Gabe Kapler has spoken. The Phillies manager has told his side of the sordid story that unfolded four years ago near the Los Angeles Dodgers’ spring-training facility in Glendale, Ariz. He used his own website, kaplifestyle.com, because that’s the way he wanted to do it, according to a source in the Phillies organization.
Even though the Phillies have declined to make a public statement regarding the incident, the same source made clear Monday that the team continues to support Kapler fully and does not believe he conspired in a cover-up. The feeling here is that it would help Kapler even more if the Phillies publicly made a statement saying the same, but that’s not the route they have chosen.
News broke late Friday on the Washington Post’s website that a 17-year-old girl sent an e-mail to Kapler in February 2015 detailing a night she spent with two Dodgers minor leaguers in a hotel room housing the players. According to a police report and e-mails obtained by the Washington Post, the girl drank half a bottle of vodka and vomited on a bed before being beaten and kicked out of the room by two other girls who were also in the room. The girl’s email to Kapler said that one of the minor leaguers recorded the incident on his phone and posted it on Snapchat.
Kapler was in his first season as the Dodgers’ director of player development at the time, a job that put him in charge of the team’s minor-league system. The prudent move for the Dodgers and Kapler would have been to report the incident immediately to the Glendale police. Instead, after speaking with the girl’s grandmother, Kapler tried to arrange a meeting between the girl and the players. Kapler said Saturday in his detailed response to the Washington Post story that the players wanted to apologize for their role in the incident.
According to the police report, the accusations became more serious a week later when the girl’s case manager with the Arizona Department of Child Safety contacted police. At that time, the girl told police that one of the players had also sexually assaulted her. Kapler and outside counsel for the Dodgers have both said they were unaware of the alleged sex crime.
The grandmother said in the police report that Kapler offered financial assistance to the girl. Kapler, however, denied that was the case in a statement to the Washington Post and again in his online explanation of the incident.
Kapler said in his Saturday response that he received three emails — two from the grandmother and one from the girl — requesting financial assistance. He said he did not respond to those emails. Kapler said in the Washington Post story that his actions in response to the incident were in line with club policy and advice offered by the team’s lawyers and human resources personnel.
If that is true, the Dodgers need to rewrite their human resources handbook. Again, the initial action taken by the team should have been to alert the Glendale police immediately. Even if there was not a sexual assault, a 17-year-old girl was allegedly beaten after consuming alcohol in the room of a Dodgers minor leaguer. Had the Dodgers turned the matter over to police, they would have saved themselves a lot of trouble. Now, the appearance exists that they tried to cover up what happened and Kapler ended up in the center of it all, whether he likes it or not.
Kapler insisted that he was trying to protect the “victim” and that his actions were meant to help teach valuable lessons to the players involved.
“Ultimately, I tried to make the best possible decisions I could to ensure that this incident was handled appropriately and to refer the situation to the proper individuals at the Dodgers,” Kapler wrote. “I acted based on what I knew at the time based on written accounts and discussions. I believe my actions respected the victim, her situation, the player, and my role at the Dodgers.
“I take violence against women, especially sexual violence, incredibly seriously. In this particular case, the notion that a sexual assault had taken place was never brought up during the time that I was involved in responding. There is a big difference between responding to a player who displayed an unacceptable lack of judgment and one that assaulted a woman. I am well aware of that difference, and I assure you that I would have acted differently if at the time I was involved I had reason to believe that a sexual assault had occurred.”
Kapler also said he was unable to discipline the players because spring training had not yet started for the Dodgers’ minor leaguers. Why he could not suspend them when games did start the following month is puzzling.
This was not the only incident involving Dodgers minor leaguers during Kapler’s first year in charge of the team’s farm system. Later that year, in the same hotel in which the incident with the 17-year-old girl occurred, another Dodgers farmhand was accused of harassing and sexually assaulting a housekeeper at the hotel. That player was sent back to the Dominican Republic and eventually released by the team, but the Dodgers, according to the report by the Daily Beast, never reported the incident to Major League Baseball and the player resurfaced with another team.
According to the Daily Beast story, Kapler wrote that the hotel manager’s report “made me feel embarrassed for our organization. I assured him that we’d address the situation swiftly and that this would not be an issue going forward.”
The problem for Kapler is that he has been a central figure in a number of incidents that portray him in a negative light. The first one surfaced before he was named Phillies manager when Nick Francona, son of former Phillies manager Terry Francona and an Afghanistan war veteran, filed a discrimination complaint against Kapler and the Dodgers with Major League Baseball relating to Francona’s dismissal as assistant director of player development. Kapler was cleared of any wrongdoing by baseball officials.
Shortly after the 2018 season, Kapler’s name surfaced in a Sports Illustrated article that revealed a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into the potentially illegal recruitment of international players. That investigation is ongoing.