CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Andy MacPhail stands by Gabe Kapler.
In his annual spring-training news conference, the Phillies president said Friday that the club wasn’t surprised by any details that emerged in reports of Kapler’s response to two of his players being involved in the assault of a 17-year-old girl in 2015. Kapler, hired last year to manage the Phillies, was overseeing the Los Angeles Dodgers’ farm system at the time.
“I’ve been in a position of hiring people since November of 1986 — general managers, managers, scouting directors, farm directors — and in my entire history, there’s never been a hire that was as fully vetted as this one was,” MacPhail said. “And all the stuff that was regurgitated again this winter, there was nothing in there that made me think that the vetting was anything but very thorough, very impartial and very fair. We were satisfied then when we hired [Kapler]. We’re satisfied today.”
Neither Kapler nor the Dodgers contacted police after the victim’s grandmother e-mailed Kapler to alert him that the girl had been assaulted by two women in the hotel room of a minor-league player. Instead, Kapler attempted to arrange a dinner meeting between the girl and the two players, but the girl declined.
According to a Washington Post report last month, the girl later told police that that she was sexually assaulted by one of the players. Kapler has denied any knowledge of that alleged incident.
MacPhail strongly supported both Kapler and the Phillies’ decision to hire him after the 2017 season.
“I don’t think everything he did was a great idea, being ‘Captain Hindsight,’ ” MacPhail said, “but there was nothing new that I became aware of.”
At the end of last season, after the Phillies fell apart down the stretch, MacPhail said he planned to speak with Kapler about toning down his overwhelming positivity in his comments to the media. MacPhail said they met for two hours last fall at a location in Fishtown.
“If you know anything about Gabe, he is willing to adjust if you can make the case,” MacPhail said. “I see it every day. And I told him what I thought. We had a good discussion. I think I’ve already seen areas where I think he understands. I’m not asking him to throw anybody under the bus. There’s just a way to do it and a way not.
“Back in my days in Minneapolis [as the Twins’ general manager], we used to talk about energy, effort and enthusiasm. Does any one of you that cover Gabe [not] think that every day that he comes to this ballpark that he’s giving you energy, effort and enthusiasm? So, I’m on him.”
Kapler said the Phillies will give second baseman Cesar Hernandez “a long look” in the leadoff spot during spring training.
“With Cesar and his performance in the first half of last year, he is an ideal leadoff hitter,” Kapler said. “He sees a lot of pitches, fouls balls off, has a great eye at the plate, spits on balls in the dirt, can drive the ball out of the ballpark. Those are all things we value in the top spot of the lineup.” Kapler ascribed the same characteristics to left fielder Andrew McCutchen, who led off for most of the second half last season with the San Francisco Giants and New York Yankees. But McCutchen also has enough pop to bat in the middle of the order.
Hernandez, the Phillies’ primary leadoff man during the past two seasons, had a .378 on-base percentage through the all-star break last year before tailing off while playing through a fractured toe.