One name that you’ll hear repeatedly as the Dodgers search for their next manager is Gabe Kapler. One question I’ll get regularly in the Dodgers Nation mentions is: “Who is Gabe Kapler?”
He’s probably the most logical candidate to fill Don Mattingly’s recently vacated position, both because of where he comes from and the position he currently holds.
First, it feels important to point out Kapler was born in Hollywood. We here in Southern California have this weird tendency to gravitate towards the bigger name (hence the interest in Dusty Baker, who doesn’t make any sense for the Dodgers – more on that in a separate piece) simply because know who that might be. If we haven’t heard of someone, the understanding is they probably aren’t worth our time. Someone who grew up here – as Kapler has – would grasp this and the culture of the entire area.
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In terms of his baseball background, Kapler was a hard-working outfielder and well-rounded player. He spent time with several organizations throughout the league, which, contrary to Mattingly (who spent his entire career with the Yankees) might give him a broader foundation of what works in the MLB.
I’m not saying with any certainty one avenue is better than the other, simply that Kapler’s path offers something different, which is definitely something to keep in mind as you consider a replacement.
Post-retirement, Kapler jumped right back into baseball, as a minor league coach with the Red Sox organization, but after a year of that, decided he wanted back on the field. He made his return to the Major Leagues with the Milwaukee Brewers and played another few years before finally retiring officially in 2011.
One thing that shines through Kapler’s career is his passion for baseball. Now, this isn’t extraordinary, as the vast majority of professional baseball players tend to have an incredible love for the game, but Kapler’s inability to stay away is pretty interesting. It’s also probably part of why Andrew Friedman hired him for such an important role as Director or Player Development with the Dodgers very shortly after Friedman arrived in Los Angeles.
Which brings me to the larger point: Friedman, Zaidi and the rest of the organization already seem comfortable with Kapler. During the press conference Thursday afternoon, the only moment where Friedman seemed a little testy was when questions were asked about how communication works between the front office and the manager in regards to daily lineups and other strategic topics. If the manager hired and the front office already have a trust and line of communication, the transition will be all the smoother as the season starts taking shape.
Kapler is also well-versed in the sabermetrics movement within baseball, and while Friedman talked down that importance compared to other managerial qualities, you would have to think someone who’s been around Friedman and the rest of the analytics department would have a greater understanding of the direction the franchise wants to go in over the next few years.
Lastly – and this part cannot possibly be overstated – the Dodgers appear ready to embark on a youth movement. The farm system is littered with prospects getting ready to make the jump to the major leagues if they haven’t done so already. I can’t think of literally anyone else who would have a better understanding of what kind of prospects the Dodgers currently have than the person in charge of their development.
- Current Dodgers Prospects
- Corey Seager – Already up
- Joc Pederson – Already up
- Zach Lee – Will contend for the roster this Spring
- Julio Urias – Still a year or more away
- Chris Reed – Might be up in 2015
- Chris Anderson – Might be up in 2015
Yes, the Dodgers have the resources to spend big, and finding talent that way will be crucial if they hope to take the next step closer to title contention, but guys like Corey Seager, Joc Pederson, Zach Lee and on down the list all hope to impact the Dodgers’ immediate fortunes, too, so whoever is hired will have to be able to get as much as possible from those kinds of players as well as the big money acquisitions the Dodgers make.
As I alluded to earlier, Los Angeles sports fans have an inherent desire for the superstar. We know who Dusty Baker is. We know who Mike Scioscia is. We knew who Joe Torre was and, by extension, Don Mattingly before he was hired. Thing is: even though that’s what we’re comfortable with, more often than not, the right choices are made outside one’s comfort zone.