Philadelphia Phillies bench coach Rob Thomson is 54 and has coached in the majors since 2008. He was the New York Yankees third base coach under Joe Girardi when the Yankees won the 2009 World Series over the Phillies. After Girardi and the Yankees parted ways this past offseason, he did interview for the managerial vacancy that ultimately went to former Yankees third baseman and ESPN analyst Aaron Boone, someone without any prior coaching experience. His fall-back option saw him come to Philadelphia and join Gabe Kapler's staff, someone with significantly less coaching experience than him as well.
But despite a sense of division on the job Kapler has done thus far - which is often a common theme when you talk to people about Kapler - Thomson has nothing but positive things to say.
Thomson appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia's Philly Sports Talk earlier this week, and sang the praises of the rookie manager:
"The one thing about [Gabe] Kap[ler] is that he listens. He's a very intelligent guy, but he listens, he takes advice from his entire coaching staff - not just me - and he applies it and he learns. And that's the great thing about him is that he really supports his coaching staff and his players and we all appreciate that. He's really a guy that you want to come to work for every day. In my estimation, he's doing just a fantastic job."
In mid-May, Jon Heyman of FRS Baseball passed along that he had heard from a rival scout that while Kapler was still the manager in title, Thomson had taken over decision making and Kapler was his "puppet." Heyman opined after passing the note along that he felt it had to be some sort of exaggeration. Part of the reason that the Phillies paired a rookie manager with a veteran baseball guy was so Kapler could lean on him in times of uncertainty. But the idea that a five-game stretch caused Kapler to altogether stop having any input on in-game decision doesn't check out.
Thomson, of course, wouldn't come out publicly and criticize Kapler if he had any gripes. But it does say something that when asked about whether he and Kapler discuss the public perception of some of the moves they make, he pivoted to talking about the desirable work climate that Kapler has created.
Another takeaway from Thomson's quote is that he seems to view Kapler's public positivity, even after the Phillies lose games, to be a good thing. In his words, the positivity, something that sports radio has chastised Kapler for, is something that's appreciated by both players and coaches alike.
One of the things that seemingly has made Doug Pederson such a successful coach for the Philadelphia Eagles is that he admits he doesn't know everything and is willing to listen to those around him. On top of that, Pederson has developed into an elite play-caller (he nursed the Eagles through their divisional-round playoff game against the Atlanta Falcons perfectly). But Kapler appears to have some of the same ability to factor in the opinions of those around him.
Bob Nightengale of USA Today penned a piece in early May where he spoke to injured Phillies reliever Pat Neshek, who credited Kapler for meeting with him and valuing his input after Kapler's early season management of the bullpen created a culture of uncertainty in the clubhouse. Nightengale also noted that Kapler was willing to meet with numerous other players, something that a more traditional manager likely would have taken as a sign of disrespect. In the same story, Carlos Santana, who spent the past five seasons playing for future Hall of Fame manager Terry Francona, called Kapler "a guy you want to win for."
None of this is to say that Kapler's been perfect. As I wrote upon his introduction as Phillies manager, he certainly had his fair share of detractors in Los Angeles. There was that anonymous player that told Heyman after the team's 1-4 start that the Phillies would be fine, so long as "the manager got out of the way." Jake Arrieta criticized the shifts that the Phillies have implemented earlier this month.
But for the time being, Kapler appears to have a relatively good standing in the organization, which is as important as anything.