Tag Archives: Dusty Baker

With Gabe Kapler out, what’s next for the Phillies?

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Kapler was let go after two seasons as the Philadelphia Phillies manager

 

Under tremendous fire from their fan base after a disappointing 2019 season, the Philadelphia Phillies had to make some type of change at the management level. Today, that change was announced.

The Phillies have fired manager Gabe Kapler after two seasons as the skipper and with one year remaining on his contract. The club went 80-82 in 2018 and then finished at 81-81 in the recently completed campaign under his guidance.

Telling in the decision is that it reportedly did not come from club management in the front office, but instead was made by ownership.

Per Bob Nightengale and Chris Bumbaca of USA Today: “The decision was made by Phillies owner John Middleton, and not general manager Matt Klentak, a high-ranking Phillies executive told USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity.

Middleton then released a statement himself, as reported by ESPN:

Several years ago, I promised our loyal fans that I would do everything in my power to bring a world championship team to our city. I will never waver from that commitment. … I have decided that some changes are necessary to achieve our ultimate objective. Consequently, we will replace our manager.

Just last week, I wrote that the Phillies should bring Kapler back. I felt that, while he indeed made mistakes, the injury situation was bad enough that he should be given the final year of his contract in 2020 to see if he could push the club forward.

However, Middleton reportedly took the time to not only consider the situation in his own head, but also sought out the opinions of a number of his team’s key players. It can now be assumed that those players did not aggressively back their manager.

So, the owner made the decision that most of the problems with the 2019 Philadelphia Phillies were in the clubhouse and the dugout, and not in the front office. That much became clear when Middleton also let it be known that Klentak would “lead the search” for the new manager.

Be sure of this, while Klentak sorting through the candidates during the search and lining them up for interviews may indeed be the case, no manager will be hired at this point without input and likely final approval from Middleton.

I believe you can also be sure of another thing as well – the new manager will have some real experience in that role, unlike Kapler when he was hired.

That would leave out candidates such as former Phillies outfielder Raul Ibanez and the recently retired Carlos Beltran, two hot names being bandied about to fill one of the open MLB managerial positions this off-season.

While I believe he would make a perfect candidate, I do not believe that Joe Maddon will be the man. A big-league skipper for parts of 16 seasons, Maddon has an overall 1,252-1,068 record.

He has taken his teams to the postseason eight times, and won a World Series with the 2016 Chicago Cubs. Maddon was also the Tampa Bay Rays manager when they captured the American League pennant in 2008 before dropping the Fall Classic to the Phillies.

However, Maddon is widely seen as the front-runner for the open managerial position with the Los Angeles Angels. He has history there, spending more than three decades from 1975-2005 as a player, coach, scout, minor league manager, and big-league coach.

Maddon also served previously as the Angels interim manager in both 1996 and 1999. It is hard to believe that he wouldn’t take that job, hoping to help make Mike Trout and company into legitimate contenders.

So, let’s get right to it. Who do I see as the leading contenders to become the new Philadelphia Phillies manager beginning with the 2020 season? I have three leading candidates.

Buck Showalter

Now 63 years of age, Showalter has been the manager with four different organizations: New York Yankees (1992-95), Arizona Diamondbacks (1998-2000), Texas Rangers (2003-06), and Baltimore Orioles (2010-18).

Showalter has an overall record of 1,551-1,517 and won a division title with three of the four clubs. However, his teams had winning seasons in just 10 of the 19 full years that he was at the helm, and only reached the postseason five times.

It may be in his favor that he was hired for the Orioles managerial job during the time that current Phillies club president Andy MacPhail was serving in that position with Baltimore and while Klentak was their Director of Baseball Operations.

Joe Girardi

Turning 55 years of age this coming weekend, Girardi was the man in the dugout as the New York Yankees skipper when the Bronx Bombers took out the Phillies in the 2009 World Series. He put together an overall 910-710 mark in the Big Apple over 10 seasons from 2008-17.

