What to Make of the Middleton Showalter Phone Calls

800px-Buck_Showalter_2011Keith Allison on Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

When the Phillies were in their deliberation period about manager Gabe Kapler, the front office position was rather clear.  President Andy MacPhail and Matt Klentak wanted to keep their manager.  However, owner John Middleton wanted something different.  And to make sure he was stepping in to make the right call, he spoke to several players directly.  Of course, Kapler was let go.

Middleton reportedly is back polling players on the next move:

So what should we make of this?

Perhaps Klentak and MacPhail have a preference for Buck Showalter.  There will be a certain level of comfort; MacPhail and Klentak have worked with Showalter before.  Is Middleton making sure that this would be the right call if that is who they choose?  

It is somewhat interesting that Middleton is calling about Showalter and not the other two candidates, Joe Girardi and Dusty Baker.  Also interesting is that the calls are already taking place.  Both Showalter and Girardi had second interviews set and Baker just had a second interview this week.

At this point, maybe Middleton is anticipating a favorite candidate of the three after the initial round of interviews.  But there is one clear thing that is clear in all of this: This, like the managerial decision, will be Middleton's call.

Girardi, Showalter Reported Favorites With Manager Search in "Final Stages"

The Phillies were the last of the eight teams with managerial vacancies to create the vacancy.  The Angels recently announced the hire of Joe Maddon as their new skipper, the only manager named out of eight franchises. The Phillies, linked to Joe Girardi, Dusty Baker, and Buck Showalter, apparently will name of those three their new manager sooner than later.

Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the search is in the "final stages".

 The Phillies’ search to replace manager Gabe Kapler has reached its final stages, as the team will hold follow-up interviews over the next few days with Dusty Baker, Joe Girardi, and Buck Showalter after meeting with all three managers this week.
Those three — all with established track records — are believed to be the only three candidates for the job. A decision is expected to be finalized next week.
Breen says that Girardi and Showalter are the favorites.

Generally speaking, Major League Baseball does not like baseball news breaking during the playoffs.  that could mean that the Phillies wait until the ALCS between the New York Yankees and Houston Astros is complete.  That would mean an announcement likely comes before the World Series begins on Tuesday.

In related news, Girardi stepped down from his post as Team USA manager yesterday, according to Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe. Girardi was to manage the Premier 12 Olympic qualifier.  Scott Brosus will manage instead.  That's a good sign Girardi expects to be managing a major league baseball team next season; the New York Post reports Girardi is confident he will get a job.

In 2008, Girardi turned down a job offer to be manager of the Baltimore Orioles after Sam Perlozzo was fired mid-season.  That offer came from Phillies president Andy MacPhail.  That job soon went to Showalter instead.

Both Girardi and Showalter have interviewed for other jobs in baseball. Showalter interviewed for the opening in Los Angeles, while Girardi interviewed for the New York Mets job and Chicago Cubs opening.


Maddon Gets New Managerial Job as Phillies Manager Search Continues

2016-10-20_Joe_Maddon_before_NLCS_Game_5_at_Dodger_Stadium Photo by Arturo Pardavila III from Hoboken, NJ, USA - Cubs skipper Joe Maddon

When the Phillies held a press conference last week regarding the managerial change, they seemed to state the obvious.  Some potential managers may not be options because they appeared headed in a particular direction.  Though not mentioned by name, Joe Maddon was long speculated to be taking the managerial role of the Los Angeles Angels.  It appears that this was the case.

Jon Heyman of Fancred Sports first noted that a deal was close:

The Angels soon thereafter confirmed the move was final.

Maddon spent 1975 through 2005 as part of the Angels organization.  After failing to make a career as a catcher, Maddon became a coach for the organization.  He served in many roles in the organization before serving as manager of several minor league levels.

Maddon became part of the major league coaching staff in 1994 and coached under Terry Collins, Marcel Latchmann, and most notably Mike Scioscia.

After serving as Scioscia's bench coach, Maddon was hired by the Tampa Bay Rays to be their manager.  He was with the Rays from 2006 to 2014, including the 2008 World Series appearance against the Phillies.

Maddon became available and then served as Chicago Cubs manager from 2015 through 2019, replacing Rick Renteria, fired to make room for Maddon.

The same thing may have happened in Los Angeles.  Manager Brad Ausmus had just one season under his belt as Angels manager in a trying season that saw the death of pitcher Tyler Skaggs.  The fallout surrounding his opiod-related death is just underway.  Maddon will have the challenge of overcoming the related challenges.

The Phillies may have been interested in Maddon but it appears they never got the chance to talk to him.  Even though he is a native of Hazelton, Pennsylvania, Maddon's ties to the Angels appears to be much stronger than to the State of Pennsylvania.  The Phillies have been tied to Buck Showalter, Dusty Baker, and Joe Girardi.

