When the Dodgers got rid of Don Mattingly it was initially assumed that it was Gabe Kapler’s job to lose. It may still be, but if the Dodgers do move Kapler from the front office to the dugout, it won’t be before a fairly lengthy interview process. Kapler, Darin Erstad, Dave Roberts, Tim Wallach, Dave Martinez, and Ron Roenicke have all been mentioned as candidates under consideration in Los Angeles, and several of them have already interviewed.
This morning Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke says that Dave Roberts is actually the frontrunner. Plaschke says Roberts “aced the interview, and he’s now apparently the favorite.” Plaschke doesn’t have a specific source for that (he makes allusions to ownership sentiment later) but there is no basis for doubting him. The Kapler stuff has only been discussed in media circles, the Dodgers haven’t publicly tipped their hand at all, Roberts is qualified for the job, has a history in Dodger Blue and has been through the interviewing gauntlet before. It’s not hard to picture him as a finalist for this job and, perhaps, the favorite at the moment.
But what is dubious in Plaschke’s column is the false construct he has created in order to compare Roberts — who Plaschke clearly favors — and Kapler, of whom he appears to not be the biggest fan. Specifically, he casts Roberts as a straightforward baseball man — he even calls him “gritty” — and Kapler as a “clone” of Baseball Operations President Andrew Friedman. He says “This also doesn’t mean Kapler wouldn’t be a palatable hire if they surrounded him with strong baseball folks, although he seems better suited for the front office.”
Kapler, of course, played twelve seasons in the majors and fifteen years total in professional baseball. He has even managed before, serving as the skipper for the Red Sox low-A affiliate. While that’s not the longest and richest resumé in the history of the world, it certainly doesn’t justify being cast as some sort of non-baseball side of a dichotomy with Dave Roberts, whose tenure as a professional player is almost identical to that of Kapler’s and who has not managed (Roberts has coached for five seasons, of course).
I have no idea if Kapler would be a good hire. Indeed, the Dodgers may very well decide not to hire him believing, as Plaschke says, that he’s best suited for a front office role. But I do not understand how one can cast him as some sort of baseball outsider who would need baseball man training wheels in order to handle the job. My sense is that, as has happened so often in the past, Plaschke is trying to cast himself in opposition to an analytically-based executive in Friedman by casting anyone aligned with him as some tool of the spreadsheet set who is somehow not qualified to wear a uniform. It’s his schtick and it pays his bills, so maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise.
It just seems to me that, in Kapler, he picked an odd target for his usual ammunition: