Ron Costello

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Welcome to Philadelphia Gabe Kapler and may you bring us another World Series championship!

It's not like Pete Mackanin had a Stengelese career as the Phillies manager. Over roughly two and a half seasons, he lost 286 games and won 174. But as the patron philosopher, Charlie Manuel, once said, "If you ain't got the horses then you ain't goin' to no Devon horse show." Sort of.

Mackanin wasn't headed to Devon with the players Klentak got him. Even so, you have to trust the process. Unfortunately for Pete Mackanin, he didn't get the Brett Brown treatment at the end.

The Phillies used him like a worn out mop and now they're gitty over Ernest.

Dusty Wathan seemed like the perfect heir to the throne. Another baseball lifer who just happened to land in Clearwater, Reading, and Lehigh Valley, when the horses Charlie spoke of were moving through on their way to the City of Brotherly Love, Rizzo statue or no.

But it doesn't matter because Ernest came along and took the horse out from under Wathan.

Meanwhile, the Faithful is scratching their collective heads. Images of Ernest do not match with what the Faithful know about Phillies' managers. Usually, in this town, managers come from the long line of the good ole boy network: Older, white men who've spent years honing their craft — usually in the minor leagues — to become a Major League manager. Some had it, some didn't. Some had the horses and some didn't. Gene Mauch, Charlie, Jim Fergosi, Dallas Green, Larry Bowa, Danny Ozark; the list goes on. There've been token interviews, such as the Juan Samuel interview this time. The Phillies have been league leaders in token interviews.

Historically, the Phillies have been slow as a snapper crossing Florida's Alligator Alley when it comes to minority players: it took the Phillies ten years after Jackie Robinson broke the baseball color barrier to sign a black player. John Irvin Kennedy. In the spring of 1957, Kennedy became the Phillies first black player; he played just five games with the Phillies and never played another major league game.

The Phillies have never had an African American manager, nor have they ever had a Jewish manager — Ruben Amaro, Jr., was a general manager. Amaro is Jewish.

Until now.

When he takes the field on March 29, 2019, in Atlanta, Gabe Kapler will become the seventh Jewish manager in major league history and the first Jewish manager in Phillies history.

Kapler is also the youngest manager in Phillies history, 42. He played for six teams over a 12-year big league career. He was a Boston Red Sox outfielder when the Red Sox won their first World Series in 2004.

But there's more here to the Gabe Kapler story. He's part of a shift the major leagues are making toward analytics. That is, analyzing baseball statistics that measure in-game activity on each and every player. Or, analyzing data to get an edge. Next spring, watch ML baseball teams shift their defenses for different hitters. It's a perfect example of using statistics to predict where a batter is likely to hit the ball.

For the first time ever, the Phillies are part of the future, not the last step in the past.

Bravo to Matt Klentak and whoever else was involved in hiring Gabe Kapler. I wish him every success possible and will be following his every move in the spring.

Oh, and Gabe, I'm only kidding about Ernest. Sort of.

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