Kapler decision carries career implications for Phillies GM Klentak

Phillies GM Matt Klentak and new manager Gabe Kapler
Matt Klentak will never admit it, but even he must realize his decision to hire Gabe Kapler will prove to be career-defining. It's a splashy move mirroring the current ideology of the front office, but it comes without a safety net. A young general manager hiring a numbers and theory guy with no big league managerial experience.

The experiment will play out for all of us to see come next year.

Kapler brings an intensity that some say rivals that of Larry Bowa, yet he also brings several new wave philosophies connected with player development - like putting players on organic food diets and regulating sleep patterns. Very Chip Kellyesque, but that's the direction baseball is heading.

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"One of the things that we've talked about is we don't actually build the baseball players -- we build the environments for the baseball players to flourish and develop," Kapler said. "And if we build a really healthy environment for them to come to the ballpark in every single day, they're going to be the strongest versions of themselves and then we're going to carry that strength out on the field and perform."

The hope is Kapler connects immediately with the Phillies young core of talent. He spent 12 seasons playing in the majors and relied on an impeccable work ethic and grit, two traits the front office acknowledges were key selling points in the hiring decision.

"Gabe Kapler is incredibly prepared," Klentak said. "That came through in the interview process. It came through as we talked to people throughout the industry that either played with him or worked with him, players who had played for him. If he brings the same level of preparation and grit to the Phillies that he brought to the field as a player, our fans are going to love this guy."

For all that he brings positive, Kapler does have some detractors. One former colleague with the Dodgers said Kapler often clashed with authority and had no problem pushing boundaries but only if he conceived of the boundary-stretching idea. Several former players also hinted at some unfavorable behaviors, but nothing too outlandish to preclude him from taking on a managerial role.


"He deserves a shot, he knows the game inside-and-out and brings a unique view," said one former colleague speaking on the condition of anonymity. "It'll take some getting used to for everyone, including [Kapler], but something special could come of this and that's the type of spot I can see him thriving in."

Klentak could have gone the safe route. John Farrell and Dusty Wathan were both finalists and more conservative options, but he instead opted to gamble with Kapler. It's a move that could have sizeable consequences for everyone involved, but particularly Klentak.

"I would advise we look at the teams that just finished competing in the World Series," Klentak said. "Look at the teams that competed in last year's World Series. These are among the most progressive organizations in baseball. I don't think it's a coincidence that those are the four teams that have played in the World Series the last two years. That's where the Phillies need to head, and Gabe Kapler is going to be a huge asset to us as we try to progress to the future."

That doesn't sound like someone concerned about playing it safe to better their own resume, so perhaps this is the year where Philadelphia falls in love with both Klentak and Kapler.

Or not. 
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Follow Patrick on Twitter: @PGordonPBR

BY PATRICK GORDON
Managing Editor
pgordon@philadelphiabaseballreview.com

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