Is a "Nightmarish Ending" Ahead if the Phillies Hire Buck Showalter?

Interviews are reportedly underway for the Phillies.  The club is said to have interviewed both Buck Showalter and Joe Girardi in New York.  Dusty Baker is set for an interview, too.  As the Phillies move towards a decision, a long-time Orioles columnist has a word of caution should the Phillies hire a manager he has covered for many years with the Orioles.

Dan Connolly was a long-time writer for the Baltimore Sun, before founding his own site, baltimorebaseball.com.  He knows all about Showalter's tenure with the Baltimore Orioles, covering the team on a daily basis, including covering Showalter's hire.  Now with The Athletic, Connelly wrote about why Buck Showalter might be a good fit for the Phillies.,..and how it could go horribly wrong.

First Connolly notes the dissonance between Showalter and the Orioles front office over the use of analytics in the sport:

...Showalter and his camp for years had continually turned up their noses at the Orioles’ analytics department — as limited as it was — and also railed about how the game was mutating adept baseball men into button-pushers for the Ivy Leaguers above them. Showalter lamented on multiple occasions how “the feel” was being taken out of the game by the fresh wave of MLB executives.

In the last month of his tenure, Showalter openly spoke about how he applied analytics to in-game decisions. Maybe he knew his time was up (his contract was up) and he needed to move forward if he hoped to stay in the game.

Would the Phillies consider a Showalter whose track record is resistance to analytics? The front office presumably knows Showalter very well; Phillies president Andy MacPhail was president when the club hired Showalter in 2010 and Matt Klentak worked as director of baseball operations under MacPhail.  But was Showalter his hire?

For years, people have reported that the hire of Showalter came from owner Peter Angelos, not MacPhail.  Andy Martino of SNY reiterated this sentiment just a week ago: MacPhail wanted someone else, but Showalter got hired at the request of Angelos.  That sounds typical of the relationship Angelos has with his front office.

The New York Daily News wrote about that dynamic back in 2011:

Oriole insiders say that MacPhail, like all the others, operated under the severe handicap of an intractable, clueless owner and an equally incompetent holdover player development department that owes its perpetuity to telling Angelos what he what he wants to hear.

MacPhail ended up leaving the Orioles when his contract expired, just as Pat Gillick did before him.

When the Phillies were looking for a manager two years ago, many felt that a Showalter-MacPhail reunion was unlikely.  Have things changed?  Maybe the involvement of John Middleton has changed things, and MacPhail knows Showalter enough to believe he is on board the analytics train.

Connolly feels that Showalter will be the choice, but warns that a hire could end badly:

...that’s gonna come at a price and not simply a financial one. Because, as much as he would deny it, Showalter is a polarizing figure. You’re either in Camp Buck or you’re not. And he often makes the call as to who resides where.

  ...if Middleton is already the chief decision-maker and not just the primary check-signer, and if he selects the next manager, well, that opens up the same potential scenario that occurred in Baltimore. A situation that worked great when the Orioles were winning — and they did have three playoff appearances and the best record in the AL from 2012 to 2016 — and bred organizational-wide dysfunction when they were losing. But the news is not all bad.

Connolly hails Showalter for his in-game decisions, and places him ahead of both Baker and Girardi.  Showalter will have defined roles for relievers (something the likes of Pat Neshek openly complained about). That could be good news for the Phillies.   Will Showalter be the choice, though?  We should find out soon.

Read Connolly's piece here at The Athletic.

If These Four are on the Phillies Managerial Radar, They Need a New Radar

By Mitch Nathanson, Historical Columnist 

If the rumors are true, then be afraid.

Be very afraid.

If the Phillies are, in fact, considering Dusty Baker, Joe Girardi, Buck Showalter and – are you kidding me? —Mike Scioscia to be their manager next year, it’s over.  Really, really, over.  Over.  Did I say it’s over? 

John Middleton dipped his toe in the analytics pool a couple of years ago and apparently felt the water to be a bit too chilly to his liking.  So he canned Gabe Kapler, neutered Matt Klentak, and, at least insofar as these four candidates suggest, decided to return to the soothing waters of the 1970s, where baseball managers spit and cursed, determined who would play by who they believed looked like a ballplayer, and -- like a blind man behind the wheel of a car -- navigated by feel.  Welcome to your 2020 Phillies.

Obviously, Kapler was a disaster as a manager and Klentak hasn’t proven himself deserving of much deference at least based on the decisions we can trace to him, so it’s not as if Middleton should be faulted for stepping in and trying to right the ship.  It’s just that these four managerial candidates, themselves, suggest that Middleton is itching to take his listing ship and submerge it completely, down into the icy depths where it’s going to take James Cameron to ever find it again.

