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The Leadoff, Vol. 11: Kapler Analytica

Hard to believe it’s only been a week, seeing as it feels like I’ve aged five years

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at New York Mets Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

There aren’t many silver linings to this 1-4 start we’ve all slogged through watching - unless you don’t have a Facebook account, I guess - but it’s still very early and Rhys Hoskins is still very cool. That guy is going to be a Major League player for a significant period of time.

The rest of these guys, though, can sometimes make you wonder.

To the bag!

If some corners of this world had it their way, that date would already be considered passed. The truth of the matter is that Gabe Kapler needs a couple months to fully reveal himself as a field manager. There have been some minor injury dings and dents to manage through, but we’re also not deep enough in the position player shuffle to really have a verdict yet, nor can we use one pitching change as a crutch for weeks and weeks. These things take time to unfold.

Think about it for a second. Even in spite of the Hoby Milner “miscommunication,” subsequent lack of warmup and “official warning” - whatever that actually entails - from Major League Baseball, how much more damaging would it be for the the front office to be like “actually, nah, we screwed this up?” A lot more. And who replaces Kapler, even then? Rob Thomson, who has two emergency games of management experience? By all accounts he’s a fine bench coach, but how do we know he’d be some immediate, tangible improvement over four-to-five games’ worth of evidence? What’s more, you don’t usually assemble a coaching staff piecemeal; you kind of have to figure Thomson and the rest of the coaches buy into a fair bit of the same stuff Kapler does. What would really change?

We all just need to breathe. Yeah, 1-4 starts stink. And the Phillies haven’t looked great. But jumping on the first imaginable chance to call for a dude’s head simply because he’s a bit of a self-professed interloper and admits he uses some scary new technology to look for an edge is about as closed-minded as you can possibly be as a fan. A lot of these principles are working for other teams - Houston, Boston to name two - and even if they come off a bit try-hard at times, who gives a crap in the end if it leads to more wins?

Let’s remind ourselves to relax. This season is very long, and no one finds you* particularly fun to be around if you shout down things before they get a fair shake. Let’s talk again in a few months.

*Not you, BT, my lovely question-asker. I know you were being facetious.

Yeah, maybe. Until we know the full story behind the Milner thing, that one might linger as a question mark too. You don’t help your cause when you rile up the traditionalists in game number one and everything immediately falls apart thereafter. Bad timing for now, bad strategy if it keeps happening.

There’s a divide already starting to emerge within the fanbase, and it’s going to last all season unless the Phils somehow rip off 15 straight wins and contend for one of those Wild Card spots in September. Kapler has been branded by those who don’t like his style - and who, by proxy, more than likely don’t like Matt Klentak’s style, either - as something of a baseball heretic, some unholy defiler of logic and embracer of alien concepts. And, yes, it really is that hyperbolic if you believe that. It’s already exhausting, and it’s going to accomplish nothing, because barring some true catastrophe - something worse than taking a starter out early because of the fear of the third trip through the order - Kapler and Klentak are controlling and commanding your 2018 Phillies. Live with it, good and bad. We need at least that to see if the right choices are really being made. It hasn’t quite worked yet, but maybe having players rested by way of sparing them some PAs and time in the field in April and May will pay off later in the summer. Maybe sparing some pitchers’ bullets at seemingly strategic moments will pay off in improved health and performance later. We don’t know yet! It might not work, but we do not know if it will yet.

Kapler is bound to make more mistakes, and we’ll all hear about them when he does. But it’d be fair to try and look for ways he may actually be benefiting the team in the long run, too, because lord knows we already try too hard to be disappointed.

Tommy Hunter is apparently on track to return not long after he’s eligible to be reinstated from the DL this coming Saturday. Neshek and Leiter will be out much longer.

It’ll be nice to have all three of those guys back, as they’ll be immediate upgrades over Yacksel Rios, Drew Hutchison (as much as it pains me to say), and Jake Thompson. Probably. The way this season is going...well, I won’t go there.

There’s no denying that the bullpen is not getting the job done so far this year, no matter the order in which it is deployed. Everything has failed. The Phils led in each of their first three games, then combined to blow four separate leads within those. They did not lead in either game against the Mets, but allowed New York to retake the lead after tying Wednesday’s game at 2.

Add to this the fact that the offense has been abysmal - again, in every configuration and deployment - and it’s just been a bad first week. Here’s hoping a homestand starts turning things around.

Amen. Chins up. The team is young and has growing to do. Let’s grow along with them.