DENVER — After falling flat on their faces, losing four straight games and being officially eliminated from postseason contention, the Phillies arrived in Coors Field for the first of four games with the Rockies on Monday night.
The Phils were hammered, 10-1. The defeat marked their 30th loss in 45 games and dropped them to the .500 mark for the first time since April 10 when the season was just 10 games.
An embarrassing loss like Monday night’s — coming on top of a steady wave of losses — might have caused some managers to give the boys a good ol' butt-chewing after the game. Some managers might have kicked over a chair in the clubhouse or gone off on an umpire. Anything to ramp up the urgency and send a message that what’s happening is not acceptable.
Gabe Kapler did none of this.
It’s not him. He prefers his conversations with players to be private and not for show.
“For me, the way that I personally operate, I need more than ‘sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t work,’“ he said Tuesday. “That’s just my personality. I’m not flipping a coin. I’m not throwing (crap) against the wall to see what sticks. I just don’t do that. I want a reason. If I’m going to get the group together and have a conversation, I want a reason for it. I want to be very confident that it’s going to be helpful.”
Would it be?
“I don’t know,” he said.
Kapler is an amazingly aware guy. He’s plugged-in, connected, never far away from his iPad. He is social-media savvy. He knows people think he’s too positive. He knows fans want to see him pull a Larry Bowa or a Dallas Green or even a Charlie Manuel.
“I think, honestly, people have a hard time with it,” he said. “They want me to be that character. It’s hard. It’s not who I am. However, I think one of the things that’s been missed in this season is that I feel what people feel. I suffer with people. I am extremely, extremely competitive. I (bleeping) hate to lose. So all these things I share in common. People don’t tend to really read it on me. And I think that’s confusing for people. That’s OK.
“I read everything. I know what people think of me. I know how people are responding to me. Some of it I can do something about and I will. There are other things … First, I’m not willing to compromise my integrity to be a character. My job is to help the Philadelphia Phillies win baseball games. It’s not to be a persona. But that doesn’t mean I don’t (bleeping) feel. Yes, I promise I get mad. Yes, I promise there are conversations that get loud. I promise I pound my fist from time to time. I’m not going to do it for who. It’s not who I am.”
Kapler mentioned two of his managerial mentors, Terry Francona and Joe Maddon. He played for Francona in 2004 when the Red Sox won the World Series. Francona never held a team meeting that season.
“I think there’s something to my experience in that clubhouse that leads me to lead this clubhouse in a similar fashion,” Kapler said. “That’s who he was. He let the players police the clubhouse. He had some veterans that were very good at it. And when he spoke, he spoke to guys individually. That doesn’t mean that it’s the only way to do it.”
But it’s Kapler’s way.