Manuel’s success is Kapler’s job security
Old manager/new hitting coach could propel Phillies to playoffs — and ensure skipper’s return
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.”
New Phillies hitting coach and former manager Charlie Manuel greets current skipper Gabe Kapler on Wednesday.