Through fog of defeat, Phillies GM Matt Klentak sees progress, says Gabe Kapler will return in 2019


DENVER — Phillies general manager Matt Klentak used the word “awful” to describe the last six weeks.

“There’s no other way to put it,” he said before Wednesday night’s game. “We’ve played poorly. We’ve lost games. It’s been miserable for just about everybody up and down the organization.”

The Phillies have lost 32 of their last 47 games after Wednesday's lifeless 14-0 loss, which began with eight consecutive strikeouts. They are on their way to making ignominious history. According to baseball writer Jayson Stark’s research, no team had ever been 15 games over .500 as late as 113 games into the season — that’s where the Phillies were on Aug. 7 — and not finished with a winning record.

The Phillies, losers of seven straight games, are headed there. They are 78-80 with four games to play.

In the wake of their historic collapse, Klentak pointed out that the team had made progress. Indeed, the club will finish with a much better record than last year’s mark of 66-96.

Still, he promised changes for next season.

“Significant changes are necessary,” he said. “But I think we all need to fight the narrative that it’s a simple fix. There’s a lot of things we can do and we’re going to address a lot of things.”

He mentioned that changes could come through free-agent signings, trades and by the improvements that some players who have now gone through the ups and downs of a long season will make next year.

There is one area that Klentak will not change: on-field leadership. He said first-year manager Gabe Kapler and the coaching staff would be back next season.

“I think Kap has been consistent throughout the year,” Klentak said. “I think he’s made plenty of adjustments. I think he’s learned a lot. I think he’s grown a lot.

“I think his style of in-game management has been relatively consistent. I think what changed was for four months we were winning and it was scrutinized less. For the last couple months, we’ve been losing and it’s been scrutinized more. I don’t think that’s the first time in baseball history that something like that has played itself out. When you’re losing, people are going to scrutinize more. The whole organization will be.”

Klentak mentioned that the Phillies were not projected to be a powerhouse team when the season opened. They were the youngest team in the majors. They won for four months then things went bad.

“Expectations were fairly modest,” he said. “When we hired Kap, we knew that he is progressive. In my judgment, this was a good year to be progressive and try new things because expectations were modest and we had a lot of young players and a new manager. Some of the things we’ve tried have not worked, some of the things that he’s done and that we’ve done as an organization have worked really well.

“I think this was a good year for us to experiment, try new things, grow forward and we made progress. We didn’t make enough progress to make the playoffs and there was a time in midsummer when it looked like maybe we were and then we didn’t. But I think in order to take this organization where it needs to go we had to have a year like this, where we pushed the envelope.”

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