The Phillies suffered an embarrassing 16-2 loss to the Dodgers on Monday night. It came after a frustrating opening to the second half in which they dropped two of three games to the Nationals and only avoided a sweep by the skin of their teeth. The Phillies played exclusively NL East competition between June 14 and July 14. They went 10-15, with six of those wins coming against the Mets. Once in first place by as many as 3.5 games as recently as May 29, the Phillies enter Tuesday’s action in third place, 9.5 games out of first.
The city of Philadelphia is tense. Fans are frustrated. Twitter and sports talk radio is full of calls for the entire Phillies’ regime to be changed from the top down, from president Andy MacPhail to GM Matt Klentak to manager Gabe Kapler and his entire coaching staff. Fans have also frequently brought up the desire to see Kapler flip out. First, it was a desire to see him flip out on an umpire to fire up his team. Now, fans want Kapler to blow a gasket yelling at his players. Asked about that today, Kapler said, via Matt Breen of The Philadelphia Inquirer, “I’m not f-ing Dallas Green and I never will be.”
Green was notorious for his short fuse as part of the Phillies’ front office in the 1970’s and into the early 1980’s, then again when he returned to the Phillies in 1998. He said of himself, “I express my thoughts. I’m a screamer, a yeller, and a cusser. I never hold back.”
Yelling at athletes isn’t some magic cure-all. It’s more about the fans’ catharsis. They’re frustrated and can’t yell at the players themselves, so they want someone to do it on their behalf. Not all athletes respond well to being yelled at. In fact, it might simply compound the issue. It may hurt team unity. And the point may be lost if the yelling is coming from someone making it feel unnatural and forced. Kapler is right to stay true to himself and not act in a way that serves only to satiate some fans’ short tempers.
There are much more pressing issues. They have sustained myriad injuries and haven’t had the depth to get through it. In fairness, few teams would’ve been able to withstand losing their top-six relievers, a starting corner outfielder, a lefty bench bat, and a starter with upside. Jean Segura and Maikel Franco are both currently banged up, and Jake Arrieta is pitching with a bone spur in his elbow. This is not to absolve Klentak of blame, as the team could’ve signed starter Dallas Keuchel and reliever Craig Kimbrel at any time and they chose not to every single day.
The Phillies have also gotten 40th-percentile or worse production (relative to their preseason projections/expectations) out of most of the roster, including J.T. Realmuto, César Hernández, Jean Segura, Bryce Harper, Nick Williams, Aaron Nola, Nick Pivetta, Vince Velasquez, Jerad Eickhoff, and Héctor Neris. That so few of their young players have taken marked and lasting steps forward is an indictment on the organization, certainly.
Has the Phillies’ front office failed? In some ways, absolutely. Has Kapler been underwhelming as a manager? In some ways, absolutely. But flipping over the clubhouse spread isn’t going to serve as a panacea for all that ails the team.