Thursday, May 16, 2019

“Negadelphians” Want Phils’ Kapler Gone

By Anthony Brancato

On July 18, 1983, the Phillies fired manager Pat Corrales despite the fact that the team was in first place in the National League East, albeit with a 43-42 record — prompting Jerry Girard, the wisecracking sportscaster at WPIX-TV in New York, to quip, "Who knows? Maybe they want to finish in second place."

Well the '83 Phillies did not finish in second place. Paul Owens, who came down from the front office to the dugout, guided the team to a 47-30 record the rest of the way, and they not only won the division but the NLCS, as well, sending them to just their fourth World Series appearance in franchise history at the time, where they lost to the Orioles in five games in a rain-soaked World Series.

Thirty-six years later, a great many Phillies fans would like to see history repeat itself.

As of this writing, the Phillies were 23-16 — but that's still good enough for first place in the scaled-down NL East (which since 1983 has added the Braves and Marlins but has lost the Pirates, Cubs and Cardinals) because the the division's other four teams are a pathetic 66-93 among them — far and away the worst trailing group in baseball. Yet the team's decidedly unimpressive record is more the excuse than the reason for why the apparently growing anti-Gabe Kapler contingent among the fan base wants to see him go the way of Corrales.

Kapler, you see, is an analytics nerd, which basically means that he is Earl Weaver on steroids — a monstrous pun since Kapler, a bodybuilding maven, is able to dead-lift 555 pounds. This approach to the game is as polarizing as anything in politics — and, like the various screamers on both sides of the political divide (FOX News, MSNBC, etc.), the sports talk radio muckrakers in Philadelphia, who rank second only to their counterparts in New York for sheer vituperativeness and audience manipulation, gleefully climb aboard what they see as the dump-Kapler bandwagon every chance they get — most notably WIP's Angelo Cataldi ("As I predicted in my current column in PhillyVoice.com, today I am annoyed at Gabe Kapler. Why remove a dominant Arrieta for a struggling Dominguez? It cost the Phils a big win. Analytics suck!") and Joe Giglio ("Gabe Kapler has been 'lucking' his way into the best managerial performance in the NL all year" — meaning last year, before the Phillies lost 28 of their last 40 games). Even Phillies radio broadcaster Larry Andersen has jumped on it ("Not everybody can pitch the ninth inning. I know Gabe Kapler thinks they can, but they can't"), despite the fact that his doing so is way above his pay grade so to speak.

But then again, the Cataldis and Giglios have always appealed to the "Negadelphians" — a term that originated when the Flyers won back-to-back Stanley Cups in the 1970s, causing a surprising debate as to whether hockey "counts" as a "major sport," with the "Negadelphians" saying that it didn't. (The Flyers haven't won a Stanley Cup since — while the Phillies have won the World Series twice, the 76ers have won one NBA championship, and of course, the Eagles won Super Bowl LII).

Most of the "Negadelphians" seem to have coalesced around Joe Girardi as Kapler's successor should they get their wish and Kapler does get fired. In his 10 seasons with the Yankees, Girardi's teams never won fewer than 84 games in any season, made the playoffs six times, got to the Elite Eight five times, and made the Final Four four times, including winning the World Series once.

But what about all the money the Yankees spend, you say? The Mets spent a lot of money in the early '90s too — and the result was chronicled in the aptly-titled book "The Worst Team Money Could Buy," specifically about the '92 Mets — and the '93 Mets, who finished behind the first-year-expansion Marlins, and whose chief story line was the late Anthony Young's all-time-record 27-game losing streak, were even worse.

Was it Wilt Chamberlain's "fault" that he was 7-foot-2 in an era when many NBA centers were no taller than 6-foot-8? And is it Jon Jones' "fault" that he has an 84-inch reach that has given him upwards of a foot in reach advantage over many if not most of his opponents?

With the Trump Administration contemplating "regime change" in both Venezuela and Iran, maybe the Phillies' "administration," which is mourning the loss of its chairman and CEO, David Montgomery, last week, is contemplating a "regime change" of its own.

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