the best compliment anyone in baseball can give,” Kapler said.

Thomson is a former catcher. He played on the 1984 Canadian Olympic team and in the Tigers' farm system before joining the Yankees’ player development department.

While working on Torre’s staff, Thomson learned the value of trust.

“Joe Torre was really into relationships and gaining trust with a player and that taught me a lot,” Thomson said. “Before you can really help players, they have to be able to trust you.

“With Joe Girardi, he was a little more analytics-driven so that taught me a lot. We’d always looked at numbers but it taught me to really dive into some of the more critical numbers that are around today.

“In a lot of ways, Gabe reminds me of Joe (Girardi) because of his presence and openness to ideas. Those are great qualities for a leader to have.”

Thomson arrives at work pre-dawn in spring training to plan the day. He is known to arrive at noon for a regular season night game. With data study, scouting reports, video, one-on-one coaching and meetings, the preparation for a single game rivals what happens in the NFL – only it happens every day. When game time arrives, Thomson will be at Kapler’s side, making suggestions and offering ideas (see story). He said he takes nothing personal, so Kapler can wave him off any time.

“But I won’t," Kapler said with a laugh. “I need that.”