Girardi’s teams reached the postseason six times, and reached the American League Championship Series four times. Just two falls ago, his Yanks held a 3-2 lead in the ALCS vs Houston before the Astros rallied to win the final two games.

He also won three World Series rings as a member of the Yankees late-1990’s dynasty. Girardi was the NL Manager of the Year with the Florida Marlins in 2006 after keeping a low-budget team in Wildcard contention for much of the summer. But he was fired following that one season after clashing with owner Jeffrey Loria.

Mike Scioscia

A local product who was born in Upper Darby and attended Springfield High School and Penn State University, Scioscia will turn 61 years of age in late November.

He was the manager with the Angels for 19 seasons from 2000-2018, leading that franchise to their only World Series championship in 2002. During his tenure the Angels won six AL West Division titles, including over five of six seasons between 2004-09.

Scioscia had an overall 1,650-1, 428 record at the Angels helm and seven of his teams reached the postseason. However, despite having the game’s best player in Trout for most of that time, the Angels made the playoffs just once over his final nine years.

He had a 13-year playing career with the Los Angeles Dodgers and was the starting catcher on their 1981 World Series championship team. Scioscia was an NL All-Star in both 1989 and 1990.

Other possibilities who fit the bill of an experienced big-league manager who might be open to consideration for the position would include John Farrell, Dusty Baker, John Gibbons, Clint Hurdle, Brad Ausmus.

Whomever gets the job of trying to guide the Philadelphia Phillies back to the postseason from inside the locker room and dugout, both Klentak and MacPhail should now consider themselves as being squarely on the hot seat.

The Phillies have not only failed to reach the postseason during the four full seasons of the MacPhail-Klentak front office regime, but the minor league system is widely regarded as among the weakest in the game.

That comes after four years of their leading the draft and international signing process. If the Phillies cannot become winners on the field, and should that minor league organization not begin to display legitimate depth of talent, heads in the front office should be the next to roll.

Nationals can prove nothing today – they must win two straight

Dusty Baker’s Nationals need two wins (photo: Chicago Tribune)

The Washington Nationals are on the brink of postseason elimination. Stop me if you’ve heard this story before.

This year’s version of the Nats will take the field on Wednesday afternoon at Wrigley Field in Chicago trailing the host Cubs by 2-1 in a best-of-five NLDS.

Whether they are willing to admit it or not, the Nationals will face another opponent today as well. That opponent lives inside their own heads and hearts.

This 2017 MLB postseason marks the fourth time in the last six years that Washington has participated in the National League Division Series. They have been eliminated in each of the previous three opportunities.

Winning today will not take the pressure off the Nats. Forcing a Game Five back at Nationals Park on Friday would not prove a thing. For the Nationals to show that this year’s team is different from those previous playoff clubs, they must win two straight.

At the start of this series against the defending World Series champions, Nationals manager Dusty Baker was quoted by Todd Dybas for The Washington Times on prior October failures.

“I don’t think about what you haven’t done. You think about what you can control, which is the power of now. We’re in it now. I’ve been through a number of these where there a lot of unlikely heroes. Guys that should be heroes aren’t and guys you don’t count on being heroes are. It’s hero time. Guys are born and made during this time.”

Baker has indeed “been through it”, as both a player and manager. This is his second year with the Nats, so the second time he has taken them this far. He skippered the Cincinnati Reds to the playoffs twice, the Cubs once, and the San Francisco Giants three times, including a tough seven-game loss in the 2002 World Series.

In last year’s NLDS, his Nationals team held a 2-1 lead on the Los Angeles Dodgers. In Game Four, the Dodgers tied things up with a 6-5 victory. The unlikely Joe Blanton entered to strike out Anthony Rendon with runners on 1st and 3rd and two outs after the Nats had rallied to tie at 5-5.

Then in the decisive Game Five, it was another 2008 Phillies World Series player who became the unlikely hero. This time it was Carlos Ruiz, whose pinch-hit RBI single put LA on top 2-1 in the top of the 7th inning. The Dodgers went on to a 4-3 victory, eliminating the Nationals.

