It didn't take long for Gabe Kapler to get a managerial interview

It didn't take long for Gabe Kapler to get a managerial interview

Update: Gabe Kapler will interview with the Giants, according to Jon Heyman

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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Bobby Abreu, Cliff Lee, Scott Rolen headline polarizing list of ex-Phillies on Hall of Fame ballot

Bobby Abreu, Cliff Lee, Scott Rolen headline polarizing list of ex-Phillies on Hall of Fame ballot

MLB's 2020 Hall of Fame ballot was released Monday and it included six former Phillies of varying degrees of popularity. In fact, it's hard to even say which of the six is the most beloved in Philly. 

Bobby Abreu
Raul Ibanez
Cliff Lee
Scott Rolen
Curt Schilling
Billy Wagner

• At first glance, you might say Lee. He had great moments with the Phillies, memorable playoff games, and that low-key swag that drew fans to him. But things ended in a clunky way when he came back the second time. An elbow injury caused Lee to miss the final 1½ years of his contract and he was pretty much invisible during that time. He was also noticeably absent when the 2009 NL Championship team got together at Citizens Bank Park this past summer. The answer is still probably Lee, but it was a sour end for plenty of folks.

• Abreu is very well-respected around the game for being an ahead-of-his-time player with gaudy, well-rounded stats, but he was and still is polarizing around here. A portion of the fan base will always look at Abreu as an overrated compiler who was scared of walls. The other portion — it may be an even 50-50 split these days — appreciates the player Abreu was and realizes he'd be worth $200 million today.

• Phillies fans haven't forgotten Rolen's elite defense. Rolen was truly one of the best defensive third basemen of all time. But he orchestrated his way out of here and that is remembered equally, if not more so. 

• Schilling ... not delving into that one beyond an acknowledgment that his playoff performances were legendary, he had four excellent seasons and his post-playing career has been very strange.

• Ibañez was well-liked here and everywhere else he played. He may manage in the majors some day soon. He had an incredible first half in 2009, his first year with the Phillies, then was just slightly above average the rest of his three-year career with them.

• Phillies fans don't feel especially attached to Wagner, who was great here but lasted only two seasons. Unlike the other five on the list, Wagner should be in the Hall of Fame, in my opinion. Wagner was a more dominant reliever than Trevor Hoffman or Lee Smith. He had six seasons with an ERA under 2.00. He saved 422 games. He could have hung around for three more seasons to hit the arbitrary number of 500, which would have made him a Hall of Famer. Instead, Wagner retired on his terms after posting a 1.43 ERA for the Braves in 2010.

It will be interesting to see whether Abreu, a first-time candidate, gets the groundswell of support we've seen in recent years with players like Tim Raines.

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Phillies free-agent target: Zack Wheeler

Phillies free-agent target: Zack Wheeler

Leading up to baseball’s winter meetings, we will take a daily look at some of the game’s top free agents and how they could potentially impact the Phillies.

Today, we check in on Zack Wheeler, a right-hander who is seen as having much untapped potential.

The vitals

The very talented Wheeler has a big fastball — his career-high 96.8-mph average velocity was fourth-best in the majors among starting pitchers in 2019 — and excellent breaking stuff, but injuries and inconsistency have prevented him from blossoming into a star. He is 44-38 with a 3.77 ERA lifetime. He was the No. 6 overall pick by San Francisco in the 2009 draft. He was traded to the Mets two years later for Carlos Beltran, who is now the Mets' manager. Wheeler will turn 30 in May.

Why he fits

His career is trending upward and a team might be getting him just as he’s about to put it all together. Wheeler has been mostly healthy the last two seasons, going 23-15 with a 3.65 ERA in 60 starts. He has pitched 182⅓ and 195⅓ innings, respectively, the last two seasons, a good sign after struggling with injuries early in his career. In both 2018 and 2019, he was one of the best in baseball after the All-Star break, going a combined 14-3 with a 2.26 ERA.

Wheeler also reached a career high by throwing a first-pitch strike 65.8 percent of the time, a top-10 mark that placed him ahead of Jacob deGrom, Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander.

Given the supply and demand for starting pitching in the majors, Wheeler is headed for a big payday, but not as big as the top arms in this market. That might allow the Phils to spread around their dollars and fill multiple holes.

Why he doesn’t fit

From Charlie Morton in the starting rotation to David Robertson, Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter in the bullpen, the Phillies have been burned by injuries to free-agent pitchers. Wheeler missed significant time recovering from Tommy John surgery in 2015 and 2016. He spent time on the injured list in 2017 and was briefly sidelined in 2019 with what was called shoulder fatigue. He rebounded quickly and was able to make 31 starts, but his health history can't be ignored.

The Phillies need to be protective of their high draft picks. They would surrender a second-round pick for the right guy. The question remains: Is the inconsistent Wheeler the right guy? When push comes to shove, the Phils would probably do it.

The price tag

Some team is going to bet on Wheeler being ready to reel off several years of good health and effectiveness. The industry feel is that Wheeler could come in somewhere between the four-year, $68 million deal that Nathan Eovaldi got from Boston last year and the six-year, $140 million that Patrick Corbin got from Washington. In other words, he could be looking at a $100 million payday. 

Scout’s take

“The velocity is intriguing. My concern is he gets hit too hard for the kind of stuff he has. He’s had some health glitches so that makes it a risk for the kind of money he’s going to get. But the raw stuff and potential are definitely there. It just depends on a team’s willingness to risk.”

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