Trouble in paradise just six games into the season? Well, that could be more realistic than we think. The early mismanagement issues of Gabe Kapler have been well documented, and, despite a Home Opener in which the Phillies secured a 5-0 victory over the Marlins Thursday afternoon, moods haven’t all shifted away from the first two series’ blunders and towards the win over Miami.
Those negative sentiments don’t seem to just be stopping with the fans, either, as the first derogatory statement was echoed from the clubhouse recently. Outfielder Nick Williams, who is sharing a platoon role with Odubel Herrera and Aaron Altherr for right and center fields, has been far from pleased about his playing time early in the season. When asked about the lineups for the first six games, Williams pulled no punches, seemingly attacking his manager, without using his name.
“I guess the computers are making it,” Williams said. “The computers”, of course, are a reflection of Kapler’s use of analytics in his decision making, of which Williams is clearly not excited about, as they’ve left him the odd man out over the first six games.
While Williams has gotten 11 at bats thus far, Herrera has received 16 at bats and Altherr has 18. None have been remarkably spectacular to begin the year, as Herrera has four hits, and Altherr and Williams each have just one. Whether Williams is upset about not playing over Altherr, who is currently hitting .056, or just feels he needs to be in the lineup on a more consistent basis, his own .091 average doesn’t increase his chance of seeing more action as the season rolls along.
This situation would be vastly different had Williams jumped out of the gate scorching, grabbing four or five hits in those first 11 at bats, hitting for a high average, and still not playing. Then, Williams would have a considerable gripe. But the 24-year-old has been no better offensively than Herrera or Altherr early in the season.
This particular situation could be construed in one of two ways, depending on how you view the player-manager relationship.
I was raised on said relationship as if the manager was a father and the player was a son (which, in my case, was often both). The player certainly may not agree with the managerial decision. Heaven knows there were times where I felt I was being underplayed. But a player, under no circumstances, calls out his manager in a public forum. Those types of comments are reserved for closed door meetings, one-on-one, between the manager and player alone. Whether on the field or in the media, those comments are not acceptable.
If you view the player-manager relationship as less than that, and you view this on the surface, than you may believe that the clubhouse is already falling apart. I’m not one for overreactions six games into a 162 season, but, in an instance that we’re all to familiar with, you may be onto something here. Does this mean that Kapler is losing the clubhouse and his 25-man roster? Or did he ever have them to begin with? Respect is something that is clearly earned, and I wonder if Kapler earned the respect on his men.
Either way, these comments do raise cause for concern no matter how infantile the season may be. Six games will translate to 60 games and eventually 162 games if changes aren’t made within a clubhouse that is unhappy. Playing time is concretely a managerial decision, but the players will not respond to a manager that they don’t feel is their leader. It will be interesting to see two things: How these comments are handled within the clubhouse, and if any others like them are uttered in the near future by another player.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports