pete mackanin

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."

Source: Matt Stairs heads West for new coaching gig

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AP Images

Source: Matt Stairs heads West for new coaching gig

While Pete Mackanin and Larry Bowa are staying in the Phillies' organization, Matt Stairs is not. 

Stairs will be hired as the San Diego Padres' hitting coach, a source tells NBC Sports Philadelphia.

Stairs was the Phillies' hitting coach last season after spending time in their broadcast booth the previous three years. He'll now work with a Padres offense that scored just 604 runs in 2017 — 35 fewer than any team in the majors and 86 fewer than the Phillies.

When Mackanin was reassigned to the Phillies' front office, the organization told the members of his coaching staff that they were free to seek other opportunities. Both Mackanin and former bench coach Larry Bowa will serve as special advisors to GM Matt Klentak.

The Phillies have one of three managerial vacancies across baseball. The Yankees and Nationals are also searching for managers after surprisingly firing Joe Girardi and Dusty Baker.

According to NBC Sports Philadelphia's Jim Salisbury, the Phils are down to two finalists and a long shot in their manager search.

Sources: Phillies down to 2 finalists for manager

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USA Today Images

Sources: Phillies down to 2 finalists for manager

The Phillies' manager search is rounding the homestretch and a new skipper could be named as soon as early next week, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.
 
Team officials began the final round of interviews on Thursday. In-house candidate Dusty Wathan and outsider Gabe Kapler have emerged as finalists while former Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell is getting a late look, according to sources.
 
Major League Baseball frowns on clubs making significant announcements during the World Series, but there is a scheduled off-day in the event on Monday so an announcement could come on that day if club officials wrap up their search. Otherwise, an announcement would have to wait until later in the week.
 
The finalists all have differing resumes. A source confirmed an MLB.com report that Farrell had entered the mix and was slated to speak with club officials. Farrell appeared to be a bit of a long shot, but the 55-year-old New Jersey native and former major-league pitcher and pitching coach has something the rest of the field does not have: He has managed in the majors with the Toronto Blue Jays and the Red Sox. He spent the last five seasons managing in Boston, where his teams won three American League East titles and a World Series in 2013.
 
Kapler, 42, played 12 seasons in the majors and managed in Boston's minor-league system before joining the Los Angeles Dodgers' front office in 2014. He has served as that club's director of player development and has a commitment to analytics and nutrition, two areas of importance to a Phillies front office trying to build behind-the-scenes competitive advantages. Kapler was considered for the Dodgers' manager job two years ago. The position went to Dave Roberts, who now has that team in the World Series.
 
Over the last couple of years, the Phillies organization, from ownership on down, has shown a desire to bring in outside perspectives. That could work in Kapler's favor. But if the team can get past that, Wathan could be the man. He has tremendous credentials as a manager in the Phillies' minor-league system and already has the trust of a number of key players who are projected to be part of the team's core in 2018. On the final weekend of the 2017 season, after Pete Mackanin had been reassigned to a front-office position, several players, including projected stalwarts Rhys Hoskins and J.P. Crawford, enthusiastically endorsed Wathan for the post.
 
Wathan, 44, is the son of John Wathan, a former major-league catcher and manager of the Kansas City Royals. The younger Wathan, also a catcher, spent the bulk of his playing career in the minors and appeared briefly in the majors with the Royals in 2002. He finished his playing career with the Phillies' Triple A club and has managed in the system for the past 10 seasons. Wathan was the Eastern League's manager of the year at Double A Reading in 2015 and 2016. He moved to Triple A Lehigh Valley in 2017 and helped send a host of players to the majors during the season, including Hoskins, Crawford and Nick Williams.
 
Williams, an outfielder, hit .288 with 12 homers and 55 RBIs in 83 games with the big club in 2017. He had struggled at Triple A during the second half of 2016 and was benched a couple of times for lack of hustle. Getting the enigmatic Williams on track was an organizational goal in 2017 and Wathan played a huge role in doing that as the two built a connection early in the season.
 
Wathan's knowledge of the Phillies' young players goes beyond Hoskins, Crawford and Williams. He talked extensively about players in the system and his personal managerial style in this March interview. Wathan also talked about watching his dad's Royals lose to the Phillies in the 1980 World Series. The Royals, as Wathan explained, rebounded and beat the Phillies on Family Feud later that offseason. The evidence can be seen on YouTube.