The Phillies still have a handful of games remaining, but their loss to the division-rival Nationals on Tuesday afternoon all but ended their season. Philadelphia dropped to 79-77, officially eliminating the team from playoff contention and leaving it to look ahead to the winter. The Phillies were more aggressive than any other franchise in baseball last offseason, which led to hope they’d put an end to a lengthy playoff drought as early as this year. Instead, though, they’ve now gone eight straight seasons without a berth, and second-year manager Gabe Kapler could be one of the fall guys for their most recent failings.
Just last week, general manager Matt Klentak credited Kapler for “doing a very good job,” adding that “the group is playing hard down the stretch.” But the Phillies entered the second game of Tuesday’s doubleheader mired in a stretch of five losses in six games, and the Nats outscored them 21-4 over the first three matchups of their series. That skid “speaks loudly of a dead team playing out the string,” opines NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Jim Salisbury, who notes that owner John Middleton will have more say than Klentak in deciding Kapler’s future.
After Middleton authorized a few high-cost acquisitions last offseason, including Bryce Harper’s historic $330MM contract, it’s possible he’ll now decide to look elsewhere in the dugout. There has been improvement this year compared to last season’s 80-82 finish, though the Phillies arguably haven’t progressed enough under Kapler. The team collapsed in the second half of last year, when it led the NL East with a 65-52 record as late as Aug. 12 before sputtering to a 15-28 mark over its final 43 contests. While this season’s squad didn’t control the division as late into the summer, it was in first place with a 38-29 record on June 11. Since then? Forty-one wins, 48 losses.
In fairness to Kapler, injury and pitching issues have played obvious roles in the demise of the 2019 Phillies. While the team wouldn’t solve those problems with a managerial change, they could nonetheless help hasten Kapler’s exit. If that happens, perhaps the Phillies will reverse course on their next managerial hire and look for an established option (Joe Girardi? Joe Maddon?) rather than a neophyte to lead their 2020 roster.
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