PHILADELPHIA — From the start, Gabe Kapler's tenure as Phillies manager seemed destined to be wildly successful or a discombobulating failure.
The latter came true Thursday morning when the Phillies announced they fired Kapler. General manager Matt Klentak and team president Andy MacPhail will keep their jobs.
The moves Thursday raised as many questions as they answered. Top candidates to be the next Phillies manager, include Joe Girardi and Buck Showalter.
The Phillies finished 81-81 this season and were 161-163 in Kapler's two seasons.
His fate was much discussed since the season ended nearly two weeks ago. Fans and media expected a decision on Kapler to be announced last week.
Phillies managing partner John Middleton reportedly flew around the country the past few days to ask Phillies players their opinions about the manager.
“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. I will never waver from that commitment," Middleton said in a statement Thursday morning. "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. With Matt (Klentak) leading our search for our next manager, I am confident that we will find the right person to lead us.”
Kapler would have entered the final year of his three-year contract in 2020. In the Phillies' statement, he said he was grateful for the opportunity to manage the team and had nothing but praise for the organization.
“We came into 2019 with very high hopes," he said. "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."
The Hollywood-born Kapler never connected with Phillies fans. His overly-positive persona and new-age philosophy was a poor match for the city.
Kapler would compliment Phillies players after losses. After a 3-2 defeat to the San Diego Padres on Aug. 18, Kapler lauded the Phillies for seeing 27 pitches in the bottom of the ninth inning. The only problem was that all three Philadelphia hitters struck out.
How the Phillies lost also was troublesome. They collapsed in 2018 and 2019. Kapler's September record was 20-36.
Many Phillies fans complained they wanted a fiery manager, such as the late Dallas Green who led Philadelphia to the 1980 World Series championship.
During the midst of one Phillies slump this summer, Kapler said, “I just don’t do it in the way that many people think it should be done. I’m not going to apologize for that. I’m not going to say, ‘Man, I should be Dallas Green.’ I’m not (expletive) Dallas Green. I never will be.”
In the end, Kapler just didn't win enough. If the Phillies had made the postseason in 2018 or 2019, he would have been described as quirky. Positive stories would have been written about how he dragged the Phillies into the 21st century.
“When we hired Kap, it was our goal to develop a positive, forward-thinking and collaborative culture throughout the organization that would allow us to compete with the best teams in the league year in and year out," Klentak said in the team statement. "While we have fallen short in the win column for the last two years, I can confidently say that Kap’s efforts have established a strong and sustainable foundation for this organization moving forward."
In many ways, Kapler is the fall guy for several poor personnel moves by Klentak's front office.
The Phillies bet on young starting pitchers Vince Velasquez, Zach Eflin and Nick Pivetta this season. All three struggled.
The Phillies were also impacted by injuries. Left fielder Andrew McCutchen, starting pitcher Jake Arrieta and relievers Dave Robertson, Pat Neshek, Tommy Hunter and Seranthony Dominguez all went down with season-ending injuries.
The Phillies made some other organization moves. Pitching coach Chris Young will not return. Head athletic trainer Scott Sheridan and assistant athletic trainer Chris Mudd are also out. Charlie Manuel moves back to the front office after serving as the team's hitting coach for much of the season's second-half. The rest of the coaching staff will return intact.
Middleton, MacPhail and Klentak will speak at a news conference at Citizens Bank Park at 1 p.m. Friday.
As for the future, Kapler never managed a major league game before the Phillies hired him. It would seem Philadelphia is in no position to take a chance on another inexperienced manager.
That's why Girardi and Showalter are the early favorites. Giradi managed the Yankees to the 2009 World Series win over the Phillies. Philadelphia's current bench coach Rob Thompson worked with Girardi in New York. Showalter worked with the current Phillies administration in Baltimore with the Orioles. Another potential choice, former Chicago Cubs manager and Pennsylvania native Joe Maddon, seems destined to take a job on the West Coast, probably with the Los Angeles Angels.
No matter who the new manager is, the Phillies' current regime needs to get this hire right.
Fans' confidence in the organization is at a low point. Many fans and media have already questioned if Klentak is the right guy to select the new manager.
The past 12 days didn't help matters.
Most teams fired their managers on the last day of the season or a few days after. The Phillies appeared indecisive waiting so long to determine Kapler's fate.
One thing is for certain.
The new manager will be the second one hired by Klentak/MacPhail.
If this manager fails, the duo won't get a third choice.