In the Philadelphia Phillies managerial search – set to commence after the team fired Gabe Kapler Thursday – it would behoove them to follow one aspect of the New York Yankees managerial search blueprint.
After the New York Yankees parted ways with Joe Girardi following the 2017 season, they conducted an extensive managerial search with a unique twist – after candidates interviewed for the job, they held a press conference with the assembled New York media. At the time, some thought it seemed strange. But being able to handle the media is part of managing in the biggest market in the country. And the Yankees search concluded with them hiring Boone, who has been wildly successful in his first two years as manager.
The Phillies failed to control the narrative during the Kapler era. “Analytics” became a buzz word with an extremely negative connotation to quite a few fans. There became a narrative that the analytically-inclined Kapler wasn’t “a baseball guy,” despite having played in the major leagues for 12 seasons. Because he was uber-positive, muscular and from California, a common refrain heard from sports radio callers during the past two seasons was that Kapler “wasn’t a Philly guy.” This came despite him turning being a 57th round pick into a very successful career in baseball, and trying as hard as possible to connect to the city during his two years as Phillies skipper.
It became clear that the Phillies lost the public relations battle on their manager (and probably their still intact front office) over the past two years. Disgruntled fans and/or sports radio callers shouldn’t determine how an organization operates. But you don’t want your customers to become apathetic or have the impression that the organization always knows better than them (even if it’s their job to.) General manager Matt Klentak used the phrase that “perception matters” on multiple occasions last offseason. The Phillies seemed to become aware that they didn’t do a good enough job crafting a message that pleased their customers in 2018. But a year later – after managing partner John Middleton appeared to step over his general manager to dismiss a manager after deliberating for over 10 days – the perception of the organization certainly isn’t better. It’s probably worse.
Ultimately, the Phillies should hire the candidate that they believe gives them the best chance to become a sustained contender. But, like New York, part of managing in Philadelphia is being able to connect with the media and fanbase. Boone has done it with the Yankees. Kapler failed to do so in Philadelphia, as did recently-fired New York Mets manager Mickey Callaway. You could tell in New York Jets head coach Adam Gase’s introductory press conference that he probably wasn’t a fit for that market. For an organization with the financial wherewithal that the Phillies possess, it shouldn’t be impossible to find a manager that is successful in terms of developing talent and in-game strategy, while also keeping the media and fanbase at bay.
Who exactly that candidate is remains to be seen. But having candidates meet with the media after interviews – certainly if they advance past the first round of interviews – may not be a bad way to test the waters.
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