Gabe Kapler seeks improvement through anonymous survey

Gabe Kapler seeks improvement through anonymous survey

Updated: 6:18 p.m.

DENVER — As the Phillies have fallen out of contention with a hellacious stretch of losing, manager Gabe Kapler has diverted some of his attention to the next season. A couple of months ago, this would have been strictly against Kapler's code of maintaining laser-sharp focus on the step in front of him, but reality has hit hard. In less than two months, the Phillies have gone from first place and 15 games over .500 in the NL East to third place and a fast track to a sixth straight losing season.

Kapler is a deep-thinking, analytical man who believes in the pursuit of "constant and continual improvement." As he evaluates what went wrong in his first season as Phillies manager he is also looking to ascertain what he can do better in 2019.

"I have a lot of room to grow and improve," he said before the Phillies' 5-3 loss to the Rockies Thursday. The Phils were outscored 39-7 in the series and have lost eight straight games. 

"The first step I'm taking is seeking out feedback from others on my performance and areas where I fell short."

Kapler and general manager Matt Klentak have already started conducting exit interviews with players. There is give and take about how both sides can get better in 2019.

Kapler is so hungry for feedback and improvement that he has taken this unusual step:

"I have sent out an anonymous survey to all our coaches and support staff to ask them to review my performance," he said.

He added that he would follow up with members of the coaching and front office in the coming weeks "to discuss their thoughts and how I can be a better teammate, manager and leader."

He added: "I'm collecting as much information as I can because I know that adjustments need to be made for 2019."

Kapler specifically mentioned that the team needs to improve its defense, baserunning and offense.

"We will be diligent in stripping out ego, seeking out what worked and making changes where it didn't," he said. "We will mine every single edge we can during the offseason. There is nothing that will be sacred or off limits."

Kapler will even address intangible matters like handling a pennant race better.

"An area where we clearly fell short was in, appropriately preparing our players for the grind of a pennant chase in August and September," he said. "The preparation for August and September of 2019 is beginning now. There are specific mental and physical challenges being issued to our players for the offseason so that everyone comes into spring training able to maintain for seven months."

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Phillies managing partner John Middleton and wife contribute $100K to Eagles Autism Challenge

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Phillies managing partner John Middleton and wife contribute $100K to Eagles Autism Challenge

Phillies principal owner/managing partner John Middleton and his wife, Leigh, have made a $100,000 donation to the Eagles Autism Challenge.  

Beginning this morning, The Middleton Matching Gift Challenge will match the first $100,000 in online donations dollar for dollar. So the Middletons will match each one-time donation (up to $1,000) until the $100,000 goal is reached. 

“The Eagles are a world-class organization both on and off the field and we are proud to be part of their effort to drive autism research and improve the lives of millions of people around the world,” Middleton said in a statement.

The Eagles Autism Challenge is a huge deal for Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie and the franchise. It has become the team’s most notable fundraising effort. 

“On behalf of my family and the Philadelphia Eagles, I would like to graciously thank John and Leigh for their extreme generosity and commitment, not just to the Eagles Autism Challenge but to the autism community,” Lurie said in a statement. “A contribution like this says a lot about someone’s character, thoughtfulness and compassion for others. John and Leigh are admired humanitarians who, together, have made a deep and profound philanthropic impact in the Philadelphia region and beyond. Our hope is that the Middleton’s generosity will inspire leadership support and further position our city as a base for autism research.”

The Middleton Matching Gift Challenge is the sixth matching gift this year. In total, it’s expected that $760,000 will be matched by the end of the week. 

The Eagles Autism Challenge is a one-day bike ride and 5K run/walk on Saturday, May 18 that begins and ends at Lincoln Financial Field. The event  also features three cycling routs — the Wawa Junior 15-Mile Ride, Wawa Short 30-Mile Ride and the Wawa Classic 50-Mile Ride. 

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Mets pick an incredibly lame moment to send Rhys Hoskins and Phillies a message

Mets pick an incredibly lame moment to send Rhys Hoskins and Phillies a message

NEW YORK — Two nights in a row, the Phillies have been outclassed by the Mets. Two nights in a row, there's been drama in an otherwise blah game.

The Phillies lost, 9-0, to Zack Wheeler and the Mets in the second game of the series (see observations), 24 hours after dropping a 5-1 decision that included a Bryce Harper ejection and a postgame message from Jake Arrieta to his teammates, through the media (see story).

On Tuesday, with two outs and nobody on in the ninth inning of a blowout, Mets reliever Jacob Rhame decided it was the appropriate time to send a message on behalf of his team after two Mets were hit by pitches the previous night.

The first pitch Rhame threw to Rhys Hoskins was a 96 mph fastball over his head. Hoskins was clearly annoyed by it, taking a few steps toward the mound as both benches slowly began to clear. After about 20 seconds, things cooled down and the at-bat continued.

Five pitches later, Rhame threw another fastball over Hoskins' head, this one at 97 mph, for ball four. Hoskins angrily slammed his bat and Mets catcher Travis d'Arnaud quickly stepped in front of him to create a barrier between Hoskins and the mound.

"Oh, he just said they were trying to go inside, and I laughed," Hoskins said.

Clearly intentional. Clearly a retaliatory attempt or message from the Mets a night after two consecutive Mets were unintentionally hit by pitches from Jose Alvarez and Juan Nicasio.

"He didn't miss up and in the rest of the inning, so I'll let you decide," Hoskins said after the game.

When asked if it was lame for a pitcher to choose the potential final at-bat of a blowout to throw at a batter, Hoskins tried to be as diplomatic as possible.

"I would think so," he said. "But I understand baseball. They got hit a couple of times yesterday."

This kind of situation comes up every once in a while across baseball, and hitters always say they understand the deal but that it's not cool to throw at a guy's head. Which it's not. Ever. Especially in the age of high-90s velocity.

"I don't get it," Bryce Harper said. "I understand that two of their guys got hit yesterday. But, I mean, if it's baseball and you're going to drill somebody, at least hit him in the ass. Not in the head. You throw 98, it's scary now. You could kill somebody. Lose your eyesight. That's bigger than the game."

Harper referenced the time Hunter Strickland hit him with a pitch to retaliate for the two home runs Harper hit off of him in the playoffs three years prior. It was a silly thing for Strickland to do, but at least it was in a safer spot.

"Strick hit me in the butt. I still went and got him," Harper said, referring to his charging the mound. "But, you know, I respected him for it because he hit me in the butt. I understand protecting your guys and two of their really good guys got hit yesterday. You never want to see your star players get hit. If you're going to throw at Rhys right there — I don't know if he did or not. I know he said, 'My bad.' Hopefully, he didn't. But if you're going to, just hit him in the butt."

One could theorize this may wake up a slumping Phillies offense. The same could have been said Monday of Harper's ejection, which did nothing but further deplete a Phils lineup missing two starters and its super-utilityman.

They'll have a chance Wednesday night to get back on track against the constantly hittable Jason Vargas, a soft-tossing lefty with a 9.58 ERA. If they can't, they'll come home totally demoralized from a road trip through Colorado and New York that included injuries and several silent offensive performances.

"We just haven't played good baseball these last couple of days," Hoskins said. "End of a long road trip. It's a big game tomorrow. We'll be excited to go back home, but we've got to take care of business tomorrow against these guys."

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