When Gabe Kapler was appointed the Phillies manager on October 30, 2017, he became the 54th manager of the Phillies team since it was formed. When he was announced, Kapler stated his desire to make the Phillies team the best in the country and went on to say that he will combine the traditional old-timer’s way of selecting the best possible team for every match and the new way of using statistics in drawing up the list of the best performing players.
Kapler’s vision for the team largely depends according to him on how the manager chooses the players before they go out onto the field. To him, team selection is a game of strategy and as he said, there are still some poker platforms out there that you as a manager has to be a part of not only as a way of fulfilling your desire for the thrill of gaming but as a way of gaining much needed strategic and tactical astuteness.
In this day, when it comes to team selection most of us including pundits and other managers as well would, for instance, play Derek Jeter at shortstop ensuring he is in the second line to bat. A player like Chase Utley would pay at second base and lie in the third position to bat. Using such players in these kind of positions seems the right way, as we will be playing them in their right positions and at the same time utilising their other skills for the team’s benefit. It will be more of opting for stability and routine. However, when it comes to Kapler, he has a very different perception.
Kapler stated clearly that for the entire duration of his tenure as manager of the Phillies team, he would not be bound by stability or routine. For him, once you start to opt for stability, you set yourself on a downward spiral as stability is settling for decline. With regards to routine, opting for routine is opting for anathema; you should avoid it at all cost. Many Phillies fans have for a long time seen these two, stability and routine as the main pillars of team selection but as we already have seen from Kapler in a couple of months he has been a manager, it’s not team selection as usual when it comes to him.
The offseason has been great, as the Phillies have done some good business early on bringing star attractions such as Carlos Santana to the club. Santana has made his name in the league as a first baseman. That would incline Rhys Hoskins move to the left field in order for Santana to play in his favoured position at least according to us. However, with the pronouncements made by Kapler earlier, it’s not a matter of black and white that Rhys is going to change his position in the team.
There have been reports coming from the team that Kapler is looking at other ways of accommodating Santana in the team without necessarily throwing him in his favourite position. When it comes to batting, we already know that during his time in the league, Santana has started in at least one of the first six spots thus there is no guarantee right now whether he will be second, third, fourth, sixth or even lead off.
From the look of it, you might think that a Kapler led team won’t have everyday players. Kapler has however dismissed these claims from the onset saying that they will be included but he gave a word of caution saying, they may not have as many games as before. Kapler said there are some guys (in the league, not necessarily the team) that get for example 500 plate appearances even though their form does not justify those appearances. For such type of guys, it will be more difficult to get into the team, he warned.
Kapler said there are some guys who play in front of someone who “beats their ass.” Not directly referencing or naming anyone though we all know the exploits of Utley some years back, Kapler said it was difficult for the team to allow some players days off even though they were coming back from serious injuries. Utley broke his hand in 2007 after being hit by a pitch but insisted on playing on and the team obliged. Later in 2008, Utley played through a serious hip injury requiring surgery, which was later done after a month after the team had won the World Series.
The 2018 Phillies team largely consists of young players without many match minutes to their name. However, the big question is will they not prefer to play regularly day after day in the same position so as to become accustomed to their specific task in the team and get much-needed confidence which as we have to know sets a nice toe for the rest of the season. Kapler with his opposition to stability and routine disagrees so it’s a matter of waiting to see how he will handle this delicate situation with these young, exuberant emerging talents for the good of the Phillies team.