The Philadelphia Phillies have undoubtedly underperformed this season after the front office spent “dumb money” in an attempt to build a pennant-winning roster. With the postseason already underway, the Phillies are on the outside looking in. Many fans have been left scratching their heads, trying to figure out how this could have happened after all the offseason hype. Naturally, this leads to the scapegoat discussion — who’s responsible for this mess and who needs to pay the ultimate price?
The easy answer is always to fire the manager, but the organization has yet to pull the plug on Gabe Kapler, and I am glad that they haven’t. Even after months of fan scrutiny, Gabe remains in red pinstripes, for now. Now before I dive into my reasonings as to why he deserves another season with this ball club, let me preface with this: I am not a Kapler fan! I hate the way he spews his positive reinforcement B.S. to the media and to the team. He doesn’t hold players accountable, and he comes off as an overly optimistic schmuck during his press conferences. I hate this about him, but these traits don’t make or break success in the MLB.
Regardless of his post-game antics, he has also made some mistakes on the field. He has inexcusably forgotten to warm up bullpen pitchers on several occasions, and he shuffles the lineup a little too often for my liking. Aside from these blunders, he really hasn’t done anything to warrant termination. How was he supposed to win with a terrible rotation and a depleted bullpen? Matt Klentak set the team up for disappointment, and did nothing significant to fix it at the trade deadline. The only way this team was going to work was if the offense scored 10 runs per game, and we all know that didn’t happen either.
Kapler is not the reason that the Phillies were painfully mediocre this season, it was Klentak’s fault. The Phillies lack of pitching was obvious across the board. The team’s ERA was 4.53, which was worse than the league average of 4.49. Average pitching is not good enough to make a run at the World Series, especially when you have to face potent lineups like the Dodgers, Braves, and Nationals just to get there. And good luck getting anyone other than Aaron Nola to win you a game against the Yankees or Astros on the biggest stage. It simply isn’t possible, yet the city is up in arms over Kapler’s job status. No manager could have rescued this team that was doomed from the first pitch of the season.
Now if the team fires Kapler, I’m not going to be shocked because Philadelphians demand instant success. Constant turn-around is not going to build a winner. And how long would the next manager have to win with an average roster? Fans did the same thing with Charlie Manuel after he missed the playoffs in his first two years with the Phils. People didn’t like his personality because he didn’t “fit in” with Philadelphia, and because he didn’t make the playoffs. People also called for Doug Peterson to be fired after his rookie coaching campaign with the Eagles where they went 7-9. Great coaches aren’t created overnight, unless you’re Steve Kerr or Aaron Boone and inherit a dynasty due to great upper management. Sadly the Phillies don’t have a good GM.
I understand the frustration. The team tanked for almost a decade and then fans were expecting the next great era of Phillies baseball to finally arise when the team started bringing in former MVPs (Harper & McCutchen) in free agency, but the original pool of talent on the team just wasn’t good enough for the team to make such a gigantic leap. Hoskins may not be the perennial All Star that everyone expected him to be, Franco doesn’t belong in the majors, Hernandez doesn’t hit for power, Nola is the only consistent pitcher, and the bullpen was never good to begin with. Not exactly the roster you look at and then say, “Okay, let’s go all-in right now!”
Not even Connie Mack could coach this team into a winner. So please, just relax on the Kapler hate train and realize that this team was never ready to make a postseason run, especially with the Braves and Nationals in the division — two teams with better pitching and more power in their lineups. The Phillies have only made the playoffs 14 times in 137 seasons. These things take time, and Kapler needs more time.