Dusty Wathan

Gabe Kapler unveils 3 members of Phillies' coaching staff

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Reading Fightin Phils/USA Today Images

Gabe Kapler unveils 3 members of Phillies' coaching staff

New Phillies manager Gabe Kapler unveiled the first three members of his coaching staff Friday.
 
Kapler stayed within the organization for a couple of important hires, retaining Rick Kranitz and naming Dusty Wathan third-base coach.

Kranitz's role is yet to be determined.
 
Kapler also hired John Mallee as hitting coach. Mallee (pronounced May-lee) most recently spent three seasons as the Cubs' hitting coach. Prior to that, he served as the hitting coach for the Astros (2013-14) and Marlins (2010-11). Mallee was actually drafted by the Phillies back in 1991.
 
Kranitz, 59, has previously been major-league pitching coach for the Marlins, Orioles and Brewers. He joined the Phillies' staff as bullpen coach before the 2016 season and served as the club's assistant pitching coach under Bob McClure last season.
 
It's no surprise that the Phillies kept Kranitz. His experience — 10 seasons as a big-league pitching coach — and familiarity with the organization's pitchers will be valuable to Kapler, a first-year manager who most recently served as the director of player development for the Dodgers.
 
Wathan's hiring is also not a surprise. The 44-year-old former catcher has managed in the Phillies' minor-league system for the past 10 seasons, has had an important hand in the development of many of the players projected to help the Phillies in coming seasons, and was a finalist for the job that went to Kapler. Had Wathan not been named to the big-league staff, he would have returned to manage the Triple A Lehigh Valley club in 2018. Wathan was the Eastern League manager of the year while leading the Double A Reading club in 2015 and 2016.
 
"Dusty was incredibly impressive in this process," general manager Matt Klentak said last week at the news conference to announce Kapler's hiring. "Obviously, the fact that he was a finalist would suggest that we thought a lot of him. ... We are really proud of everything he accomplished and the way he conducted himself in the interview process. We're really glad he's with the Phillies."
 
While initially disappointed to not get the manager's job, Wathan last week said he was eager to continue his work with the organization.
 
"I feel like this organization is on the cusp of big things," he said. "I feel like I've been a part of that and I'm looking forward to continuing to be a part of it."
 
Wathan's departure from the Triple A manager's post means the Phillies have an opening at that level.
 
Kapler and Klentak still have several more hires to make for the staff. At the news conference to announce his hiring last week, Kapler said he wanted to build a diverse coaching staff.
 
"I don't want seven people in the dugout who think just like me," he said. "I value somebody with a lot of veteran experience. I have a tremendous amount of value for someone who thinks more progressively. So I'd say diversity of thought, diversity of experience, that's a strong way to build a major-league coaching staff."

Phillies avoid status quo with Gabe Kapler hire

Phillies avoid status quo with Gabe Kapler hire

Gabe Kapler’s formal introduction to Philadelphia will come later this week following the conclusion of the World Series.

His informal indoctrination as Phillies manager came Monday afternoon when he stepped off the plane at Philadelphia International Airport and was greeted by the city’s unofficial welcoming committee — "Johnny Airport" himself, John Clark.

Kidding aside, Kapler’s impact on the Phillies is a story on its first page, let alone chapter. With no previous track record as a major-league manager or coach to rely upon, we’re basically all guessing what Kapler brings to the table. 

So what can we reasonably take away from the Kapler hire right now? 

• Status quo simply will not do for the Phillies anymore. There was a time, not that long ago, when the organization likely would have hired Dusty Wathan as the next manager. He’s been a good soldier for the club at the minor-league level, winning games while developing some of the talent that has now arrived at the big-league level (more on him here). I actually think those factors worked against Wathan this time around. Starting with managing partner John Middleton and working down to GM Matt Klentak, the mandate for a fresh approach has been made clear. You could argue that the three most prominent roles in the organization — team president, general manager and manager — are now helmed by three men (Andy MacPhail, Klentak and Gabe Kapler) who had no ties to the organization as early as two and a half years ago.

• The front office wants more say in the day-to-day roster usage and game management. That doesn’t mean that Pete Mackanin did not use analytics in creating lineups or managing the pitching staff. It also should not be interpreted to mean that Kapler is just turning his lineup card over to the club’s recently bolstered analytics department and calling it a day. But I think it’s safe to assume that the days of starting Cameron Perkins as a leadoff hitter six times in a season are gone. It’s just logical to have a manager and front office as united as possible on how the roster is being deployed.

