With Don Mattingly no longer managing the Dodgers, one of the interesting offseason storylines has to be the search for a new skipper. It’s not often that a manager with three straight division titles and 90-win seasons is as widely criticized as Mattingly was, but the Dodgers had a very clear goal of winning a World Series and they failed to do that.
Mattingly and the Dodgers had a “mutual” breakup, and while he reportedly interviewed with the Miami Marlins, the Dodgers need a skipper for next year. This will be the first of probably many coaching pieces in the coming weeks or months, but a hot name that’s been popping up is that of Gabe Kapler.
Kapler played 12 seasons for six different teams (Detroit, Texas, Colorado, Boston, Milwaukee and Tampa), and finished his career off with two seasons playing for Dodger GM Andrew Friedman in Tampa Bay. For some reason, “former player” seems to be at the top of many people’s wish lists for any sort of baseball non-player position (GM/FO, manager, etc.).
Also, that Mattingly guy that was so hated was a pretty good baseball player. And Vin Scully never played baseball at a high level. So maybe there’s more to life than being a former baseball player.
May 28, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox former player Gabe Kapler walks onto the field as part of the 10 year celebration of the 2004 Boston Red Sox before the game against the Atlanta Braves at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
Kapler is an extremely intriguing candidate for many other reasons besides being a former player. His connection with Friedman is undeniable and has raised some eyebrows, but Friedman very clearly thinks highly of Kapler. According to the LA Times, Friedman offered Kapler a front office position after he retired and last year, Kapler was named the Director of Player Development for the Dodgers.
The OCR reported that in Spring Training, Kapler and the rest of the Dodgers management set out to make the team the “healthiest team in pro sports” with health-conscious food options, a decision that was not the most popular among players. Considering the amount of In-N-Out and Tommy’s Burgers located sort of close to Dodger Stadium, I could imagine that not being an environment conducive to being health conscious (protein style is healthy right?)
Kapler has a fitness blog called Kaplifestyle where he and others blog about healthy lifestyle choices, workouts, food/drinks ect. Sam Fuld, Drew Stubbs, Chris Archer and Evan Longoria, among others, have each put their thoughts on the site and there are a lot of interesting posts about healthy living. There is also literally a post about how men should sit naked in the sun to get Vitamin D on their privates and increase testosterone, so. Yeah. Here that is because I know you want to stop reading this and go read that.
Kapler was born in Hollywood and went to Taft High School and Cal State Fullerton, so while some complained about Mattingly’s New York ties, you probably couldn’t find a more LA person than Kapler, full with a probable obsessions with wheatgrass and quinoa. Kapler has one year of managing experience that came in the tail end of his baseball career. He Michael Jordan’d his career and retired twice, and after his first retirement Kapler coached the Red Sox single-A affiliate to a 58-81 record. The most notable name from that team is Oakland A’s outfielder Josh Reddick, but Lars Anderson (former top prospect, now in the Dodgers minor league system) was also a part of that team.
For the most part, Rosenthal is pretty reliable. Surely, no decisions have been made yet and there will be more and more names being tossed into the twittersphere, but Kapler will likely be a popular name until the Dodgers name someone else. It might be a safer play to have him start off as a bench coach or other assistant coach at first, but with the changing tide around the Dodgers it isn’t unlikely that they want to bring in a younger, shapable mind that’s seemingly very understanding of advanced metrics and will likely be open to input from upstairs. Not to say Mattingly wasn’t, but this does seem like a logical fit with the Dodgers.
Pure speculation here, but perhaps Kapler’s connection with some former Ray’s could play a part in his hiring? Two of my favorite names that are set to be free agents are David Price and Ben Zobrist, both of whom played for Friedman in Tampa with Kapler in 2009 and 2010. The Dodgers have a hole in their rotation that’s magnified if/when Zack Greinke opts out, which Price could fill rather nicely, and they have a hole at second that Zobrist could also fill. If you see what I’m getting at.
Kapler is probably one of my favorite candidates being mentioned. If I had to power rank my ideal 2016 Dodger manager, Kapler would probably come in second. It would definitely be the most intriguing option at this point and Bovada listed Kapler as the favorite with 5/4 odds of being the Dodgers’ manager in 2016.