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Klentak, Kapler excited for impact Manuel can make in postseason quest



For the first time in nearly six years, Charlie Manuel will be back in the Phillies dugout Wednesday. (Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire)

In a rather shocking move, the Philadelphia Phillies fired hitting coach John Mallee Tuesday, and replaced him with Wall of Famer Charlie Manuel, the winningest manager in franchise history.

Manuel, 75, wasn’t at the Phillies press conference this afternoon addressing the move, and won’t be with the team tonight as they open a three-game series with the Chicago Cubs. But general manager Matt Klentak and manager Gabe Kapler sounded excited about the impact Manuel can make as the Phillies attempt to reach the postseason for the first time since 2011, with Klentak preaching that the Phillies aren’t changing the message, just the messenger.

Here are the highlights from Klentak and Kapler’s joint press conference Tuesday afternoon:

Why Now?

  • While admitting that firing anyone is the hardest part of being an executive, Klentak explained the Phillies reasoning: “The reason we did this, and the reason we did this today, is because we have 44 games remaining…we are two games out of the playoffs (the National League Wild Card race). I know a lot of people are burying us and saying we have no chance and we haven’t played well…and part of that is correct – we have not played well. We have not hit well, especially since the All-Star Break. But we are not buried and we are not out. And, in my judgement, with 44 games remaining, it makes sense for us to try something different.”

Why Wasn’t John Mallee Able To Effectively Communicate The Organizational Hitting Philosophy?

  • “John Malee was appreciated by our players,” Kapler said. [He was] really appreciated by me personally, definitely appreciated by Matt. This is much more about the fact that we were just struggling mightily to score runs and Matt’s point is that we needed to make a change and when that happens, we look ahead. And we’re now thinking about what kind of impact Charlie may be able to make for us.”

What Does Manuel Bring?

  • Klentak and the Phillies did not make this change at hitting coach with the expectation that Manuel will flip a switch and turn the Phillies into an offensive juggernaut. But Klentak seemed to think that sometimes a different voice can be helpful: “What I do think Charlie can do is bring an energy level, a love and passion for hitting – which, many of you know about – a looseness, a confidence and a different message to our hitters that I think can be very helpful for our next 44 games.”

Are There Now Competing Philosophies In The Phillies Dugout? 

  • Klentak worked hard to push back against the narrative that the Phillies now employ an old-school hitting coach that isn’t analytically inclined: “Philosophically, this may not be as big of a shift as it seems. Charlie Manuel – a lot of you know this, but some of you may not – has been very instrumental in the development of our organizational hitting philosophy.
  • “Charlie Manuel, as a hitting coach in the 1990s, was preaching a lot of the things that have now been labeled as exit velocity and launch angle and have some new titles,” Klentak said. “But that’s the kind of stuff that Charlie was teaching back when he was helping Jim Thome become a Hall of Famer.”

Will Manuel’s Presence Undermine Gabe Kapler?

  • “The first thing that comes to mind for me is that it’s always going to be nice to have somebody that has had success in this market, both as a manager and in many other capacities, to be able to pick his brain,” Kapler said when essentially asked if he feels threatened by the presence of Manuel.
  • Kapler didn’t seem to remember – or chose to seem not to remember – a resurfaced tweet where he said the Phillies were correct in turning the page when they fired Manuel as manager in August of 2013.

Did Managing Partner John Middleton Have A Role In This Decision?

  • There’s been a perception that Middleton, the closest thing the Phillies have to a majority owner, likely led this decision because he’s not thrilled with the lack of offense after splurging this past offseason. Klentak says that Middleton was involved, but this decision wasn’t made by a singular person: “Any time we make a big organizational decision, we’re very collaborative about that. So John definitely was aware of this, involved in this – as he has been for a lot of decisions we’ve made. Andy MacPhail [was involved] as well. But when we make big decisions, they are done with a collaborative approach and kind of a united front.”

Is This Just For The Rest Of 2019?

  • “Charlie is going to work for us for another seven weeks and hopefully into October in this capacity,” Klentak said. “Charlie has been very valuable to us in the role he is in, I am super appreciative that he’s stepping up into this role for us for the remainder of the season, but this is not a role that is likely to extend beyond 2019.” Klentak, did however, go on to say that he hopes that the Phillies hand is forced because the offense performs so well under Manuel.

Are Any More Changes Coming?

  • Klentak directly answered this by saying that the Phillies don’t plan to make any other changes to their coaching staff during the season. In my opinion, this doesn’t mean that there wasn’t consideration to making multiple moves, but that the Phillies felt best moving forward with their current staff for the remainder of the 2019 season.

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