This year, down 1-0 in games to the Cubs and facing a 3-1 deficit in Game Two with one out in the bottom of the 8th inning, Baker witnessed that “hero time” that he had been calling for at the start. It came in the form of lightening bolts from two more likely sources.

First, Bryce Harper delivered a mammoth game-tying two-run homer. Three batters later, Ryan Zimmerman crushed a go-ahead three-run home run to center field. Four outs from a 2-0 series deficit, the Nationals had their heroes, and had tied the series.

Unfortunately, those offensive heroics did not carry over to Game Three. Washington was held to just three hits by Jose Quintana and three Chicago relievers, eking out a 2-1 victory on Anthony Rizzo’s two-out RBI single in the bottom of the 8th inning.

The Cubs have not blown out the Nationals. What their pitching has done, aside from a four batter sequence in that Game Two 8th inning, is completely shut down the Washington lineup.

Trying to stay alive in Game Four, the Nationals will have to find a way to score against Cubs ace Jake Arrieta and a talented Cubs bullpen now rested thanks to Tuesday’s rainout. Baker will send Stephen Strasburg out to start, trying to keep his team’s season alive.

Strasburg was reported to be ill and unavailable had the game been played as originally scheduled. The one-day delay was apparently enough for him to recover sufficiently to at least give it the old college try for as long as he can remain effective, and then turn it over to the pen.

The franchise has played in Washington as the Nationals since 2005. Prior to that, there were 36 seasons as the Montreal Expos. In all that time north of the border, there was just one playoff series, a 3-2 loss to the Dodgers in the 1982 NLCS.

The Nationals still have the talent and firepower to win back-to-back games from the Cubs and capture this series. Now, that is exactly what they must do. Win two straight, or as with all four previous postseason teams over the franchise’ 48 previous years, they will fail to win a playoff series, and will go home disappointed.

NLDS Prediction: Washington Nationals over Chicago Cubs

Nationals fans believe that this will be their year – so do I

This isn’t necessarily a now-or-never situation for the Washington Nationals, as some pundits have claimed.

The Nats are likely to again be favorites to win the NL East crown in 2018, and will have the talent again to be a serious championship contender.

However, it is getting to be time for the Nationals to prove that they can actually win a postseason series, let alone make a deep October run.

This is the sixth consecutive season of contention in our nation’s capital. Washington captured the NL East crown in four of those six seasons, and finished second in the other two. This is their fourth shot at postseason play.

In their three previous October series, the Nationals dropped a hard-fought NLDS. In 2012 it was a 3-2 series defeat at the hands of the Saint Louis Cardinals.

The Nats won the opener of that series, and held a 7-5 lead with two outs in the top of the 9th in the decisive Game Five before a Cardinals rally killed their dreams.

In 2014, the eventual World Series champion San Francisco Giants took out the Nats in four games. Each of the three defeats came by a single run: 3-2 and 2-1 in the first two games, and then a 3-2 defeat in Game Four where the Giants clinching run scored via a wild pitch.

Last season, Washington was a clear favorite against the LA Dodgers. A 3-2 loss to Clayton Kershaw in the opener was nothing to be ashamed of, and the Nats bounced back to capture the next two games.

Then in Game Four, the Dodgers tied the series with a two-out, nobody on rally in the bottom of the 8th in which a Chase Utley RBI single drove in the winning run of a 6-5 game.

In Game Five, Max Scherzer was tossing a gem, shutting out the Dodgers for six innings. But in the 7th, LA erupted for four runs, ultimately holding on for a 4-3 victory that again eliminated the Nationals.

This history matters, because if the defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs get out to a series lead, or even take it to a decisive game, that history of playoff losing could work on the Nationals collective heads.

The two teams battled fairly even in the regular season, with the Nats capturing four of the seven games. In late June, they split a four-game set at Nationals Park. Then in early August, Washington took two of three at Wrigley Field.

This series should prove to be a fantastic managerial matchup between two of the game’s best and most experienced field generals.

