Phillies part ways with manager Gabe Kapler

Showalter presumed front-runner for job; familiar names may interview

October 10th, 2019

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies announced on Thursday morning that Gabe Kapler will not return as manager in 2020. The news did not come as a surprise, as the team fell short of expectations in each of the past two seasons with Kapler at the helm.

Kapler’s teams finished a combined 161-163, with each season marked by a late-season collapse. The September results raised questions about Kapler’s leadership and a perceived lack of urgency in the clubhouse, which had few rules and arguably little accountability. Phillies general manager Matt Klentak and his inner circle wanted Kapler to return, but managing partner John Middleton investigated the concerns he had about Kapler and the organization, and he made the decision himself.

“Several years ago, I promised our loyal fans that I would do everything in my power to bring a world championship team to our city,” Middleton said in a statement. “I will never waver from that commitment. During the second half of this season and continuing into this week, I have evaluated our organization extensively, a process that included talking to many people both internally and around the league. Reassuring to me was the endorsement that people outside the Phillies gave to the progress we have made recently, both organizationally and on the field. Nevertheless, with the knowledge that I have gained from my evaluation, combined with my personal reflection on the 2019 season, I have decided that some changes are necessary to achieve our ultimate objective.”

Middleton had been seeking opinions from people since Hall of Fame weekend in Cooperstown, N.Y., in July. He talked to more people during the Phillies’ alumni weekend in August. It continued from there. He traveled with the team to Washington in its final road trip of the season. The Nationals swept the Phillies in a five-game series. Middleton talked to players following the season, even crisscrossing the country this week to talk to some in person.

Middleton never considered replacing president Andy MacPhail or Klentak, both of whom have been under fire from a frustrated fan base. MacPhail’s “if we don’t, we don’t” comment in July about the Phillies possibly not making the postseason this year, which he claimed would tie the quickest rebuild for a new regime, did not play well. Klentak has drawn criticism, too. The front office made no upgrades to the rotation, believing it had top-10 potential, and was conservative before the July 31 Trade Deadline because it did not believe its team could go far in the postseason. The front office also had no plans to dismiss hitting coach John Mallee or pitching coach Chris Young. Middleton finally pushed for Mallee to be dismissed in August. Young was dismissed last week.

The front office announced that the rest of Kapler’s coaching staff will return in 2020. It also announced it did not renew the contracts of head athletic trainer Scott Sheridan and assistant athletic trainer Chris Mudd.

Middleton, MacPhail and Klentak will speak at a press conference Friday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park.

So what’s next?

The presumed front-runner to replace Kapler is former Orioles manager Buck Showalter. He has experience. He has had success. He has a strong connection to MacPhail, Klentak and assistant general manager Ned Rice. MacPhail hired Showalter in Baltimore. Klentak and Rice both worked with him. A source said the Phillies would have interviewed Showalter for their managerial opening two years ago, but he was not available at the time.

Other experienced candidates could get interviews. Joe Girardi, John Farrell, Dusty Baker and Joe Maddon would make sense, although Maddon reportedly wants to manage the Angels. Farrell was a finalist for the Phillies’ job two years ago.

“With Matt leading our search for our next manager, I am confident that we will find the right person to lead us,” Middleton said.

Klentak, Rice and assistant general manager Bryan Minniti interviewed managerial candidates two years ago when Klentak decided to remove Pete Mackanin from the job. The pressure is on Klentak to get this one right. MacPhail warned at the time that a GM only gets so many managerial hires.

“We came into 2019 with very high hopes,” Kapler said in a statement. “We fell short of those, and that responsibility lies with me. The next Phillies manager will inherit a team of talented, dedicated and committed players. There has been nothing more fulfilling in my professional career than the opportunity to work with the players on this team. I will forever value the relationships I developed with them. As I move on, I know that this organization is in a great spot and will see a lot of success going forward. My hope is that I helped contribute to a developing culture in the organization that flourishes in the years to come. I’ve come to care for this franchise and have the best wishes for this group in the future. The passion and devotion of the Phillies fan base both inspired and humbled me daily. It was an honor to grow, develop and learn with this team. I’m looking forward to what the future brings, and I know I’m a better leader and person for having had this opportunity.”