PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Gabe Kapler is no longer the manager of the Philadelphia Phillies because wins matter. That’s what managing partner John Middleton, general manager Matt Klentak and president Andy MacPhail said during a press conference on Friday, a day after removing Kapler as manager.
“I also very much understand why we are where we are today. Wins matter, September baseball matters. When you sign Bryce Harper and add J.T. Realmuto and have the offseason we had and finish as a .500 team, that’s tough to swallow,” Klentak, who initially hired Kapler, said.
The Phillies stumbled the past two Septembers under Kapler, finishing 20-36. During his two-year tenure, the Phillies were 161-163.
Middleton revealed he started having concerns with the direction of the team in the second half of the season as the Phillies were falling in the standings. After speaking to several confidants, the owner couldn’t trust that Kapler would get the team over the hump in the last month of the regular season.
“Ultimately, I felt that if I were going to bring Gabe back, I had to be very, very confident that we were going to have a different outcome in 2020 and those September collapses, I just kept bumping up against them, and I couldn’t get comfortable enough, confident enough that if I brought him back we wouldn’t have another problem, and therefore I made the decision that I did,” Middleton said.
In 2018, the Phillies suffered a late-season collapse after being in first place as late as August, and finished third with an 80-82 record. This past season, the Phillies were 3.5 games up in first place in late May but crashed hard with terrible pitching, an inconsistent offense and a litany of injuries, finishing at 81-81.
Kapler was never able to guide the Phillies back to the playoffs during his brief stay, even after the organization spent “stupid money” this past offseason in bringing in Harper, Realmuto, Jean Segura and Andrew McCutchen.
It was the eighth straight year the Phillies missed the postseason.
Kapler faced criticism for his handling of the rotation, bullpen usage and the development of players, but fingers have also been pointed at the front office for not giving him the arms needed to compete.
Despite Kapler being let go, Middleton still has confidence and faith in his general manager.
“Nobody bats 1.000 in hiring decisions. I haven’t,” Middleton said. “It’s early in his career and he’s made lots and lots of good hiring decisions too. It should be a learning experience.”
Klentak says they want the next Phillies’ manager to put them over the top.
“We’re going to be looking for someone who can appreciate the organization that we have and the culture that’s been developed here and embrace that, and obviously put their own spin on it,” Klentak said. “But someone who is going to appreciate the staff we have and things that we do and come in and take us over the finish line. Because that’s really what this is about, this is about wins and losses and getting us where we want to be and that’s playing in October and competing for a championship.”
The Phillies also let go of hitting coach John Mallee during the season, replacing him with Charlie Manuel, and won’t be bringing back pitching coach Chris Young.
Seven other teams will also be looking for new managers this winter.