The Phillies made it official on Monday afternoon: Gabe Kapler is their new manager.
Kapler, who has never managed in the majors, beat out Dusty Wathan, the Phillies' highly successful Triple A manager, for the position. Former Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell, who led that team to a World Series title in 2013, was the other finalist for the job.
According to sources, Kapler, who is known for his progressive, out-of-the-box thinking, wowed club officials with his energy and intellect during the interview process. A former outfielder for 12 seasons in the majors, Kapler has served as director of player development for the Los Angeles Dodgers since 2014. He had been considered for that club's manager's job two years ago. The position went to Dave Roberts, who now has that team in the World Series.
"Gabe has a track record of leadership, winning, progressive thinking and working with young players, and we fully believe that he is the right person to guide this organization into the future," GM Matt Klentak said in a statement.
At 42, Kapler becomes the youngest Phillies manager since the team hired 37-year-old Terry Francona before the 1997 season. He is also the first Phillies manager since Francona without previous ties to the organization. Larry Bowa, Charlie Manuel, Ryne Sandberg and Pete Mackanin had all played or worked in the organization before being hired to manage the club.
"I'm equal parts honored, humbled and excited by the opportunity with the Phillies, an elite franchise in a city rich in history, tradition, sports excellence and with amazingly passionate fans," Kapler said in a statement. "I believe there is no better place to build a winning environment, and I take that task very seriously."
It is not a surprise that the Phillies hired an outsider. John Middleton, the team's controlling partner, has spoken several times over the last few years about the importance of bringing change and outside perspectives to the organization. That started with ownership's hiring of Andy MacPhail as club president in June 2015 and Matt Klentak as general manager in October 2015. Klentak's top lieutenants, Ned Rice and Bryan Minniti, were also hired from outside the organization.
Kapler brings something else that is important to Middleton and the front office. He is educated in the language of analytics and committed to using them in all phases of the game. The Phillies were one of the last teams to embrace the use of analytics, but are now a powerhouse in that area with a 14-man staff that is slated to grow.
Analytics is not the only area where the Phillies are seeking to develop competitive advantages. The club has also become devoted to nutrition initiatives and that is one of the out-of-the-box areas that Kapler is committed to.
Kapler's only managerial experience came at the Single A level in the Red Sox organization in 2007, but that, obviously, was not seen as a weakness by Klentak. The 37-year-old general manager began his search for a new manager after reassigning Mackanin to the front office during the final week of the 2017 season. Klentak said he was looking for a new voice and a new style to lead a young Phillies roster. He was also clearly looking for someone who aligned philosophically with a young front office committed to the use of analytics. Now he has his guy in Kapler.