Bold – adjective
(of a person, action or idea) showing an ability to take risks; confident and courageous
CLEARWATER, Fla. – Be bold, Gabe Kapler urged his players even before they arrived at spring training for a new era in Phillies baseball. The rookie manager said he asked each of them what playing boldly meant to them and he received a variety of answers.
With conviction, some said. With fearlessness, said others. Be courageous and play with intent was among the feedback.
Nice words, but Kapler had something much better than that to hang his red hat on by the time his first camp came to a close Tuesday. He had concrete examples of boldness. In fact, he even had a photograph of Scott Kingery — the rookie who forced his way onto the roster and received a $24 million contract at the same time — to use as an example for his favorite word.
“I mean, it’s beyond exciting,” Kapler said. “There wasn’t a whole lot in this camp that Kingery did not put on display. He speaks with his actions. We’ve had some guest speakers this spring who talk about how important it is to lead by example. How people follow your effort and your diligence and your work ethic. Obviously the athleticism is incredibly important, but it’s the way Scotty goes about his business that gives us all sorts of confidence that he’s going to be a tremendous major-leaguer for a long time.”
Rookies, in the old-school way of thinking, are supposed to be barely seen and definitely not heard. Kingery abided by the latter part of that outdated idiom, but his ability on the field at multiple positions was impossible to ignore. In fact, it became infectious for his teammates, most of whom were in attendance at the Spectrum Field news conference after Kingery signed the most lucrative contract ever for a drafted player who had no big-league service time.
“There’s no one more deserving,” leftfielder Rhys Hoskins said. “The work ethic he displays day in and day out … is unparalleled. He’s being rewarded for it and rightfully so. One hundred percent.”
Concluding with Kingery’s record-setting contract, it really was a fascinating spring training. While Kapler was asking his players to be bold, the front office was doing the same. General manager Matt Klentak displayed patience in negotiations with super-agent Scott Boras and was able to get one of the biggest prizes on the free-agent market when he signed Jake Arrieta this month for three years and $75 million.
It was a great deal for the Phillies, the kind that injects energy into a clubhouse and a fan base.
“I think it started with [the signing of] Carlos Santana as the first move,” Hoskins said. “Then we went and got our two bullpen pieces [Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter] after that. And then obviously Arrieta was the big splash.”
Klentak likely would have taken flak if Kingery had started the season as a member of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs after hitting over .400 in Florida, but the general manager could have gotten away with it because it was obvious the versatile 23-year-old was going to be in the big leagues sooner rather than later. Instead, Klentak made the deal that made it possible to have Kingery around at the start of the season.
That decision surprised even Kingery and his agent.
“[Klentak] called about 10 days ago and said, ‘Hey, I just want to see if there is any sort of appetite to discuss [a long-term contract],'” David Matranga said. “He said, … ‘I understand it might not be the right time and we’re OK with that. We want to make sure this feels right for both sides and we don’t want it to feel like we’re trying to jam something down Scott’s throat here at the end of camp.'”
The agent relayed the message to Kingery and got the go-ahead to begin negotiations. Saturday night a deal got done.
“I know Scott is a special player,” Matranga said. “I always felt like he was going to force the Phillies’ hand to make a tough decision about whether they wanted to take him north or not, and obviously there is the business aspect as we all know. If I’m in the Phillies’ position, it is obviously a difficult decision when you know you can control the years of a young prospect. I can’t say I saw this coming.”
But it did and the manager and his players were genuinely excited by the unusual occurrence.
“Obviously there is a business side of this and we understand that as players,” Hoskins said. “But … I think he really gives us the best chance to win if he’s out there. We’re lucky enough that the organization and front office thought the same thing and the two sides were able to come to an agreement. I can’t wait to start.”
“I think the message is, ‘We are ready,’ ” Kapler said. “We are ready to take a major step forward.”