The Gabe Kapler Era is over.
The Phillies fired their manager on Thursday, a source said, after they missed the playoffs following an offseason in which they invested nearly a half-billion dollars in their roster. The Phillies announced the decision later Thursday morning. Kapler, hired before the 2018 season, was under contract for 2020.
"With the knowledge that I have gained from my evaluation, combined with my personal reflection on the 2019 season, I have decided that some changes are necessary to achieve our ultimate objective. Consequently, we will replace our manager," managing partner John Middleton said in a statement.
The Hollywood-born Kapler was unlike any other manager in franchise history. He relied heavily on analytics, texted daily with his players, and prided himself on being a great communicator. But his messaging, in two seasons, failed to produce wins. Kapler finished his Phillies career with a 161-163 record.
The Phillies, for the second time in two years, will have a managerial search. The early favorites are Joe Maddon, who was fired by the Cubs; Buck Showalter, who managed in Baltimore under the key figures of the Phillies front office; and Joe Girardi, who managed the Yankees to a World Series title over the Phillies in 2009 and was replaced in New York after the 2017 season.
All three have track records of success. The Phillies spent $330 million to land Bryce Harper. Their next manager likely will be a brand name.
"With Matt Klentak leading our search for our next manager, I am confident that we will find the right person to lead us," Middleton said.
The Phillies, already armed with an analytically inclined front office led by general manager Matt Klentak, went all-in on their numbers movement when they signed Kapler. He played 12 major-league seasons, but his only coaching experience was the one season he managed in Class A during a sabbatical from his playing career.
"When we hired Kap, it was our goal to develop a positive, forward-thinking and collaborative culture throughout the organization that would allow us to compete with the best teams in the league year in and year out," Klentak said. "While we have fallen short in the win column for the last two years, I can confidently say that Kap's efforts have established a strong and sustainable foundation for this organization moving forward."
Kapler embraced analytics during his time as a player in Boston and carried that with him to Los Angeles, where he ran the Dodgers' minor-league operation before being plucked by the Phillies.
It was immediately clear that Kapler was different. He managed a bullpen with a quick trigger, shuffled his lineups, applied a defensive shift on nearly every at-bat, and talked about finding "value at the margins."
But that did not lead to October baseball. For the eighth straight season, the Phillies failed to make the playoffs. Now they will begin their offseason searching for a different voice.
"As I move on, I know that this organization is in a great spot and will see a lot of success going forward," Kapler said in a statement. "My hope is that I helped contribute to a developing culture in the organization that flourishes in the years to come. I've come to care for this franchise and have the best wishes for this group in the future."