Here are some of the top quotes from Gabe Kapler’s first press conference as the Phillies’ new manager. He was joined at the podium by general manager Matt Klentak.
I think about this franchise, and I can’t help but think about a history of excellence, and a history of winning. That immediately makes me think about some of the people that I watched growing up. Mike Schmidt comes to mind for me. Certainly, Larry Bowa and his ferocious style of play. And without question, just thinking through — Charlie Manuel and his contributions to this organization and this city make me very proud to be even mentioned to be a contributor like those guys were.
I think about some of the guys that followed them that I played against. And the guys that come to mind for me are Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley. I was lucky enough to get to know Chase a little bit in Los Angeles, and I saw him prepare in the clubhouse. It was unbelievable how much intent and how much intensity he prepared for the game with, and during the game how much effort he put in. He led by example. And that’s how we’re going to play baseball with the Philadelphia Phillies going forward. We’re going to play with that same level of intent, and that same level of intensity, that Chase played with.
When the ball enters the hitting zone, we’re going to be in powerful and athletic positions. Before the game begins, we’re going to prepare, prepare, prepare. So that we’ve thought through everything. And we make strong, well-thought-out decisions. We’re going to hunt for value at the margins.
We’re not going to leave any stone unturned to find our competitive advantages. We’re going to think traditionally, and we’re going to think progressively. We’re going to mold those two things together.
And all of this is in an effort to bring that effing trophy back to John Middleton. Ultimately, that’s why we’re doing everything that we do. Because we care deeply about winning, and we are ultra-competitive.
I am ultra-competitive. love to win. This is a place where I can lead from the dugout. And certainly, one of the things that I think I’m especially capable of doing is building environments for players to be the strongest versions of themselves. … We don’t actually build the baseball players — we build the environments for the baseball players to flourish and develop in. And if we build a really healthy environment for them to come to the ballpark in every single day, they’re going to be the strongest versions of themselves. And then we’re going to carry that strength out on to the field and then perform. … The reason I want to be a major-league manager is to build that winning environment.
I don’t have one specific strategy, nor will I ever have one specific strategy. But I can tell you I will take the opinions of the other men in that dugout to make sure I get a well-rounded view of every situation in particular, and then make the best decision for the Philadelphia Phillies for the moment. And that strategy might change from one moment to the next.
The way you get players to buy in is to come on their turf. I think historically in a Major League Baseball clubhouse, we’ve looked at it in the opposite fashion, which is: “These guys don’t know how to do it anymore. We’re going to stand over in the corner and be quiet and come to us.”
Well, they don’t respond to that. The way to get them to buy in is to relentlessly care about them. One of the ways to do that is to come on their home turf. And their home turf might be texting. That might make people uncomfortable, but it doesn’t matter, because we have to connect with them.
If we’re going to sell them ideas we have to be talking to them in their language, and be willing to use their language even if it makes us feel a little bit uncomfortable. So if that’s text [message], if it’s Twitter, if it’s other various ways to get to them, if it’s a one-on-one conversation.
Once we have their ear and their attention, and they’re caring about us and we’re caring about them, that’s when we can sharpen. That’s when we can turn the dial up. That’s when we can ask for more intensity. So the way we connect with them, and the way we get them to buy in, is to come on their home turf.
With staffing, quite simply and directly, I believe in building diversity. One of the things I think — and I have a feeling that I’ll get support from Matt here — is I don’t think I want seven people in the dugout that think just like me. I value somebody with a lot of veteran experience. I have a tremendous amount of value for someone who thinks more progressively. A guy that has been out at first base and picked out tells on a pitcher his whole life can teach me so much, and I want to be able to drink that up. So I’d say diversity of thought, diversity of experience, that’s a strong way to build a major-league coaching staff.
I have just a natural desire to dig into objective information. It doesn’t mean it’s the only thing that I apply from a decision-making standpoint, but I do like evidence. And I believe, based on the way players behave today, that they like evidence too. … It’s our responsibility to be well-versed and well-educated, so we can educate them when they come to us asking “Why?” I think “Why?” is a really healthy question.
We have core position players — I’m not going to name names, but all around the diamond — we have some really, already successful young pitching. We have some bullpen pieces that, in looking into them, I got really excited about. And it wasn’t just about performance. It was about pitch characteristics and movement. I put myself in the batter’s box and thought about facing Luis Garcia, and how difficult that was going to be. It just got me fired up.
I looked through our prospects in our minor-league system. The guys that we have coming [are] extremely, extremely talented. This scouting department has done a tremendous job the last couple of years. These guys are almost ready. Joe Jordan has done a tremendous job in player development preparing some of these guys to make the move to the big-league level.
So I don’t know what there isn’t to be excited about. Are we perfect? Absolutely not. Do we have holes to fill? Of course. But is there a ton to get fired up about? That’s why Matt and I are sitting together right now, and we’ll be smiling a lot.
There are a few things I’m going to say about Kap.
Number one, he’s incredibly prepared. It came through in the interview process, it came through as we talked to people throughout the industry that either played with him or have worked with him, or players that played for him with the Dodgers. If he brings the same level of preparation and grit to the Phillies that he brought to the field as a player, our fans are going to love this guy.
Number two is he has a unique ability to connect with people. We saw this in the interview process, but we’ve also seen this in our talks with people who have been around him in his career. He can connect with players, he can connect with the media, he can connect with the front office. He has a very unique ability to do that, and I think that’s going to bode very well for our young roster.
Number three is that he’s a progressive thinker. I know much has been made about this, but I would advise that we look at the teams that just finished competing the World Series. Look at the teams that competed in last year’s World Series. These are among the most progressive organizations in baseball. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that those are the four teams that have played in the World Series the last two years. That’s where the Phillies need to head, and I think Gabe Kapler is going to be a huge asset to us as we try to progress to the future.
The total package that Kap brings to the table here is the right fit for this organization at this time. He is limited in his major-league experience on the bench, but there are things we can do to help support him in that area.
Part of what we’re embracing here is Kap’s willingness to ask questions, and to move the organization forward. To try to be more progressive, and, as he said, to hunt value on the margins.
If you look at any great leaders, they’re going to both have succeeded and failed in their lives. That’s generally true of all successful leaders. And I think to really achieve and really excel, you have to be willing to take risks. I think Kap has been more vocal about it. His thoughts are part of the public record more than they are for some. But I think that’s something we embrace. I don’t think it’s something to shy away from.
I think as we try to move the needle here, as we try to move this organization forward, there is an element of risk and new behaviors and trying new things that’s inevitable. I think that’s part of what we are excited about with Kap’s arrival here. This guy has demonstrated that over the last handful of years with the Dodgers, with a tremendous amount of success.
And I think we can’t project exactly how the next few years are going to play out, but boy oh boy, it’s going to be fun. … We are going to embrace a lot of his ideas and we’re going to collaborate on them as we try to push this thing forward and bring that championship trophy back to Philadelphia.