Even with the regular season weeks away, we know which MLB teams are facing heightened expectations in 2019. While much was made of a very slow offseason, the truth is there were certain teams that invested and will now have the expectation of success and a playoff run this year. The managers of those teams subsequently have to deliver — especially if these managers have yet to show they can produce the goods.
Here are eight managers facing some serious pressure who could find themselves on the hot seat if the 2019 season goes poorly.
Joe Maddon, Cubs
In four years at the helm, Maddon has never won fewer than 92 games, made the playoffs every season, and done the seemingly impossible by guiding the Chicago Cubs to a World Series win. So why is he entering the last season of his contract with whispers of discontent behind him? There’s a perception that the team has underachieved since that title, and last season they failed to win the division and lost the wild card game. Maddon seems to have no guarantees about his future, and Theo Epstein has promised big changes if the team doesn’t produce this year. One of those changes would probably be Maddon.
After months of speculation, Bryce Harper is a Philadelphia Phillie for the next decade and then some.
That’s obviously great news for the organization, but it’s also good for manager Gabe Kapler. Not only does he have a big new weapon to put in the middle of his lineup, but he can also cut the weasel words out of his interviews.
So I can stop saying “if the reports are true” now? https://t.co/KUu8zAdo3W
— gabe kapler (@gabekapler) March 2, 2019
Kapler is probably speaking for a lot of Philadelphia fans at this point. This saga has gone on for so long that it almost doesn’t feel like it’s actually over. Plus, it’s not as if Kapler had as much inside information as one might think he did. Finally, he and the organization can discuss Harper as their player, not a potential signee.
The Philadelphia Phillies landed the biggest prize of the offseason on Thursday, and manager Gabe Kapler didn’t even hear the news from his bosses.
Word of Bryce Harper’s 13-year, $330 million deal with the Phillies was apparently widely reported on social media before team executives informed the organization about it. When asked about the addition of Harper, Kapler said he found out about it from fans who were sitting behind the dugout at the Phillies’ spring training facility in Florida.
Gabe Kapler said he learned about the Bryce Harper deal from #Phillies fans sitting behind the their dugout at Spectrum Field and reading tweets about the terms, etc.
— Todd Zolecki (@ToddZolecki) February 28, 2019
Finding out through fans (who found out from Twitter) about signing one of the best players in baseball is a lot better than getting bad news that way, which is something we have seen happen plenty of times. The reality is that teams oftentimes have to wait until the last second to spread the word about contracts or trades for negotiation purposes, and by that time there has usually been a leak. Whatever the case, we’re sure Kapler didn’t mind.
The Philadelphia Phillies showed some signs of improvement last season when they won 80 games a year after finishing dead last in the NL East, and manager Gabe Kapler feels they have already proved this offseason that they are committed to contending for a World Series.
With the Phillies having acquired star catcher JT Realmuto in a trade on Thursday, Kapler was asked on Friday how he would address star free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado in the wake of some of the moves Philly has made.
"The move is a clear indication that we're in win-right-now mode and we're going to push our chips in." – @Phillies skipper @gabekapler on the addition of J.T. Realmuto #MLBNHotStove pic.twitter.com/zHxu5piyAT
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) February 8, 2019
“I think the moves that (GM Matt Klentak) made on our behalf prove that we are in win right now mode and we are going to push our chips in,” Kapler said. “When I see an organization make that kind of commitment, I want to be a part of it.”
Kapler said he was speaking to all players and not just Harper and Machado specifically, but there has been plenty of talk about the Phillies still wanting to sign one of the two sluggers.
In addition to the Realmuto trade, the Phillies also acquired shortstop Jean Segura in a trade with the Seattle Mariners earlier this offseason. Those trades combined with their signings of outfielder Andrew McCutchen and reliever David Robertson prove the Phillies are serious about ending their seven-year playoff drought.
Harper may be hoping to sign with another team this offseason, but he’s a Scott Boras client who will almost certainly follow the money. That in itself gives the Phillies an advantage over some other teams.
The Philadelphia Phillies have played their way out of playoff contention with a horrible stretch to close out the season, but the disappointing finish is not going to cost Gabe Kapler his job.
On Wednesday, Phillies general manager Matt Klentak confirmed Kaper will be back with the team in 2019 despite what he described as an “awful” past six weeks of play.
In case there was any question, Matt Klentak confirmed tonight that Gabe Kapler will return as Phillies manager in 2019.
— Matt Breen (@matt_breen) September 27, 2018
The Phillies lost their seventh consecutive game on Wednesday and allowed 10 or more runs for the third straight game against the Colorado Rockies. They were 15 games above .500 on Aug. 7 and appeared to be in prime position to make the playoffs, but it has been all downhill since. Entering Thursday, Philly’s record had dropped to 78-80.
Despite the abysmal final two months, Klentak pointed out that the Phillies have exceeded expectations this season and Kapler led the team to a much better finish than the 66-win season it had a year ago.
“I think Kap has been consistent throughout the year,” Klentak said, per Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia. “I think he’s made plenty of adjustments. I think he’s learned a lot. I think he’s grown a lot.
The Phillies got off to a rough start, and the season had barely begun before Kapler made his boldest proclamation of the year. While it’s never a good sign when a team falls apart the way his has down the stretch, giving a manager only one season with a young team that has so much potential would seem unfair.
Losing a game in extra innings is never easy, but Monday’s loss for the Philadelphia Phillies was particularly tough.
Aaron Nola pitched beautifully for Philly in a 2-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox in 13 innings. He allowed just one run and four hits over eight innings but left with a no-decision, similar to David Price. The Red Sox won the game in the 13th on a Blake Swihart RBI ground-rule double.
After the loss, Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said the defeat was a “punch in the face.”
"It was probably the pitching performance of the year," Gabe Kapler said. The 13-inning loss, he said, was "a punch in the face."
— Matt Gelb (@MattGelb) July 31, 2018
What makes it so tough? Not only did Nola have nothing to show for his brilliant performance, but the Phillies used six relievers in the game (as did Boston). When you invest so many resources into one contest, it’s tough to come away with a defeat.
- Gabe Kapler
Philadelphia Phillies manager Gabe Kapler doesn’t mind Jake Arrieta expressing his opinion about the team’s use of defensive shifts.
Over the weekend, Arrieta was very critical of the Phillies’ defensive shifts during their series sweep at the hands of the San Francisco Giants. While that’s not what you want to hear from a star veteran on a team, the manager does not have a problem with it.
On Monday, Kapler supported Arrieta (and other clubhouse leaders) discussing ways to improve the performance of the team.
I asked #Phillies manager Gabe Kapler today if Jake Arrieta’s comments Sunday were indicative of discontent in the clubhouse, and if he plans to reevaluate his shifting practices. This is what Kapler told me. @MLB @MLBNetwork pic.twitter.com/wWKUkn3Cdh
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) June 5, 2018
Kapler is in his first season as a MLB manager. Philadelphia has surprised some in getting off to a 31-26 start, especially after Kapler’s rocky start. While they have had some early season success, there is obviously still room for improvement and Kapler is embracing ways to achieve that. If it comes from a veteran member of the team, that seems to be just fine with him.