It’s been less than a week since the Phillies relieved Gabe Kapler of his duties as manager. Over the past two years the controversial skipper led the Phillies to a 161-163 record despite adding talented players like JT Realmuto and Bryce Harper this offseason.
This isn’t the time and place to hash out opinions on why they should or should not have kept Kapler because to be honest, he didn’t do enough to keep his job. I think he was dealt an unfair hand by only having one starting quality pitcher and a slew of castoffs and minor league bullpen guys. I think if you took the best manager in the MLB, call it AJ Hinch, Joe Maddon or whomever – I don’t think this team improves by more than 5 or 6 wins this season assuming everything else stays constant. This team needs a lot of work this offseason and they start with the manager. Here I list my top 5 candidates for Phillies manager in order of preference.
This should go without saying.
Joe Girardi is the premiere name on the managing market this offseason – and for good reason. Girardi has a decade of experience managing in arguably the toughest market in baseball and has a World Series ring to show for it. He can be forward thinking, meaning he’ll blend in with the Phillies newfound analytic approach while simultaneously managing with a gut feel which is desired by many a Phillies fan. This is the guy. The two parties met earlier this week but nothing has been reported as of yet.
Over 10 years in the Bronx he compiled a 910-710 record as well as a 28-24 record in the post season with a World Series title to show for it.
The downfall?: The Mets are highly interested. If Girardi is hellbent on staying in New York this could be a serious option for him. What’s not to love about having Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman, Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil?
If I was John Middleton/Andy MacPhail/Matt Klentak: I would give Girardi a blank check and tell him to name his price. This is the first choice by a long shot and I’d rather see him in red pinstripes than in Mets blue and orange.
You want managerial experience? Look no further – Baker has 22 years of managing experience as well as taking every team he’s been a part of to the post season.
That’s not enough? Check this out:
Dusty Baker interviewing for the #Phillies managerial position isn’t that surprising to me. He’s a huge Bryce Harper fan from his time with the Nats. https://t.co/4r3bc6N2cA pic.twitter.com/yc1feD6nu7
— Nick Piccone (@nickpiccone) October 13, 2019
In his 22 year managerial career Baker has a cumulative 1863-1636 record with a 23-32 postseason record. He has one NL pennant to his name and most recently coached the Washington Nationals in 2017.
The downfall?: Baker will turn 71 in the upcoming season and has no sustained history of winning in the postseason in the last 15 years, most recently his NLDS collapses while having virtually no competition in the NL East.
If I was John Middleton/Andy MacPhail/Matt Klentak: I would surely keep Baker in the building as long as possible to pick his brain. He’s been around baseball since the late ’60s. You don’t stick around that long if you don’t know or love the sport. I wouldn’t mind Baker as the next manager but Girardi is still my first choice.
If you listened to that nightmare of a press conference last Friday you would know that while Middleton explicitly said he prefers a manager with some experience, he also doesn’t want to miss the next Craig Counsell. Well, could Ibanez be the next Counsell?
The answer here is “Who knows?” I like the idea of having Ibanez behind the bench for the Phillies. This is a guy who understands Philadelphia and what successful baseball looks like in this city. He’s never managed a team but played in the league for 19 years, three in Philly.
The downfall?: Ibanez has no coaching experience at all. He currently serves as a special assistant to the president of baseball operations for the Los Angeles Dodgers, similar to Gabe Kapler before he landed his first managerial job. I doubt the Phillies want to go the route of having another coach learn on the job but who knows, they might make an exception for Raul.
If I was John Middleton/Andy MacPhail/Matt Klentak: For sure bring Ibanez in for an interview. Who knows, he could be the next Craig Counsell or Aaron Boone. I’d give him a shot if Girardi, or possibly Dusty Baker, falls through.
Ausmus is a young manager who, in my opinion, was a victim of circumstance in Los Angeles this offseason. The Angels let him go after one season, but I think it was because they had the inside track to add Joe Maddon.
The former catcher has a 386-422 record as a manager over five years. He has one playoff appearance under his belt where his team, a stacked Detroit Tigers team, was swept in the divisional series.
The downfall?: Dude has a losing record and was out after one year with the Angels. Could he have been given a raw deal? It seems logical but not proven. At the end of the day, I’m not sure how much of an upgrade he’d be, but I’m intrigued by what he could bring to the table.
If I was John Middleton/Andy MacPhail/Matt Klentak: I’d love to be a fly on the wall for this interview, if it were to happen. Ausmus would need to blow the Phillies’ brass away, but I think he’s an interesting candidate. He’s young enough to still be molded but has five years as a manager. Not my first choice but they can definitely do worse.
I’ll round out my top five with the guy whom I think has a high chance of landing this job – Buck Showalter.
Showalter is a seasoned manager, much like Baker he has two decades experience as a manager, compiling a 1551-1517 record in that time frame and a 9-14 record in the postseason.
He has a connection with Andy MacPhail and Matt Klentak from their time with the Orioles, for what it’s worth.
The downfall?: If the Phillies brass is truly looking to keep a forward thinking philosophy this might not be the best bet. For example, Showalter has been known to be a bit more old school – he likes to slot his relievers, think having the same guy in the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth inning. Kapler (backed by Klentak) rarely showed that kind of allegiance. This is just an example of how there could possibly be a disconnect between Showalter and upper management.
If I was John Middleton/Andy MacPhail/Matt Klentak: Showalter had an interview earlier this week. I’d be anxious to see how it went considering the disconnect between the new school ideologies of Klentak and Showalter’s old school ways. I’m not saying old school is wrong and new school is right, but we know what Klentak is looking for and I’m not sure if Showalter fits the mold. We’ll see, though.
Ron Washington, Phil Nevin, Dusty Wathan, and Rob Thomson.