When you look at Gabe Kapler’s tenure as Philadelphia Phillies manager, it’s clear that he wasn’t the only one at fault for two years of underachieving.
With SportsRadio WIP running their “Once and for All” topics this week, it was pretty obvious that a Gabe Kapler debate had to be part of it. But it really matters how you phrase the question when it comes to the former Philadelphia Phillies skipper. If you’re flat-out asking “Was Gabe Kapler a good manager with the Phillies?”, the answer is “God, no”. Kapler showed too many fundamental issues over a relatively short period of time to make that assessment. He wasn’t some svengali whose team failed despite his prowess.
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Still, this doesn’t necessarily mean that Kapler will be ineffective as a major league manager going forward. Like almost anything in sports (and life), there is a learning curve. Look no further than Terry Francona for evidence of this. His tenure with the Phillies from 1997 to 2000 was an absolute mess, and you couldn’t have convinced me in a million years that he would go on to become a two-time World Series winning manager. I guess ol’ Tito was right about that “mulligan” in Philadelphia after all.
And while I’m not not expecting Kapler to lead the San Francisco Giants (or any other team he goes on to manage) to a title, nothing surprises me anymore. Not even the way that the Phillies handled Kapler’s firing so ineptly was a surprise, something that made a lot of sense since the management has to share the blame for Kapler’s failed two-year stint as manager.
Based on sub-standard performance compared to what was expected, Gabe Kapler’s dismissal at the end of the 2019 season was merited. He probably wasn’t even the right man for the job to begin with, not for the type of team he was given. It also didn’t help matters that the Phillies’ spending spree after his first season cranked the pressure up even more, creating a truly undesirable situation for such a neophyte manager. Once the losses started mounting, Kapler was hardly blameless, but countless injuries and a coaching staff that didn’t give him much help also had a hand in making sure his stay in town was a brief one.
Even some objectively terrible managers have been given more than two seasons to prove themselves, but the current situation of the Phillies dictated that Kapler couldn’t come back for 2020. Joe Girardi will be a big upgrade, but that isn’t to say that Gabe can’t still turn into a success elsewhere. Letting him go was the right decision, even if the Phillies dragged it out and bungled it like only they know how. Just because it was correct, however, doesn’t mean that it was completely fair. Hardly anyone was willing to be patient enough for Gabe Kapler to stick around, even though the expensive team in front of him was still a very flawed one. He was, in the end, just a scapegoat. This isn’t a defense of the job that he did managing; it’s simply an acknowledgement that, in retrospect, he never really had a chance.