Phillies

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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Joe Girardi doesn't see penalty for Astros players as a deterrent

Joe Girardi doesn't see penalty for Astros players as a deterrent

The calls for Astros players to get suspended have gotten louder and louder as players have descended upon Florida and Arizona for spring training this past week. From Cody Bellinger to Mike Trout to Trevor Bauer to Nick Markakis and everywhere in between, players have made clear how angry they are about Houston's cheating scandal. 

It's going to take a long time for Astros players to gain back the respect of their peers.

It's not some easy fix, though. Astros players were granted immunity from discipline in order for their cooperation in MLB's investigation. MLB cannot, after the fact, revoke that immunity and decide to suspend players knowing what it now knows. That would never fly, and it shouldn't. Whether immunity should have been granted in the first place is the big question, but that point has passed.

Joe Girardi was asked on ESPN's Golic and Wingo Show Wednesday whether he thought MLB's punishment was sufficient.

The Phillies' first-year skipper doesn't think the current punishment serves as much of a deterrent.

"There are some people that lost their jobs that really were the people that had to pay for it, but there were a lot more people involved," Girardi said. "The financial gain for the players is substantial if they have big seasons because of this, so if there's no punishment for them, I'm not sure that it stops. I'm really not sure. Because the financial gain, similar to the steroid era, is very similar. If you know it's coming and you have a big year and you're a free agent, there's a lot (of money) to be made there and players want to take care of their families.

"I'm not exactly sure what the right answer is, but I don't know how much of a deterrent it is for players right now. There's not a huge deterrent for the players and I think there has to be to make sure that it stops."

People made fun of commissioner Rob Manfred for saying this but it should be acknowledged that the public ridicule the Astros are feeling right now will actually serve as some sort of deterrent. That doesn't mean MLB made the right call, that their decision-making process has been sound or that Manfred has done himself any favors publicly. But the disrespect factor around the league and around the country is real. Guys like Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve, George Springer, even a Justin Verlander — will they ever again command the respect they did before this? This is a permanent stain.

MLB recognized how difficult an investigation would have been without cooperation from key figures and went the route of immunity. It's a decision that will be questioned for years.

"If you're not in the clubhouse and you don't admit yourself that you did it, how do you take the word from another player that he was doing it? That's the hard part," Girardi said. "Like, if you get caught with something on your body, that to me definitely should be a suspension and a huge fine. But to say that someone was using it, it's his word against his word, that's pretty tough to penalize a player."

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A small step in Phillies camp for pitching prospect Spencer Howard

A small step in Phillies camp for pitching prospect Spencer Howard

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Spencer Howard, the Phillies' top pitching prospect, returned to a bullpen mound Wednesday and threw 27 pitches.

Ordinarily, a bullpen session in spring training is not news, but Howard had temporarily stopped his bullpen work after sustaining a minor knee injury — manager Joe Girardi called it a "tweak" — 10 days earlier.

Howard threw all of his pitches during the bullpen session as a gaggle of fans watched at Carpenter Complex.

"I only saw two pitches," said Girardi, who was busy bouncing around four fields. "But he felt great. That's the important thing."

Girardi said there was no timetable for when Howard would pitch in a Grapefruit League game. The Phillies are on record as saying they will take things slowly with Howard in the early part of the season. The 23-year-old right-hander is on an innings/workload limit this season and the Phillies would like to get a good chunk of those innings in the big leagues.

"Spencer has an innings limit so we have to think about this because we believe at some point he's going to play a role for us," Girardi said earlier in camp. "We can't go wear him out by June so we have to think about that. We're not going to waste a lot of innings in spring training."

It's possible that the Phillies could hold Howard back in extended spring training in the month of April so they can maximize his innings later in the season.

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