I’m not sure Middleton understands this but analytics isn’t something one simply does or doesn’t do.  If the information is out there only a fool, or Larry Bowa, would ignore it.  The problem with the Klentak-era Phils thus far is that they haven’t been smart enough in understanding and implementing the massive amount of data that’s at their fingertips.  Data that the four teams still playing are utilizing brilliantly right now. 

For example, if one is determined, as Kapler was, to manage one’s pitching staff as though every game were the seventh game of the World Series, one’s staff better be deep enough to handle the amount of regular work the 11th and 12th men on the staff were inevitably going to get.  Klentak, however, didn’t provide Kapler with such a staff and what weapons he did provide soon wound up on the injured list, leaving Kapler with a bullpen that looked like something that would have trouble getting outs in Reading.  Still, Kapler entrusted game after game to the likes of Juan Nicasio, Ranger Suarez, and five other guys I’ve already forgotten.  That’s not using analytics, that’s being flat-out stupid.  So is throwing Vince Velasquez out there every fifth day in the futile hope that he’d magically transform into a pitcher who resembled somebody other than Vince Velasquez. And so is removing Aaron Nola in the fifth inning of a ballgame for no better reason than you think that a flowchart tells you to do so.

So blaming the last two years on “analytics,” pronouncing the entire affair a complete and utter failure, and ditching it altogether to consider a candidate such as Mike Scioscia, who takes to analytics the way boys take to showering after gym class, is a disservice to the way the game is being played -- quite successfully -- today.  Baker, Girardi and Showalter aren’t perhaps as allergic to the information out there today as is Scioscia but none of them appear to have much of a mind to take that information and put it to its best possible use.  In short, none of these four are a step forward.  And Scioscia is a plunge into the deep end. 

Kapler’s problem, and maybe Klentak’s as well, was that while he was amenable to the numbers, he didn’t appear to know what to do with them.  By themselves, numbers are just that -- numbers.  They don’t dictate anything.  It’s only a nimble mind that can determine how to make sense of them and use them to win actual baseball games.  Yes, the numbers show that batting averages today are typically higher the second and third time a starter goes through the order but what to make of that information is where the rubber meets the road.  Do those numbers mandate, as Kapler blithely assumed, that starting pitchers needed to be yanked ever earlier, thereby ensuring copious innings in crucial situations by the bottom rungs of his pitching staff – those players who spend their careers floating between the bigs and the minors?  Or might they suggest that the Aaron Nolas and Zach Eflins of the organization needed to work harder to vary their approaches early in games so they’d still have some surprises up their sleeves come the later innings?  One could look at these numbers in countless different ways.  One way would result in our seeing more of Nola and Eflin pitching in key spots in late innings; another would result in our seeing way too much of Suarez and Nicasio. 

As it turned out, Kapler wasn’t capable of the type of analytic thinking that might make the Phillies better.  Maybe Klentak isn’t either.  But this doesn’t mean that the answer is Mike Scioscia.  Or Dusty Baker.  Or Joe Girardi.  Or Buck Showalter. 

The only way out of the mess the Phillies find themselves in right now is by using their brains to find a manager who knows how to use his.  The Phillies need to think better, think different.  Sadly, it appears as if John Middleton has decided they're better off not thinking at all.


Former Phillies Farm Hand, Area Native to Interview for Scouting Director Position

The Phillies have to hire a manager, a hitting coach, and a pitching coach.  However, there is another major hole to fill in the organization:  Scouting Director.   That position was held by Johnny Almaraz, who stepped down from the post, citing family issues.  One name is emerging, and he has local ties: former Phillies farm hand Mike Koplove.

Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that the Phillies are looking inside and outside for their next scouting director:

According to multiple major league sources, the Phillies have conducted a number of recent interviews for the position. Among those to interview are in-house candidates Greg Schilz, Mike Koplove and Darrell Conner.

Outside candidates, according to sources, include David Crowson of the Miami Marlins, Sam Hughes of the Chicago Cubs, Brian Barber of the New York Yankees, Dan Ontiveros of the Kansas City Royals and Scott Meaney of the Cleveland Indians. All have high-ranking scouting positions with their organizations.

Koplove has long had ties to the area and the organization.

A native of Philadelphia, Koplove attended Chestnut Hill Academy.  He was then drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 29th round of the 1998 Draft.  Koplove had some success in the major leagues with the Diamondbacks and played the 2007 with the Cleveland Indians, his toughest major league season. 

Koplove signed a minor league deal with the Phillies in 2009 and appeared in Spring Training.  Koplove did not make the big club and reported to Triple-A Lehigh Valley.  Koplove played there through June and then exercised an opt-out in his contract.  He did not make another major league appearance again.  