Washington skipper Dusty Baker has guided the Nationals to the NL East title in each of his first two seasons with the club. Baker was a 2x NL All-Star and Silver Slugger winner during a 19-year playing career that stretched all the way back to 1968. He was a key player on the 1981 Dodgers team that won the World Series.

As a manager, Baker has guided four different teams over a total of 22 seasons. He has a cumulative 1,863-1,636 regular season record, won division titles with each of his four teams, and took the 2002 San Francisco Giants to the World Series.

The Cubs have gone 292-193 in three seasons under Joe Maddon, who skippered them to the franchise’ first World Series championship since 1908 a year ago.

Maddon previously won a pair of division crowns and an AL Pennant with the Tampa Bay Rays over nine seasons. He was also a member of Mike Scioscia’s staff when the Anaheim Angels beat Baker’s Giants in that 2002 Fall Classic.

Baker will send 3x NL All-Star Stephen Strasburg to the hill in Friday’s opener at Nationals Park, but has yet to announce his rotation beyond the opener. The likelihood is that it will be Scherzer and lefty Gio Gonzalez in some order for Game Two in Washington, and then Game Three in Chicago.

Maddon has already announced Kyle Hendricks for the opener, followed by Jon Lester in Game Two, and then trade deadline acquisition Jose Quintana in Game Three.

These are two star-studded lineups. The Nationals key could be the readiness of right fielder Bryce Harper, one of the most dynamic players in the game today. A nearly devastating leg injury limited the soon-to-be 25-year old to just 111 games. He was able to return for the final five games, and he should be ready to go.

Also featured in the Nationals lineup is second baseman Daniel Murphy, a 3x NL All-Star, the 2016 NL MVP runner-up, and the 2015 NLCS MVP while with the New York Mets.

Third baseman Anthony Rendon is going to receive NL MVP votes this time around. Shortstop Trea Turner is one of the game’s biggest stolen base threats. Veterans Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, and Matt Wieters bring not just their talents, but also a wealth of big game experience.

The champion Cubs come with perhaps the deepest collection of talented youngsters in the game today in third baseman Kris Bryant (25), first baseman Anthony Rizzo (28), catcher Willson Contreras (25), left fielder Kyle Schwarber (24), right fielder Jason Heyward (28), center fielder Albert Almora (23) and a pair of super utility guys in Javier Baez (24) and 23-year old rookie Ian Happ.

The Cubs also have one of the best and most experienced and versatile players in this postseason in 36-year old Ben Zobrist, who was with Maddon back in the Tampa Bay days and played a key role on last year’s title team.

Right-handed starting pitcher Jake Arrieta, perhaps the Cubs best, is battling a hamstring injury. He is expected to start Game Four. If he cannot go, Maddon may turn to lefty Mike Montgomery, depending on how much the veteran has been used out of the bullpen.

Out of the bullpens, both managers have an array of talented options. Maddon will turn to righties John Lackey, Pedro Strop, Carl Edwards, and closer Wade Davis. From the left side he will bring Montgomery, Justin Wilson, and Brian Duensing.

When Baker calls to the bullpen he will be looking for righties Ryan Madson, Matt Albers, Brandon Kintzler, and possibly even usual starter Tanner Roark. From the southpaw side it will be Oliver Perez, Enny Romero, Sammy Solis, and closer Sean Doolittle.

This is a battle of the two teams that I see as the National League’s best. The winner of this series should be favored in the NLCS, and should they advance that far, will pose a major challenge to the American League champions in the World Series.

Much as with my prediction for the other NLDS, this is completely a gut call. Two evenly matched teams. Washington has home field advantage. I just think it’s their time. Don’t be surprised to see Harper take over this postseason, while Rendon shows his talent on a national stage. Nationals in a hard-fought five games.

