LAS VEGAS (AP) — Phillies manager Gabe Kapler intends to be more publicly critical of his players in his second season following his team’s late fade.
Philadelphia led the NL East in early August, then went 16-33 and wound up with its sixth straight losing record at 80-82.
“One thing that I can do immediately that I think will really resonate well with our fans in Philadelphia is … as much as I illuminate some of the things we’re doing very well, I can be a little more assertive in illuminating the things that we need to work on,” he said Monday at the winter meetings. “I do think that our fans demand that we hold them accountable. I think that I’ve shared and demonstrated to our fans that I do that behind closed doors. And I think that many of them would like to see me create that really high bar publicly. And I’m committed to doing that.”
Phillies president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail reinforced that message during an offseason dinner.
“Andy did say that he thinks that holding players, staff members and the entire organization to a very high bar publicly is something that he thinks will work well,” Kapler said. “I agree with him. I think it’s an easy adjustment for me to make and it doesn’t have to be anything dramatic or forced. I think it’s just a small adjustment. It’s the turning up of the volume of just kind of raising the bar, holding the club and the organization to a high standard.”
Philadelphia has notoriously demanding fans — Eagles supporters booed Santa Claus and threw snowballs at him in 1968 at Franklin Field as the NFL team finished a poor season. That aggressive insistence on effort might cause tumult for free agent infielder Manny Machado if he signs with the Phillies.
“I think the Philadelphia fan base is an incredibly passionate and devoted one, and they demand that their players play hard,” Kapler said. “They set an incredibly high bar and are disappointed when players don’t meet that bar.”
He praised Machado, who along with Bryce Harper is among the top two players on the free-agent market.
“I think Manny has done a tremendous job in his career of establishing a reputation of being one of the top young players in baseball,” Kapler said. “And I think he’s in an incredible position to be able to choose from a wide variety of suitors at this point. And I think wherever he goes, somebody’s going to get an incredible baseball player.”
Philadelphia’s poor finish has the team adjusting its preparations and expectations for 2019. Kapler wants players to play hard through seven months.
“The way you prepare for it to happen is by building emotional armor, physical armor, in the offseason, and kind of the mental preparation that this is going to happen,” he said. “I’m not sure that everybody was 100 percent prepared for that outcome. And when we’re sitting in the middle of July and we are in first place, and we are a very good baseball team, I think it just we could have prepared for that moment a little bit better, mentally, physically, and emotionally.”
He hinted at additional rules.
“I continue to trust in our players to police the clubhouse, to raise the bar for one another, and to support each other,” he said. “That doesn’t mean that we won’t have a few more boundaries in place to help guide that outcome.”
Kapler’s offseason was disrupted by the loss of his home in Malibu, California, due to the wild fires.
“We lost a physical thing that we can rebuild. I think that my family shares that sentiment,” he said. “Look, we’re disappointed. We’re human beings. You lose a home, and that’s tough. But we used it and we continue to use it as an opportunity to shine light on people who don’t have the resources that we have and who aren’t able to rebuild as quickly as we are.”
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