In 2018, the first year of the Gabe Kapler era, the Phillies stayed above .500 for the majority of the season. They had great times, and horrible times, but in the end, they were swept out of Colorado the last week of the season. When They finished 80-82, a lot of people did point at Kapler and said it was his fault. But most of us said we just didn’t have enough star power that season.
In 2019, things changed. On February 28th John Middleton finished the deal around which the whole offseason was based. The Phillies brought in Bryce Harper on a record breaking deal and all of the sudden the city of Philadelphia was baseball crazy. There was more and more excitement around the Phils the closer they got to Opening Day, and on March 28th, the stadium was more packed and loud for an Opening Day game than it had been in 10 years. The Phillies didn’t disappoint that weekend either, sweeping the Braves out of Citizens Bank Park. The following Tuesday the Phils also beat the Washington Nationals to go 4-0 on the season. But the season pretty much went downhill from there. Though the Phils did mix in a few offensive outbursts, the pitching staff wasn’t good enough and that stuck the Phils in third place for most of the season. And just the same as the previous season in Colorado, the Phillies got swept out of Nationals Park in a five game series. That dropped them down to 79-80 and out of the playoff race. They were able to win two of three the final weekend against the Marlins, but in what was supposed to be a NL East championship season, the Phillies finished 81-81.
Most fans said it was all Gabe Kapler’s fault, saying if the Phils had a Joe Girardi or someone more dependable in the managerial position that the Phils would’ve won the NL East. Others said it was just the bad pitching staff. It was probably some of both. The Phils pitching staff had Aaron Nola and Hector Neris. Who else was really a good pitcher? On the managerial side, you have the analytics-crazy Gabe Kapler, who didn’t seem to think enforcing rules on his players was important.
After firing Gabe Kapler on October 10th, the Phils set out for the 2019-20 offseason looking for a manager and some pitching. Soon after, the Phils were able to sign Joe Girardi to manage the 2020 Phils. They still needed a lot of pitching help though; that brought on the signing of former Met Zack Wheeler to a 5 year 118 million dollar contract. A lot of people agreed it is a little too much money to pay a pitcher who hasn’t really proved himself to be elite. But Wheeler is a young strong arm, and it’ll definitely help the Phils in the coming seasons. Wheeler will most likely be a two in the rotation with Nola staying the one.
Next was the signing of Didi Gregorius to a one year deal; him they needed after letting Maikel Franco and Cesar Hernandez go in November. The infield problem was solved, but looking at their bullpen and rest of the rotation, people still see names like Nick Pivetta, Vince Velasquez and Juan Nicasio. The Phillies haven’t signed any more pitchers excluding some minor-league signings of Bud Norris, Francisco Liriano, and Drew Storen. They’re still missing that big fire arm out of the bullpen. Especially after not clearing waivers with Hector Neris, things are not looking great for the bullpen. The Phillies still need some work in my opinion, and it yet again does not look like this is going to be their season. Maybe Gabe Kapler was the problem last season, and Joe Girardi will get this team to the playoffs, but the current roster has everyone predicting about 85 wins for the Phils this season. The front office is again leaning on guys like Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez to have breakout seasons. This idea has not worked yet, but they could prove everyone wrong. So there are again many questions swirling around the team. The only thing that is for sure is that it’ll be another fun summer of Phillies baseball.