Koplove finished his playing career with the Camden Riversharks in 2011.  Koplove re-joined the Phillies in 2017 as a special assignment scout.

Mike Koplove's brother Kenny Koplove was also drafted by the Phillies, getting the call during the 17th round of the 2015 draft.  Kenny Koplove was with the Phillies until mid-2017 and is currently a free agent.

Report: Phillies Information Coordinator Fuld Declines Managerial Interviews

Sam Fuld talks with Phillies broadcaster Kevin Frandsen ahead of the 2019 Spring Training home opener (Frank Klose/Sports Talk Philly)

There are eight managerial openings in Major League Baseball at the moment.  The Phillies, of course, are one of them.  While the Phillies are reportedly looking to add an experienced manager, multiple franchises have been interested in one of the Phillies' own.   Player information coordinator Sam Fuld has gotten interest from multiple clubs.  However, it does not sound like he is all that interested.

According to MLB Trade Rumors, Fuld https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2019/10/sam-fuld-manager-rumors-cubs-mets-pirates.html

Former big league outfielder Sam Fuld, currently serving as the Phillies’ Major League player information coordinator, declined the opportunity to interview with the Cubs, Mets, and Pirates for their managerial vacancies, MLBTR has learned.  The 37-year-old Fuld, who had developed a bit of a cult following as an all-out player for the Cubs, Rays, A’s, and Twins from 2007-15, is quickly gaining a reputation as a future managerial candidate.  The Stanford graduate was hired by the Phillies two years ago shortly after they hired Gabe Kapler to manage.

Despite the wide interest, it's unclear if the Phillies would consider Fuld.

Fuld is a close friend of former Phillies manager Gabe Kapler and of course joined the Phillies organization when Kapler joined the organization.  Might Fuld be looking to stay in is role with the Phillies?  Could he hold out for a similar job elsewhere?  That remains to be seen.

Fuld played for the Chicago Cubs, Tampa Bay Rays, Minnesota Twins, and Oakland Athletics during his major league career, which spanned eight seasons.  Fuld was a teammate of Kapler with the Rays.  Fuld is a graduate of Stanford with a degree in economics.

Report: Kapler Lands Interview With Chicago Cubs


While it is true that the Phillies took a little bit of time to make a decision on their manager, it appears that it will not have hurt him from getting a crack at other opportunities.  Former Phillies manager Gabe Kapler is now a baseball free agent.  It has not even been a week and Kapler already has two interviews lined up.

According to Sahdev Sharma of the Athletic, 

Kapler has also been connected to the San Francisco Giants.

The Chicago Cubs and manager Joe Maddon announced that both sides would be looking for other opportunities at the end of the 2019 season.  Maddon is considered a heavy favorite for the open Los Angeles Angels managerial position.  The Cubs, meanwhile, have interviewed coaches Mark Loretta, Will Venable, and former Chicago Cubs player Joe Girardi for the vacancy.

Kapler had no major league experience when he was hired by the Phillies.  Now with two years under his belt, Kapler can take what he learned and apply it in future positions.  One first-time manager the Phillies employed was Terry Francona, currently manager of the Cleveland Indians.  Francona is likely headed for the Hall of Fame. 

The connection to Francona comes via Theo Epstein, one-time general manager of the Boston Red Sox.   Epstein hired Francona as Red Sox manager after his Phillies tenure and Francona won a World Series.   A member of that World Series team was Kapler.

Will Kapler find success elsewhere like his former manager Francona?  Time will tell.


Report: Kapler Will Interview for San Francisco Vacancy

The Phillies let manager Gabe Kapler go 11 days after the conclusion of the season.  The San Francisco Giants, meanwhile, knew before game one of 162 that manager Bruce Bochy would be retiring from the Giants at season's end?  Might there be a match for Kapler in San Francisco?

According to Jon Heyman of Fancred Sports, Kapler will interview for the open post:

Many saw this coming well in advance.

Continue reading "Report: Kapler Will Interview for San Francisco Vacancy" »

Phillies Will Reportedly Interview Trio of Experienced Manager Candidates

Three days after we learned that the Phillies had dismissed manager Gabe Kapler from his managerial post, word comes that the Philies are starting to look towards hiring a new manager.   The Phillies had been expected to look towards an experienced manager who would come with a resume that could generate immediate clout from his players.  The Phillies are set to interview their first three candidates, and they are all big names.

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports along with Mark Gonzalez of the NBC Sports Chicago and Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reported that big names Joe Girardi, Dusty Baker and Buck Showalter will interview for the Phillies managerial vacancy.

All three names are considered among the biggest available names.

Continue reading "Phillies Will Reportedly Interview Trio of Experienced Manager Candidates" »