Time is now for Nationals to deal for bullpen help

More than two months into the 2017 MLB regular season, the Washington Nationals are in great shape in the standings. The Nats lead the National League East Division by 8.5 games over their nearest rivals.
The Nationals would appear to be cruising towards a second consecutive postseason appearance. It would be the franchise’s fourth NL East crown, and thus their fourth trip to the playoffs in six years.
But after 36 years as the Montreal Expos and now a dozen full seasons in the U.S. capital city, the franchise has still never even played a single World Series game.
In fact, they have never played in the NLCS either. Washington has been eliminated in the NLDS in all three of the club’s appearances during this decade.
Though the current version of the Nationals appears to be running away with the division, there has been one area of the team that has been a cause of season long concern.
Due to a combination of inconsistency and injury, the Nats bullpen has been a mess. Dusty Baker has tried five different pitchers in the closer role at one time or another over the first 10 1/2 weeks.

NATIONALS BULLPEN AN ACHILLES HEEL

Here are the numbers on the 2017 Nationals primary relief pitchers through action on Wednesday.
Shawn Kelley: 3-2, four Saves, 6.88 ERA, 1.647 WHIP, 19/17 H:IP, 20/9 K:BB.
Blake Treinen: 0-1, three Saves, 6.51 ERA, 1.880 WHIP, 39/27.2 H:IP, 25/13 K:BB.
Koda Glover: 0-1, eight Saves, 5.12 ERA, 1.241 WHIP, 20/19.1 H:IP, 17/4 K:BB, currently on DL.
Joe Blanton: 0-2, 8.36 ERA, 1.786 WHIP, 20/14 H:IP, 15/5 K:BB
Enny Romero: 2-2, one Save, 3.82 ERA, 1.337 WHIP, 29/30.2 H:IP, 36/12 K:BB
Matt Albers: 2-1, two Saves, 2.10 ERA, 0.857 WHIP, 16/25.2 H/IP, 30/6 K:BB
Albers, whose pure stuff is probably the least among those pitchers, was getting the best results. On Monday night, he surrendered a three-run homer against the Braves, blowing a Save and taking the loss.
Albers, Romero, Kelley, Glover and Jacob Turner have each blown a pair of Save opportunities. Treinen has blown one as well.

DEALS HOLD BEST POSSIBLE SOLUTION

In an article at Fanrag Sports today, Jon Heyman quoted an unnamed Nationals official: “We don’t need just one big reliever, we need two.”
Heyman feels, and I concur, that the best possible trade target right now would be Chicago White Sox closer David Robertson. Heyman reports that the two teams were previously close on a deal that would send 2016 draftee Jesus Luzardo to the Chisox as part of a Robertson deal.
Chicago is in rebuilding mode, and has put together one of the top prospect groups in the game. Luzardo is a legitimate long-term pitcher for the White Sox to add to their mix.
If the Nationals can find a way to swing such a deal, they may find the perfect setup man out west. Maybe two men. The Oakland Athletics have a pair of 36-year old relievers in Santiago Casilla and Ryan Madson who could probably be had in the right deal.
Adding experienced, successful pitchers of that caliber to the bullpen would make a dramatic difference. That type of increase in the back-end of the bullpen would make Washington a legitimate World Series contender.
If general manager Mike Rizzo fails to make a couple of moves to shore up this lone Nationals weakness, he risks not only another October failure, but possibly his own job.

MLB Spotlight Series: Washington Nationals at Los Angeles Dodgers

The top two National League ball clubs in my current MLB Power Ranking are about to clash. The Washington Nationals visit Dodger Stadium this week to take on the Los Angeles Dodgers.
This will be a rematch of last year’s NLDS, won by the Dodgers in the full five games. The Nats held a 2-1 lead in that series, but LA won a pair of taught thrillers to capture the series.
Skipper Dusty Baker‘s Washington squad sits on top of the NL East Division with a 35-20 record, best in the league. Manager Dave Roberts and the Dodgers are 35-23, a half-game behind the Colorado Rockies in the NL West Division standings.
The Nats have captured the NL East crown three times in the last five seasons. The Dodgers have won four consecutive NL West titles. Consequently, these have been two of the best teams in baseball for years now.
The pitching matchups for the series are as follows:
Monday – Gio Gonzalez (Was) vs Hyun-Jin Ryu (LA)
Tuesday – Max Scherzer (Was) vs Brandon McCarthy (LA)
The Nationals jumped out to a 21-9 start, then lost eight of 12 games. But coming into this series, Washington has won 10 of 13 to open up a 10.5 game lead in the division.
The Dodgers were struggling to stay above the .500 mark for the first month of the season. But LA has taken 27 of 40 games since April 22, and has spent four days in first place over the last week.

