It’s day 10 of Gabe Kapler watch, and even the most ardent supporters of the Philadelphia Phillies manager are united with his most vocal critics on one thing – a decision needs to be made.
There’s been some suggestion that Phillies managing partner John Middleton couldn’t make a decision Wednesday – or at least have the club announce a decision – because it’s Yom Kippur. Then again, it’s hard to imagine Kapler being upset with a decision being announced today if it delivered a positive verdict on his future. Either way, there were eight days between the ending of Rosh HaShana and the start of Yom Kippur. There was ample time to make a decision without it being perceived as insensitive.
Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reported Wednesday that Andy MacPhail will return as the team’s president in 2020. Matt Breen of The Philadelphia Inquirer previously reported that general manager Matt Klentak’s job was never in question. Matt Gelb of The Athletic reported earlier this week that Scott Sheridan, the Phillies head athletic trainer, won’t be back in 2020. Neither will pitching coach Chris Young – at least in the same role – as MLB.com‘s Todd Zolecki first reported last Friday. Gelb did note, though, that all other members of Kapler’s 2019 staff, minus interim hitting coach Charlie Manuel, have been signed to stay on the staff in 2020, regardless of whether Kapler is here.
At a certain point, a decision needs to be made one way or another on the future of Kapler so the Phillies can proceed with what’s setting up to be a vital offseason.
But there may not be a way for the Phillies to come out of this decision without serious questions about the state of the franchise. If Kapler returns, whether it’s with an extension or as a lame duck, the Phillies won’t be able to erase the fact that they weighed dismissing him for more than 10 days. If Middleton ultimately moves on from Kapler, it will be despite the best efforts of his general manager, who hired and continues to support Kapler.
In some senses, the Phillies are in a situation similar to where the Eagles were after the 2015 season. After owner Jeffrey Lurie gave head coach Chip Kelly control over player personnel and demoted general manager Howie Roseman, the Eagles had an extremely disappointing season, despite an active offseason. Kelly was fired before the team’s final game, and Roseman was eventually put back in control of player personnel.
The Eagles then led a head coaching search that inspired little confidence in the organization’s direction. New York Giants offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo may have been hired, but the Giants eventually promoted him to head coach, helping the Eagles to dodge a bullet. McAdoo’s former boss, Tom Coughlin, interviewed with the Eagles, but reportedy complained about his former employer for parts of the interview. Kelly’s offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur interviewed. Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson interviewed and was eventually hired. There was a perception at that time that Roseman oversaw a head coaching search that prioritized hiring a head coach that wouldn’t rock the boat with his front office, like Kelly had done. Quite a few felt that Lurie seemed in over his head after the disaster that was 2015, so he just ran back to something familiar, hiring Pederson, who played for the Eagles, was a coach on their staff from 2009-2012 and ultimately left for Kansas City, who was now coached by former Eagles head coach Andy Reid.
Two years later, the Eagles won the Super Bowl. Roseman did a tremendous job helping to rebuild the roster on the fly after inheriting a situation that appeared headed for salary cap hell. Pederson outcoached Bill Belichick in the Super Bowl, guiding the team to their first ever Super Bowl title with Nick Foles, the team’s backup quarterback, under center.
Perceptions can change in the blink of an eye in sports.
Right now, though, the perception of the Phillies isn’t good. Whether Kapler returns or not, that’s unlikely to change this offseason. Winning can cure all ills, but the Phillies finished in fourth place in the National League East in 2019, and the way the organization has operated since the conclusion of the season doesn’t suggest they’re going to leapfrog the Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals and New York Mets soon. Klentak talked about how perception matters numerous times last offseason. The organization will have it’s work cut out trying to repair their reputation after Kapler watch ultimately wraps up.
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