• It’s a low-risk, high-reward hire. Hiring a manager is an uncertain endeavor, a fact more crystallized when the selection has no prior experience at the big-league level. It’s possible that Kapler’s methods, whatever they might be, will not be received by the players. Then again, Kapler may be a revelation, a force of nature the likes of which has never be seen in the Phillies' dugout. Either way, managers are not forever. They are replaced with relative ease. More importantly, Kapler is not going to deliver Sixto Sanchez to the big leagues fully healthy and dominating the competition. And Kapler is not going to help Mickey Moniak take the steps necessary to develop into the player the Phillies dreamt of when taking the high school product first overall. It’s in individuals like that where the Phillies’ future success or failure ultimately lies.

So basically, we’ll have to wait and see with Gabe Kapler. It may work. It may not. The only thing we can truly count on in this world is "Johnny Airport."

Despite losing out to Kapler, Dusty Wathan 'all-in' with Phillies

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Photo: Reading Fightin Phils

Despite losing out to Kapler, Dusty Wathan 'all-in' with Phillies

Dusty Wathan got the news from general manager Matt Klentak on Sunday. He'd lost out to Gabe Kapler in the Phillies' manager derby.
 
Truth be told, there was a moment of disappointment for Wathan, as there should have been for anybody who makes his living in a competitive industry. But not long after, his naturally upbeat personality took over. He has spent the last 10 seasons trying to make the Phillies a better organization. And that's what he'll do in 2018.
 
"I'm a very positive guy," Wathan said Tuesday morning, the day after the Phillies officially announced that Kapler had been hired as the 54th manager in club history, succeeding Pete Mackanin, who had been reassigned to the front office last month. "I feel like this organization is on the cusp of big things. I feel like I've been a part of that and I'm looking forward to continuing to be a part of it.
 
"Matt and I had some good talks. Obviously, he thought Gabe was the right guy and I'm all-in. I want to see these kids do well and I'm going to do everything I can to see them have success. I'm good with this. I respect the decision and hope it works out for our organization."
 
Wathan, 44, has managed in the Phillies' improving minor-league system for the past 10 seasons. He was Eastern League manager of the year at Double A Reading in 2015 and 2016 and earned a promotion to Triple A Lehigh Valley in 2017. He helped in the development of Rhys Hoskins, Nick Williams, J.P. Crawford and a host of others who arrived in the majors in 2017 or are on their way, promising players such as second baseman Scott Kingery who the franchise hopes will make up the team's next winning core and, frankly, make Kapler look good.
 
Wathan is under contract to manage back at Lehigh Valley in 2018. He is eager to continue in that role — unless he's asked to be part of Kapler's coaching staff.
 
"They still have a lot of stuff going on with Gabe's announcement and everything, but at some point in the next few weeks we'll be talking," Wathan said. "I'm going to be here in some capacity helping the Phillies next year. Whatever happens, I feel I have the opportunity to be part of something special in the future. There will be some guys in Lehigh Valley next year and below that still need to develop if we want to get to where we want to be as an organization, and I'm excited to be part of that."
 
Wathan was a finalist for the job along with former Boston skipper John Farrell. All of the finalists went through two intense rounds of interviews that concluded Friday. There will be a news conference after the World Series to unveil Kapler; he is director of player development for the Los Angeles Dodgers and they are still playing in the Series.

During the news conference, Klentak will surely be asked what separated Kapler from the rest of the candidates. Kapler is highly literate in analytics and he brings an outside perspective to the organization, two qualities that have been stressed from ownership on down over the last two-plus years.
 
Was Wathan too "inside" for the Phillies?
 
"I don't think so," Wathan said. "Gabe and I have different personalities. The relationship between a general manager and a manager is the most important in an organization and sometimes it's just a personal feel. I know the players a lot, but there's more to it than that."
 
Was he analytically driven enough?
 
"I can only speak for myself," Wathan said. "I enjoy the analytical side of the game. When I broke in, it had just started and we were behind. But we've caught up and I've learned it as we've gone on."
 
A few weeks ago, at the end of the Phillies' season, Wathan received strong endorsements for the position from young players such as Hoskins and Crawford. He believes those players will continue to thrive under Kapler.
 
Wathan still has the goal of managing in the majors someday, just like his dad, former Kansas City Royals catcher John Wathan, did. He speaks to his dad frequently and both believe that being considered so strongly for the Phillies job was a positive.
 
"At the end of the minor-league season I had no idea the job would even be open," Wathan said. "So to go through this experience, to have my name brought up and to have the opportunity to be interviewed, can only help me. Interviews for major-league manager jobs don't come around every day.
 
"I won't lie, Sunday was a little difficult. When you're so close to a goal you've had your whole life ...

"But I've been around this game a long time and I know there's a winner and a loser every day. That's how it is. But still, I don't look at myself as a loser in this. It's gratifying that the organization gave me a look."