When he was introduced as Philadelphia Phillies manager in 2017, Gabe Kapler said his goal was to bring a World Series title to team owner John Middleton.
After two seasons without a playoff berth, the Phillies on Thursday fired Kapler, whose team (81-81) underachieved even with the addition of big-money free agent Bryce Harper and whose nontraditional, analytical style irritated many of the franchise’s passionate fans.
“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. … I have decided that some changes are necessary to achieve our ultimate objective. Consequently, we will replace our manager.
“I am indebted to Gabe for the steadfast effort, energy and enthusiasm that he brought to our club, and we are unquestionably a better team and organization as a result of his contributions.”
Kapler is the third consecutive Phillies manager to be fired after no more than two full seasons, joining Pete Mackanin and Ryne Sandberg. Middleton said general manager Matt Klentak will lead the team’s search for a new manager.
The Phillies are the eighth team seeking a new manager this offseason, joining the Angels, Cubs, Giants, Mets, Padres, Pirates and Royals.
“I have tremendous respect for this organization, this franchise and this city,” Kapler said in a statement. “We came into 2019 with very high hopes. 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.
“… 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 contributed to a developing culture in the organization that flourishes in the years to come.”
Philly took a gamble when it made Kapler the 54th manager in team history in November 2017, hoping a former big leaguer short on managerial experience — he previously had managed only one season in the minors (2007) — could lead the Phillies back to October baseball for the first time since 2011.
But the Kapler era in Philadelphia never took off.
In his first game, the Braves rallied from a five-run deficit, winning on a three-run home run in the ninth inning. Kapler faced immediate scrutiny for lifting starter Aaron Nola with the Phillies up 5-0 and one out in the sixth inning. When Philly returned home after a season-opening 1-4 road trip, Kapler was booed resoundingly by Phillies fans.
They ended up 80-82 in 2018, finishing third in the NL East and 10 games behind the first-place Braves.
“I was to thank Kap for his tireless commitment to the Phillies over the last two years,” Klentak said in a statement. “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.
“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.”
A historic contract given to Harper and big trades for catcher J.T. Realmuto and infielder Jean Segura didn’t help much in 2019. Although they spent much of April and May in first place, a seven-game losing skid in June stalled any momentum. And while they stayed in the NL wild-card race, they lost eight of nine in late September and ultimately were eliminated from the postseason by Harper’s former team, the Nationals.
Kapler, 44, hit .268 in 12 major league seasons as an outfielder with Boston, the Texas Rangers and four other clubs. Before the Phillies, he spent several years as the Dodgers’ director of player development.
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