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Gabe Kapler: I’ll be unsatisfied if Phillies don’t win National League East

The Phillies hope to return to the postseason for the first time since 2011. (Matt Veasey/Phillies Nation)

Philadelphia Phillies manager Gabe Kapler, just three games into his tenure as the club’s manager, guaranteed the club would make the playoffs in 2018. Given that his guarantee came after a 15-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Kapler’s shown a tendency to remain positive even during the lowest of times. The Phillies will go for the series victory against the Miami Marlins Wednesday evening, but business hasn’t exactly been booming for the Phillies of late, as their last series win was a four-game sweep over the Marlins to open August.

Still, Kapler’s goals haven’t changed.

The rookie manager joined Angelo Cataldi on SportsRadio 94 WIP Wednesday morning and said that he’ll be disappointed if the Phillies season ends with anything other than them winning their first National League East title since 2011:

“I think that’s a really fair question. Our mission as you know is to win the National League East. I guess I’ll be very direct – anything less than that will be unsatisfying. But success, and you’re bringing up that word. Success is measured in many ways and there have already been a ton of successes – there’s been plenty of stumbles, but there have been many of successes. And I don’t think, no matter what happens, that when we slap a label on the season and label it one way or another.”

It’s worth pointing out that the Phillies are just 3.5 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals for the second National League Wild Card spot. But given that both the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers are closer to the second Wild Card spot, the Phillies most realistic path to the postseason seems to be winning the division. At this stage, it’s hard to envision a scenario where the Phillies will win enough games to win a Wild Card spot for the first time in franchise history, but still less games than the Atlanta Braves.

So the division appears to be the Phillies best path to the postseason. Still, “unsatisfied” is an interesting way for Kapler to frame how he will feel if the Phillies miss the postseason. Even if the Phillies fall just short of winning the division, it would be hard to look at an 85-77 season as a failure. The Phillies, who won just 66 games a year ago, are by all accounts a year ahead of schedule. A 19-win improvement would be a successful year in the grand scheme of things, though would still leave an unsatisfied feeling in the minds of many because the National League East is especially winnable in 2018.

Winning the division, of course, would make 2018 both a successful and satisfying season for Kapler and the Phillies. A good place to start towards that goal would be winning their 10th game against the Marlins this season on Wednesday. Ultimately, assuming the Phillies just remain in striking distance of the Braves in the National League East in the coming weeks, their playoff hopes will come down to the final 11 games. The Phillies will play the Braves in seven of their last 11 games, including a three-game series at Citizens Bank Park to conclude the 2018 season. We’ll see where Kapler’s satisfaction level is after that series.

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