And, he's keeping them in the hunt, while teaching them. Not easy to do. It takes a special manager to do that.
Look, the Phillies need to find out things, like who can play and who can't. Who can take the pressure of closing in the ninth and who can't. If they play just eight players, maybe they don't find out. For manager Kapler and the Phillies, this is the proving ground year.
And Kapler has a unique style that is perfect for this team. Go back weeks ago to the Nice Williams incident. Williams voiced his concern about not playing. He griped about the computer picking the lineup. So, Williams rode the pines for a while; not just a game or two, but a number of games. It wasn't Mr. Williams' first encounter with management. In the minors, he sat for not running out balls.
So Kapler sat Williams and all the time praised him. Kapler is a first-class praiser. I've never heard him put down a player. So Mr. Williams sits for a week or so and is called on to pinch hit. He comes through and the next day he's back in the lineup with Kapler praising him up and down.
So what do you think Mr. Williams and the Phillies learned from that ordeal? A lot. You keep your mouth shut at least in the papers, and then you sit. Now you have to come off the bench and pinch hit. Nick Williams passed with flying colors.
Next, it was Maikel Franko's turn. Same scenario. Benched. Praised. Pinch hit — comes through — and back in the lineup. Franco also passed and he's a better ball player for it. Franco looks a lot better. Give the credit to Franco but also give it to Gabe Kapler.
Aaron Altherr and Odubel Herrera have had similar experiences. Odubel is hitting again. Credit Gabe Kapler.
The two catchers are getting similar treatment and are responding. Jorge Alfaro has some defensive problems, sure, but Kapler is staying with him and, yea, you guessed it, praising him along the way. Kapler's praisees go right to the bone and they're sincere. Someday Alfaro will be a great catcher for the Phillies. Knapp has problems too, including a .182 batting average.
Praise, praise, praise. Work, work work.
He uses the bullpen in the same manner. One never knows who's coming until the bullpen gets active. Don't worry the players don't know either. And look how he handled Hector Naris. All the time Naris was getting rocked Kapler praised him. And when the Phillies send him down, all that came from Kapler was praise. Someday Naris will be a real gem in the bullpen.
Here's the thing. Gabe Kapler has taken a young team — with more to come from Lehigh Valley and Reading — and forcing to take on different roles and they are coming through. There's no question about who is the field general down there. Kapler has his hands on the young players and he's molding them.
Is Gabe Kapler right for the Phillies?
You bet he is!