I’m not going to douse this with intricate vernacular. In fact, that’s the most dramatically put together sentence you’ll get from me here. Colloquialism and unshrouded abrasive language will be my narrative from here on out.
Because, frankly, I’m already tired of the shtick that is being rendered on the field every night, and the team is only three games, one series, into the 2018 season. The gimmick that Gabe Kapler has thrown upon us, one that he was clearly able to pass over the Phillies’ higher ups, including General Manager Matt Klentak, into giving him a managerial campaign, isn’t new. It isn’t something we haven’t seen before. In fact, it’s exactly what we saw with this city’s football in the not-so-distant past.
And it’s a log flume that I already want to get off of.
It’s a log flume, and not the more frequently used proverbial merry-go-round. The carousel-like nature of the merry-go-round implies that the team is treading water, spinning its tires, going nowhere fast, and spinning in circles, to put it bluntly. But the log flume perception is more adequately contrived and thrust upon us by Gabe Kapler. The log flume slowly takes you to the top on false pretense, as if we ride a log flume for the views, instead of the anticipated, climatic drop. Except, in this instance, Philadelphia has already been on the Chip Kelly led log flume, been drenched in the final plummet’s cold water, and come off the ride complaining that our shoes were wet.
Now, Gabe Kapler is trying to take the city on a similar log flume ride, preaching analytics, clean living and “presenting beautifully”. But the difference this time is, we know that the drop is coming should we get inside the hollowed out log. We know, should Kapler find any kind of early success, despite his preliminary defeats, what awaits us at the bottom of the plummet. Namely, wet shoes, a bad attitude, a regret of going on the log flume in the first place.
Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon may have put it best. He said, “The cheesesteak guys aren’t going to dig on that early on. Maybe the sushi people will be O.K., but not the cheesesteaks. So he’s going to have to fight through that.”
What Maddon is implying is the people of Philadelphia aren’t dumb and they aren’t patient. It’s not in our nature. So when the new, hip attempt at success comes around, especially after the city embraced an old-school manager like Charlie Manuel not so long ago, it becomes very difficult to preach culture and winning traditions when you don’t execute on the field.
I understand that the season is three games in, with 159 more to go. I also understand that I, of all people, have had tempered expectations about this baseball team, claiming that its ceiling was 81 wins despite the upgrades and national hype surrounding it. But Kapler is managing, for the first time, no less, in a ravenous, scrutinizing, microscope touting city of fans that will not allow any kind of mistakes to go unnoticed. Think back to another NFL parallel, when Doug Pederson wrapped up his first season with the Eagles with a purgatory-like 7-9 record. Fans mercilessly pounded the man for his mistakes and analytical lapses. Liken that to week two of this previous season when the Eagles held a lead over the Kansas City Chiefs, and Pederson reverted to his primitive, Andy Reid-like mindset, refusing to run the football in the second half. The city was ready to run the man out of town with pitchforks.
Now, three games into the 2018 season, the same fans are up in arms, once more, over Kapler’s blunders. The real test will come in adequate adjustment from Kapler, who has show, early in his Phillies’ tenure, that he believes his analytics will hold up over the course of a 162 game schedule, and his thought process is the correct one. Should he make these adjustments, there will likely be no issue moving forward. But it seems that Kapler doesn’t jive similarly to Pederson, who made tremendous adjustments on his way to a Super Bowl title in his second season.
If you’ve followed my trials and tribulations since joining this site, you understand my love for advanced statistics and sabermetrics. I find these stats fascinatingly confusing as I try to learn more about the game than I ever have. But these stats need to kept in check, as a game enhancer, not a game changer. The statistical importance of Hoby Milner’s success against Freddie Freeman is not why I call for Gabe Kapler’s change. I’ve always striven for the best possible matchup as games progress to get the single most important out of the game: the one at hand. And if Kapler believed that the lefty-lefty matchup against Freeman was the best option for that particular battle, than I am not opposed. But I do take issue with mismanaging a game in which your two best bullpen arms were unavailable to throw, and then coming back and calling for a reliever who had yet to warm up, forcing Hoby Milner into a third consecutive game with no time to get ready.
I’m not calling for the head of Kapler. Yet. But I am calling for an immediate change in mindset. One man can’t hold a team’s successes and failures hostage for analytical purposes. He must be willing to make adjustments after the immense shortcomings in the first series against Atlanta.
I will not pay for a ride I know will end in my getting soaked, Kapler getting fired, and the team’s necessary rebuild to make up for his mistakes. All rides must come down eventually, but I’d like to at least enjoy the scenery and landscape before I spend the rest of my park experience wet and uncomfortable.
Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports