ESPN's fake draft of the top 50 coaches among the four major sports had several Philly ties.
One, in particular, was … interesting.
Phillies manager Gabe Kapler ranked 39th overall. (Doug Pederson was 15th, and Brett Brown was 40th.)
Again, this includes coaches (or managers) in all four sports. Kapler was ninth among MLB managers.
ESPN's write-up included a few massive understatements:
The Phillies underwent a 14-game improvement in 2018 and played meaningful baseball in September for the first time in years, but notoriously hard-to-please Philadelphia fans probably won't quite view Kapler's first year through that lens. The Phils were 64-49 and in first place on Aug. 7, then went 16-33 the rest of the way, which elicited some Kapler-focused grumbling.
"Some grumbling." LOL. Search Kapler's name on Twitter and take a look at the last two months of his mentions. It wasn't "some" grumbling, it felt more like 90 percent of the fan base despised him.
I've been on this planet nearly three decades and have spent waaaaaay too many hours consuming sports, mostly baseball. I haven't spent more than six months outside of Philly at any point. And in that time, I have never, ever seen such a passionately negative reaction to any coach or manager in his first year.
Some of the criticism of Kapler was fair. Some was completely over-the-top. A lot of the time, the criticism was based on aspects of his personality that people projected. In real life, Kapler is a pretty chill guy. When the cameras are off, talking baseball with him is just like talking baseball with a dude who knows a lot about the game. He's as accepting and understanding of criticism as any athlete or coach I've covered, which is refreshing. There were valid on-field questions and understandable confusion over some of Kapler's press conferences, but people kind of ran away with their imagination when it came to his personality.
The main issues fans seemed to have with Kapler in Year 1 were what they deemed overmanaging, and his often flowery descriptions of players' strengths.
Kapler did overmanage at times. He did it on opening day when he removed Aaron Nola too early. Some of the defensive, late-game switches didn't make a ton of sense based on the closeness of the game and the potential for extra innings.
There was also some overmanaging in August and September, but you have to consider the hand Kapler was dealt. For much of the second half, the Phillies had a roster filled with players who could either hit but not field, or field but not hit. What many fans deemed overmanaging was really just Kapler trying to optimize for offense or defense based on the situation.
Kapler's managerial style is new to this city, and old-school cities like Philadelphia don't always appreciate "new." That's not meant as a sweeping generalization but rather an acknowledgment of a portion of the fanbase. If Doug Pederson's two-point conversion attempts failed more than they succeeded those first couple years, fans would have yelled that he was trying to reinvent the game. When "new" works, the shouting isn't as loud.
In reality, a lot of what Kapler and GM Matt Klentak did this season is happening in many cities across baseball. It happens with the Dodgers, Astros, Red Sox, Rays, Brewers. The Cubs are just as analytically-driven if not more, aside from the fact that they barely use defensive shifts.
It's interesting that, nationally, Kapler is still viewed favorably despite the Phillies' epic collapse the final seven weeks. It's either a sign that these list-makers are out of touch, or that all the Kapler noise from commenters on websites, callers on the radio and folks on social media isn't an indication of how he's actually perceived.
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