DENVER — From his perch at the top step of the Phillies' dugout, Gabe Kapler never seemed to lose his cool as he watched his team's late-season collapse. Even as the losses piled up — the Phillies lost 30 of their 45 games before Tuesday night — the manager's personality never seemed to change.
He never screamed his way through a team meeting. He was not ejected from a game. He didn't flip a table in the clubhouse or publicly criticize his team. Yes, Kapler is frustrated with how the season ended. But throwing a fit, the manager said, is not his style.
"People have a hard time with it. They want me to be that character," Kapler said. "It's hard. It's not who I am. However, I think one of the things that's been missed in this season is that I feel what people feel. I suffer with people. I am extremely, extremely competitive. I hate to lose. So all these things I share in common. People don't tend to really read it on me. And I think that's confusing for people. That's OK."
Kapler continued to communicate with his team during their collapse just as he did when they were riding in first place. He would talk to three or four players and then watch his message spread through the clubhouse. That is what Kapler considers "efficient and effective." It is a similar clubhouse approach to one Kapler said Terry Francona used in Boston.
"For me, the way that I personally operate, I need more than sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't work," Kapler said of the thought that a team-meeting would be an effective tool of communication. "That's just my personality. I'm not flipping a coin. I'm not throwing stuff against the wall to see what sticks. I just don't do that. I want a reason. If I'm going to get the group together and have a conversation, I want a reason for it. I want to be very confident that it's going to be helpful."
Kapler hardly lost his cool during his playing career, either. He was ejected just once in 12 season and it came during a bench-clearing brawl. But perhaps a bit more visible frustration — a clear sign to the city that the collapse was bothering the manager – would have been well received in Philadelphia.
"I read everything. I know what people think of me. I know how people are responding to me. Some of it I can do something about and I will," Kapler said. "I'm not willing to compromise my integrity to be a character. My job is to help the Philadelphia Phillies win baseball games. It's not to be a persona. But it doesn't mean I don't feel. Yes, I promise I get mad. Yes, I promise there are conversations that get loud. I promise I pound my fist from time to time. I'm not going to do it for show. It's not who I am."