STATISTICAL COMPARISON

Washington leads all of Major League Baseball with 314 runs scored and a cumulative .828 OPS mark. Their 86 home runs are 3rd in the game, tops in the National League. The Nats are also fourth in the NL in stolen bases.
The host Dodgers are no offensive slouches. Their 283 runs scored is tied for sixth in baseball, and their .753 OPS mark is sixth in the National League. While only 15th in baseball in stolen bases, the Dodgers are fifth in stolen base percentage.
On the mound, LA’s .229 cumulative staff Batting Average Against is the best mark in the game. Their 563 strikeouts are second, and tops in the NL. The Dodgers pitchers have walked just 163 batters, second in the National League.
Washington’s staff ERA of .251 is middle of the MLB road at 16th ranked. But that is largely due to the bullpen struggles. The Nationals rotation has 35 Quality Starts, the top mark in MLB to this point. They are sixth in the NL with 476 strikeouts, and their 163 walks are fourth in the National League.

BULLPEN STRUGGLES IN THE NATION’S CAPITAL

The struggles in the Nationals bullpen are well documented. It is perhaps the only weak spot in the overall roster. If Washington wants to finally play deep into October, it is a puzzle that GM Mike Rizzo will have to solve.
The new closer is 24-year old fireballer Koda Glover, who has a 4.58 ERA in 21 games. However, he also has a 16/3 K:BB ratio and has allowed 16 hits over 17.2 innings. The hope is that he can take the role and run with it.
Veterans Shawn KelleyMatt AlbersBlake Treinen, and Joe Blanton (currently on the DL) as well as lefties Enny Romero and Oliver Perez would seem to be a solid support group. But only Albers has had consistent success this season.

INJURY WOES IN HOLLYWOOD

The Dodgers have lost a number of players to various injuries at various points over the first two months. Outfielder Andrew Toles, who was playing well and seizing a starting role, has been lost for the season.
Two starting position players, third baseman Justin Turner and center fielder Joc Pederson, are currently on the DL.
On the mound, Rich Hill has spent time on the DL. Starter Alex Wood and tough lefty reliever Luis Avilan are both currently disabled. McCarthy, a perennial DL candidate, may have just ducked a trip there – for now.
Turner is 32 years old. First baseman Adrian Gonzalez is now 35, and second baseman Chase Utley is 38 years old. On the mound, Hill is 37, McCarthy is 33, and reliever Sergio Romo is 34 years old. As a result, health issues could become more problematic as the year moves along.

TWO IMPERFECT BUT TALENTED BALL CLUBS

At Forbes today, Howard Cole handled a number of questions from Dodgers fans in a mailbag piece. There were a number of calls to bench some of the older veterans. Cole also addressed calls for the team to go shopping for another big name starting pitcher.
“The Dodgers are not going to trade for an ‘elite’ starter if Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Alex Wood and Julio Urias and at least one of Brandon McCarthy, Kenta Maeda and Hyun-Jin Ryu are doing their jobs. Hill was acquired last summer to be that second elite SP. “
The Nationals lost Jayson Werth to the DL just as the series is getting underway. He fouled a pitch off his foot on Saturday, and it is believed that Werth will miss just a handful of games. As a result, Ryan Raburn should get most of the action in left field.

Between LA’s offensive inconsistencies and injuries and DC’s bullpen woes, these are a pair of strong teams with slight imperfections. Plenty of stars will be present in Hollywood. Much as in the lineups and on the mound, there will be stars in the stands as well. Most of all, this should be an excellent Spotlight Series!