No one is happy with the start to this season. After six straight years of underwhelming Phillies baseball, everyone was hoping 2018 would be different. We had a young exciting team, a new look manager, and a city that’s beginning to expect success from its sports teams.
And yet, here we are. Five games into the season, the Phillies are 1-4 and many people are already calling for Gabe Kapler’s head. At the home opener today, Kapler gets his first introduction to Phillies fans, and I fear the worst. With the various missteps of the opening week, the boo birds could be out in full force today.
But please, I beg you, don’t. Booing today would be pointless. It would also show the world that we Philadelphia sports fans are as bad as we are made out to be. Just imagine the headlines - “Fans boo manager’s first appearance in Philadelphia,” “Manager debuts, fans rain boos,” or “At least they didn’t throw batteries at Kapler.”
More so, though, beyond what it would show the world about us as a fanbase, booing would also show everyone around you that you individually — yes, I’m talking to you — don’t know much about baseball. Because baseball is a slog, and a 1-4 start is a blip. If you don’t understand that, you really should try a different sport.
Yeah, I know what you’re saying, Kapler deserves to be booed because he took Aaron Nola out early in game 1, didn’t have Hoby Milner warmed up in game 3, positioned Nick Williams too shallow in game 5, and has misused Odubel Herrera throughout. Some of that is debatable, but I get it. Those moves look pretty bad, especially in hindsight.
But, they also could easily have turned out otherwise. The bullpen could have kept a 4 run lead in game 1, Milner’s appearance in game 3 was irrelevant given the blowout and the subsequent off-days, Williams was playing the odds in game 5 and the odds didn’t work out, and Herrera’s replacements have slumped, as players do.
In other words, these things happen. It’s just that they are magnified in the first five games. If this were a five game stretch in late June, we’d notice the managerial mistakes (if that’s what you want to call them), but going 1-4 would be nothing. Because the baseball season is long, and even the best teams go through down stretches.
More so, even the best teams can start 1-4. Here’s a list of playoff teams this decade that have started 1-4:
Or let’s broaden the scope and include the slightly better start that’s still under .500 (2-3) as well as one even worse start (0-5):
This was cumbersome research to do this morning, so there may be other teams that should be on this list. But, at a minimum, 22 playoff teams in the last 8 years have started 2-3 or worse. Seven have started the season like the Phillies at 1-4, including the World Series champion 2012 Giants. (Three World Series losers have started 2-3.) And one playoff team started even worse than the Phillies this year, the 2011 Rays at 0-5.
Does any of this mean that the Phillies are going to recover from their awful 1-4 start? Of course not. What these teams have done says nothing about the 2018 Phillies . . . other than it is entirely possible to overcome a bad first 5 games of the season and still make the playoffs, and even win the World Series.
Because this is all the Phillies have done so far - played 5 out of 162 games. They’ve done this with four guys hitting below .100 and another four hitting between .100 and .200. They’ve done it without four of their five or six best pitchers. They’ve done it in some pretty crummy weather. And they’ve done it with a rookie manager still figuring out how this job works.
So go ahead and be disappointed about the start to the season. I’d be surprised if anyone wasn’t. But, booing Gabe Kapler at his home debut today because he should already be fired for unforgivable mistakes? That’s ridiculous and just shows that you don’t understand how baseball works.