Some viewed Tuesday’s decision by the Philadelphia Phillies to fire hitting coach John Mallee and replace him with Charlie Manuel as the first step towards a potential managerial change at the end of the season if the team continues to underperform offensively. Whether it was or it wasn’t, Gabe Kapler isn’t worried.
The second-year manager said just as much this morning.
“You know this as good as anybody, you’ve been around the game forever; the life of a baseball manager is that you manage until the day that you get fired and almost everyone gets fired at some point,” Kapler said Wednesday to Angelo Cataldi on SportsRadio 94 WIP. “I guess I’d say this – I’m not going to manage scared. I didn’t play scared. I fought and gave everything I had every single day. You’re going to manage in the same way. So, if I get fired I do and it’ll be a hard day for me to deal with, but I’m not going to waste a single ounce of my mental or emotional energy thinking about myself when I could be thinking about how I could help us win tonight’s game.”
For what it’s worth, USA Today‘s Bob Nightengale wrote last week that the “prevailing belief” among Phillies executives is that Kapler will return in 2020 for a third season as the Phillies manager. It’s unclear if that same belief exists from managing partner John Middleton, who Matt Gelb of The Athletic says was the “decisive voice” in the decision to have Manuel return to the dugout for the rest of 2019.
The Phillies will enter game two of a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs Wednesday with a 61-58 record. They are nine games back of the Atlanta Braves in the National League East, a race they seemingly haven’t been seriously involved with since at least the All-Star Break. But they remain just two games back of the St. Louis Cardinals for the second National League Wild Card spot, so as general manager Matt Klentak said Tuesday, the Phillies playoff hopes are far from dashed.
Still, the mediocrity of the National League Wild Card race hasn’t distracted from how much an offense that added Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto, among others, this past offseason has disappointed. It’s clear that Kapler doesn’t have enough starting pitching talent to work with, and the bullpen has been ravaged by injuries in 2019. But the offense, even if its potential was overrated at the beginning of the season, has been the 20th best in baseball in 2019. The Phillies won Tuesday night, but they also struck out 15 times.
“I’ll keep it really simple,” Kapler said. “I definitely don’t think we’ve played to our potential.”
Well, the Phillies have 43 games left to reach their potential. And if they’re going to do that, it’s probably not going to be because of their pitching. Kapler, Manuel and the Phillies coaching staff hope that in the coming days, they are able to help ignite an offense that some thought could be a juggernaut at the outset of the season.
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