The Philadelphia Phillies will visit their former manager Gabe Kapler and the first-place San Francisco Giants for a three-game set at Oracle Park this weekend. A victory Wednesday without injured stars Bryce Harper and Jean Segura held off a potential sweep by the high-powered Los Angeles Dodgers and brought the Phillies back up to .500 at 33-33.
Amidst the struggles of the Phillies to take the next step towards playoff contention, it is fair that fans are underwhelmed by the tenure of manager Joe Girardi at this point. However, it stings even more to see Kapler leading a Giants club that is far-exceeding expectations at 43-25 entering play Thursday and leading arguably the toughest division in baseball, two games ahead of the defending World Series champions.
Is Kapler a better manager than Girardi?
For better or for worse, the success of the Giants will naturally inspire Phillies fans to have this discussion.
Kapler was let go in 2019 after two seasons and a 161-163 record in Philadelphia. Though the team moved from last place in 2017 to a middling contender in the National League East during his tenure, they fell short of the playoffs in both seasons, largely due to uninspired late-season collapses.
Girardi, his replacement, brought a reputable presence and a more traditional managerial persona after managing the New York Yankees for ten seasons. He led a star-studded Yankees team to a victory over the Phillies in the World Series in 2009 in his second season in the Bronx. He used a risky, aggressive approach in using his top three starting pitchers on three days’ rest throughout the playoffs and calling on legendary closer Mariano Rivera for lengthier saves on a consistent basis.
Kapler’s resume paled in comparison. He was never given the benefit of doubt in Philadelphia, his managerial decisions were questioned from the start, and the organization’s decision to move on from him pleased the majority of Phillies fans.
Girardi and Kapler have comparable managing records with the Phillies. Girardi’s presence has not led to any sort of growth in confidence for the franchise. His mental lapses this season in trying to insert reliever Enyel De Los Santos into a game when he was not on the active roster and letting an apparently injured Harper play right field are the same types of mistakes that brought on serious criticism of Kapler while he was in Philadelphia.
Girardi’s overuse of the double switch has also aggravated fans, and the team again limped to a poor finish in September 2020 with a playoff spot on the line in the final weeks of the season.