“Where it began, I can’t begin to knowin’ …
Was in the spring , then spring became the summer.”
It was evident to anyone watching Gabe Kapler’s moves during spring training that he was a micro-manager, perhaps to a fault. He was either going to be hailed as brilliant if the club played well, or a failed experiment – a kind of Frankesteinian hybrid of Gene Mauch and Chip Kelly, if the club didn’t succeed. Talk about positive energy is all well and good, but if it doesn’t show up in the win column one has lots of ‘splainin’ to do.
What should be most concerning about today’s inauspicious managerial debut by Kapler was not that he outsmarted himself with data-driven chess moves, but that he didn’t answer post-game interview questions in a way that would invite comfort in his “level of confidence”. Sure, it’s only one game of a very long season. But Kapler’s tendency in spring training was that he played musical chairs with the pitching staff at a dizzying pace – even after they were “stretched out”. So his early yanking of his ace shouldn’t have been a total surprise. But what he said after the game when it was obvious that the move backfired was surprising:
“We believe in all of our pitchers,” the manager said. “I believe in Hoby Milner’s ability to come in and get (Freddie) Freeman and (Nick) Markakis out.”
Another Spring Training juxtaposition: This felt more like the Chicken Dance after Take Me Out of The Ballgame.
Here’s the main issue (and it ain’t rocket science). A big selling point about the bullpen over the winter was the signing of free agent Tommy Hunter, and the re-acquisition of Pat Neshek. Problem is, Tommy Hunter is on the DL, and Pat Neshek was “unavailable” today due to an injury-to-be-determined-later. That means that the bullpen was significantly depleted, and it would behoove Kapler and the Phils to have their starter go as deep into the game as possible.
But for some inexplicable reason, only 68 pitches into the game and keeping Braves’ hitters masterfully off balance, Gabe Kapler sent his ace a message that he had more confidence in a pedestrian reliever to get Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis out than he did in Aaron Nola to continue. I’m not sure what the bigger problem is here, Kapler’s inability to say he made a mistake in not letting Nola go deeper into this opening day, or insisting that he made the right move that just happened not to work out. You’re right about one thing, Gabe. It is going to be a long season.