DENVER — It would have been hard to believe seven weeks ago that Gabe Kapler's job security would need to be confirmed before the end of the season. But that is how epic the team's season-ending collapse has been.
Kapler, general manager Matt Klentak said Wednesday night, will return as manager in 2019. He is under contract through at least 2020 and it would have been a pretty drastic move if the Phillies had changed course after just one season. But the worst finish to a season since 1942 was enough to bring a drastic move into the conversation. Klentak said that just as a young player will continue to develop and improve, so will a young manager.
"I think that Kap has been consistent throughout the year. I think he's made plenty of adjustments. I think he's learned a lot. I think he's grown a lot," Klentak said. "But I think that his style of communication, his style of in-game management has been relatively consistent throughout the year. I think what changed was for four months we were winning. And it was scrutinized less. For the last couple months, we've been losing and it's been scrutinized more. I don't think that's the first time in baseball history that something like that has played itself out. When you're losing, people are going to scrutinize more."
The Phillies hired Kapler after last season with the hopes that he would do things differently. This, Klentak said, was the season to be progressive. The Phillies entered the season with the youngest roster in baseball. They had modest expectations and a rookie manager. It was time to try things out. And Kapler did.
If nothing else, this season was different. Different worked for the season's first four months. The Phillies were in first place in the NL East on Aug. 5. Kapler was in the conversation to be the National League Manager of the Year. Being different suddenly felt right. But then the Phillies suffered a sudden collapse over the final two months. And everyone was left wondering what happened. Significant changes, Klentak said, are necessary. But a managerial change will not be one of them.
"Some of the things we've tried have not worked and we know that, and very publicly everybody found out that they didn't work, and we've made adjustments," Klentak said. "Some of the things that he's done and that we've done as an organization have worked really well. And we've taken some positive steps forward and we will continue to incorporate those things next year. To progress an organization forward is hard to do in a vacuum, but I think it's especially hard when you have lofty expectations. I think this was a good year for us to experiment, try new things, grow forward and we made progress. We didn't make enough progress to make the playoffs … there was a time in midsummer when it looked like maybe we were, and then we didn't. But I think in order to take this organization where it needs to go, we had to have a year like this where we pushed the envelope."