The reason Gabe Kapler's Neris-Ramos decision will occur again and again

The reason Gabe Kapler's Neris-Ramos decision will occur again and again

If the save statistic didn't exist, would we even care about Gabe Kapler's decision in the ninth inning Wednesday in Baltimore?

Think about it. Unless the move backfires, rarely do pitching changes in the seventh or eighth innings become major talking points.

But in this case, because a save was taken out from under Edubray Ramos, many have questioned the necessity of Kapler's move to Hector Neris with two outs and nobody on.

The element of this debate that does invite criticism is that Ramos was rolling. He had struck out two batters on six pitches and looked more than capable of retiring strikeout-prone lefty Chris Davis to end the game.

But as far as valuing matchups over the save statistic? It's hard to find a whole lot of fault with that.

From the minor leagues on up, the Phillies want to create an organization in which players do not feel locked into roles, whether it's relievers or position players. It's what Kapler wants and what the Phillies want, and the night before Kapler made that interesting decision in Baltimore, he discussed why the Phils hold this philosophy.

"We have a lot of respect for players having emotional connections to roles," Kapler said earlier this week. "And it's not just relievers, but also guys who play every day or come off the bench, they like to get in routines and rhythms. We need to be aware of that and respect it."

But ...

"The game is valuing guys who are a little bit more flexible in a different way than they ever have," Kapler continued. "I personally believe that there is a mental toughness that comes along with a guy who can come to the ballpark every day and just be like, 'Use me however you want to use me. Put me in any situation, I'm game for anything.' That's a hard thing to do. For that reason, we move slowly and we think long about the decisions that we make.

"I think that eventually, players will realize how much value they bring to the team when they're flexible. And then they'll also realize — and this is just my personal opinion — that clubs will eventually pay for that. So it will, in turn, be a win for them and for the club at the same time and that's a pretty cool thing."

Many view the save as an arbitrary, outdated stat. It's pretty silly that it can be applied to a three-run lead the same as it can be applied to a bases-loaded, no-out jam in a one-run game. But saves and games finished do have practical meaning to players because those counting stats can help them earn more money in arbitration. Eventually, perhaps that reduces what someone like Ramos could be paid in a few years. 

But the Phillies are focused on this "ready for anything" mentality from their players. So don't be surprised if this happens over and over again in the ninth inning and no Phillie accumulates more than 15 saves. 

Wednesday was only a sign of what's to come in the ensuing months and years.

Phillies coach Dusty Wathan to interview for Rangers manager

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Phillies coach Dusty Wathan to interview for Rangers manager

The Texas Rangers will interview Phillies third base coach Dusty Wathan for their manager opening later this week, according to a baseball source.

Wathan, 45, was a finalist for the Phillies' job that went to Gabe Kapler a year ago.

Wathan is a former catcher who played professionally for 14 seasons and appeared in the majors with Kansas City in 2002. He managed 10 seasons in the Phillies' minor-league system and was Eastern League manager of the year at Double A Reading in 2015 and 2016 before moving up to Triple A Lehigh Valley in 2017 and joining the big-league staff under Kapler in 2018. He managed many of the players that have recently arrived in the majors with the Phillies.

The Rangers fired manager Jeff Banister in late September. According to reports, they have already interviewed several candidates including former Yankees manager Joe Girardi. Cubs bench Brandon Hyde, Astros bench coach Joe Espada and Rangers assistant GM Jayce Tingler. The Rangers are also expected to interview Don Wakamatsu, who finished 2018 as interim skipper, and Sandy Alomar Jr., a member of the Indians' coaching staff. 

We profiled Wathan here last year.

More on the Phillies

10 Years Ago Today: Charlie Manuel felt professional euphoria, personal grief

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10 Years Ago Today: Charlie Manuel felt professional euphoria, personal grief

Ten years ago this month, the Phillies won their second World Series title in franchise history. Over the next few weeks, Jim Salisbury will look back at team’s run through the NLCS and World Series.

As the final out settled into Carlos Ruiz's mitt and the Phillies clinched the NLCS with a 5-1 win over the Dodgers in Game 5, I looked down at the dugout from the press box. Players streamed out to congratulate each other on the field. Manager Charlie Manuel stayed behind and accepted handshakes and hugs from his staff.

October 2008 was the high point of Manuel’s career, but it came amidst personal grief. Five days before the Phillies won the NLCS in Dodger Stadium, Manuel’s mother, June, died at the age of 87 back in the family’s hometown of Buena Vista, Virginia.

Manuel spoke to his mother daily before her passing and she wanted him to stay with his team. He celebrated the Phillies’ punching their ticket to the World Series and the next day flew to Virginia for his mother’s funeral.

Phillies players adored Manuel because he never complicated things, never got in the way and always had their back. There was a sense of “Let’s win this for Chuck,” throughout that postseason and it shined brightly in Game 5 at Dodger Stadium.

Mr. Bright Lights himself, James Calvin Rollins, fought back from an 0-2 count and led off the contest with a full-count home run against Chad Billingsley. Later in the game, Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell had big hits.

Cole Hamels continued his coming out party with seven innings of one-run ball, giving him a total of 22 innings of three-run ball to that point of the postseason. He was named NLCS series MVP.

Hamels labored through a 26-pitch seventh inning in Game 5 and his warning light was flashing when Manuel went to the mound to speak with his pitcher with two outs, two men on base and dangerous Jeff Kent coming up in a four-run game. One swing could have made it a much different ballgame. Manuel looked into Hamels' eyes and the 24-year-old lefty convinced the skipper he was OK. With the count 2-2, Hamels reached back for everything he had on his 104th pitch of the night. Kent took a called third strike in what turned out to be the final at-bat of his great career.

The spectacular bullpen duo of Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge finished it off and at age 64, Charlie Manuel was headed to the World Series as manager of Philadelphia Phillies.

After the game, Manuel said he knew his mom was watching from above and he recalled his last conversation with her.

“Charles Jr.,” she told him, “you’re going to win these games and go to the World Series.”

Moms are always right.

Previously in this series