The Philadelphia Phillies went in search of a new manager this fall.
They arrived at an unconventional choice.
The Phillies announced Monday afternoon they have hired former major leaguer player Gabe Kapler as the 54th manager in team history. Kapler, 42, arrives in Philadelphia with little managerial experience but well-versed in analytics, sports science and other progressive theories that govern baseball today. There will be a news conference this week after the World Series ends.
“On behalf of the entire Phillies organization, I am very pleased to welcome Gabe Kapler to Philadelphia,” general manager Matt Klentak said in a statement. “Gabe has a track record of leadership, winning, progressive thinking and working with young players, and we fully believe that he is the right person to guide this organization into the future.”
Kapler’s only managerial experience came in 2007, when he ran the Boston Red Sox single-A affiliate in Greenville, South Carolina, during a brief retirement. The Drive went 58-81. He played 12 years in the major leagues with six teams, most notably the Boston Red Sox.
The Los Angeles Dodgers named Kapler their director of player development in 2014. He was the runner-up to current Dodgers manager Dave Roberts before the 2015 season. The Dodgers developed shortstop Corey Seager, the 2016 National League Rookie of the Year, and Cody Bellinger, this year’s likely NL Rookie of the Year, under Kapler.
“I’m equal parts honored, humbled and excited by the opportunity with the Phillies, an elite franchise in a city rich in history, tradition, sports excellence and with amazingly passionate fans,” Kapler said in the statement. “I believe there is no better place to build a winning environment, and I take that task very seriously.”
Kapler was born in Hollywood, California, and his Twitter account @gabekapler features pictures of Martin Luther King and Jimi Hendrix. He is the first Phillies manager to be hired from outside the organization since Terry Francona got the job in 1996.
Kapler is a strong believer in analytics, and, having worked for the Dodgers, he presumably has a good understanding of how today’s front offices want to work hand in hand with the manager on the day-to-day team operations.
Kapler is also an advocate of nutrition, sports psychology and sports science, all areas the Phillies have spoken about emphasizing in their organization. Kapler has his own website, kaplifestyle.com, on which he talks about nutrition.
The Phillies also hope Kapler will communicate well with the team’s young players.
Phillies triple-A manager Dusty Wathan and former Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell were reportedly the other two finalists for the job. Wathan was considered the early favorite for the job because he managed many of the Phillies’ top young players in the minor leagues, including Rhys Hoskins, Nick Williams and J.P. Crawford.
Kapler replaces Pete Mackanin, who was removed as manager but given another role in the Phillies organization after going 174-238 (.422) in two-plus seasons.
Kapler’s hiring is a risky one because of his inexperience. Klentak’s fate probably now also tied to Kapler’s performance.
His hiring puts the Phillies in the 21st century.
Fans also hope it puts them at the top of the National League East.