Manuel’s suc­cess is Kapler’s job se­cu­rity

Old man­ager/new hit­ting coach could pro­pel Phillies to play­offs — and en­sure skip­per’s re­turn

The Morning Call - - SPORTS - BY MATT BREEN

Char­lie Manuel did not see his shadow Wed­nes­day night, de­clared an end to sum­mer, and turned the cal­en­dar to hit­tin’ sea­son. The Phillies scored 11 runs, home­red three times, and roughed up Cole Hamels with Manuel in the dugout for the first time in six years.

The Phillies, with Manuel as their hit­ting coach, looked like the team they thought they were when they left spring train­ing. If Manuel can pro­vide six more weeks of hit­tin’ sea­son, the Phillies could find them­selves play­ing in Oc­to­ber.

It was prob­a­bly the first time in franchise his­tory — maybe base­ball his­tory — that the crowd chanted for a hit­ting coach. You can’t blame Gabe Kapler if he felt just a bit un­com­fort­able.

Kapler has tried to win over Philadelph­ia ever since he was hired to man­age the Phillies, but the fans have never chanted for him the way they did for Manuel just three in­nings into Manuel’s new role. It is al­ready easy to see that if the Phillies power their way to the play­offs, it will be Manuel — not Kapler — who re­ceives the credit.

The Phillies had a 8.4 per­cent chance, ac­cord­ing to FanGraphs, to make the play­offs when they hired Manuel. They had lost seven of their last 10 games. The of­fense they had bulked up this win­ter was stag­nant. The Phillies needed a mir­a­cle. They

hope the old-school Manuel is just that.

If he is, it could cer­tainly be awk­ward for Kapler if the Phillies re­turn to Oc­to­ber for the first time in seven years and the man­ager’s work is over­shad­owed.

But that awk­ward­ness will be easy to push aside, as reach­ing the play­offs seems to be a sure way for Kapler to guar­an­tee that he will be back in 2020. And that’s re­gard­less of who gets the credit. Manuel has no plans to man­age again and seems likely to re­turn to his ad­vi­sory role no mat­ter how this sea­son fin­ishes.

He’s not steal­ing Kapler’s post. In­stead, Manuel’s suc­cess is job se­cu­rity for Kapler.

“It was an in­cred­i­ble en­ergy in the ball­park and right­fully so,” Kapler said. “Char­lie has earned that kind of adu­la­tion over a long pe­riod of time. He cer­tainly adds to that loose, re­laxed vibe. He’s laid-back. He be­lieves in our hit­ters. I think he’s go­ing to make sure our hit­ters know that. Look, our hit­ters, like, they be­lieve in them­selves to­day. It’s no sur­prise. He’s a great in­flu­ence on our group.”

Kapler is un­der con­tract for next sea­son, but the team’s move to fire hit­ting coach John Mallee this week showed that re­sults will dic­tate job se­cu­rity. This Phillies were built this sea­son to reach the play­offs, and any­thing less would be a dis­ap­point­ment.

If the Phillies re­turn to the post­sea­son, which will still be a tough task, the man­ager will se­cure him­self a third year at the helm. Kapler might not get the credit, but he’ll keep his job. And there’s noth­ing un­com­fort­able about that.

“I think I’m 75 years old. I don’t think noth­ing both­ers me any­more. That’s what I think,” Manuel said when asked if it is awk­ward to be in the dugout as a hit­ting coach while be­ing the most suc­cess­ful man­ager in franchise his­tory. “This job here — I got a good way of do­ing it.

“I still get a kick out of watch­ing good base­ball. I’d love for us to get into the play­offs and ac­tu­ally win an­other World Se­ries. Any way I can help, I want to do that. I’m go­ing to do ev­ery­thing I pos­si­bly can for us to im­prove.”

CHRIS SZAGOLA/AP

New Phillies hit­ting coach and for­mer man­ager Char­lie Manuel greets cur­rent skip­per Gabe Kapler on Wed­nes­day.

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