For Phillies fans who longed for the team to go back to the days of Charlie Manuel, the man the Phillies have reportedly tabbed for manager, Gabe Kapler, will not be your favorite guy. Kapler’s chiseled physique, analytic-based approach to the game of baseball and command of the English language are about as anti-Cholly as a manager can get.
But for fans of The Process — the name for this era that seems no longer just tethered to the Sixers’ rebuilding, but all of Philly’s pro teams at this point in time — Kapler may be the perfect choice.
Phillies GM Matt Klentak needed a statement hire, someone he could trust to fulfill his vision on the diamond, and Kapler is certainly of that ilk. An official announcement should come after the World Series ends this week.
So … who is Kapler, and more importantly, what has he done that makes the Phillies think he can be a winner?
Kapler the manager
Jon Heyman first reported the Phillies’ decision Sunday during the World Series game between the Dodgers and Astros. Kapler is the Dodgers’ director of player development, losing out on the managerial job to current Los Angeles skipper Dave Roberts but settling for a position within the organization.
Per Heyman, Kapler beat out Phillies minor league manager Dusty Wathan — the man responsible for matriculating much of the talent now at the major league level for the Phillies — as well as former Red Sox manager John Farrell, who was also a candidate to replace Pete Mackanin.
There’s also this:
Kapler has a keen interest in sabermetrics and nutrition, and while running the Dodgers’ farm system upset a few players by going to all organic food.
Kapler, before coming to the Dodgers, was a baseball analyst on FOX Sports and is well known as a numbers expert. Kapler was a coach for Team Israel of the WBC in 2012.
Heyman called Kapler a “controversial figure” whose intensity is seen as “over the top.” In a town where Larry Bowa has played and worked, we can probably handle it. Can the young roster handle that kind of change? Klentak must be banking on it.
Kapler the player
Kapler was a workout freak when he was a player, and rumors swirled for years that he was part of the PED era of MLBers. He’s vehemently said that’s not the case.
Kapler was an OK player, spending parts of 12 seasons with six teams. He was a .268 hitter with a .749 OPS in 1,104 games, finishing his career in 2010 with 799 hits in 2,983 career at bats. For all his muscle, Kapler was not a power hitter by any stretch, hitting just 82 homers in his career.
Kapler had some of his best seasons with the Boston Red Sox, playing in a career-high 136 games in 2004. He had just 10 plate appearances during that playoff season, including just two World Series at-bats, as the Red Sox beat St. Louis to break their championship curse.
He managed one season in the minors for Boston in 2007 before coming back to play for another three seasons in the bigs.
Kapler the front office executive
Kapler was hired by the Dodgers in 2014 as the director of player development, a role he’s held ever since. Kapler’s job involved hiring minor league staffers, setting up spring training arrangements for the Dodgers and handling player logistics.
This LA Times article from February detailed his experience working with the Israeli team during the World Baseball Classic in 2012, and it opens a window into his personal and professional life.
On his left leg, the 41-year-old Kapler has a tattoo of a Jewish star. On his right leg, he has a tattoo that reads, “Never Again,” a Jewish vow born out of the horrors of the Holocaust.
Israel itself was born out of the horrors of the Holocaust. Sandy Koufax is older than the state of Israel.
“I am immensely proud of our people,” Kapler said. “The way we have been persecuted, and our drive and our survival, is mind-boggling. I think that is part of the reason I continue to be so connected to the Holocaust, and why that has such a moving effect on me.”
At the time, Kapler avoided any specific talk about the current political climate in the United States, only to say his experience in Israel impacted his world view, particularly that of U.S. politics. “I’m being vague and general for a reason,” he said. “There is so much that could be misconstrued or misunderstood.”
Kapler the writer
Kapler worked for Fox Sports before going to work for the Dodgers. He also wrote for Baseball Prospectus with a concentration on analytics. He also has a blog. Here are his thoughts on the construct of human guilt.
The other day, I ran over a squirrel.
You know by now that we range far and wide on this blog, exploring many themes. Today, we’re pondering guilt. When I ran over the squirrel, I didn’t feel any. Don’t get me wrong; I didn’t take any pleasure in it. I simply didn’t really feel anything, and it only stood out in my mind as an inspiration for this post.
If you have time, you should read his blog. He really likes coconut oil. It’s…fascinating.
Kapler the cover boy
Like I said…he’s the anti-Cholly. Phillies fans hope, however, he has the same success.