MLB coach Gabe Kapler slammed by former assistant for perceived anti-military bias
Nick Francona, son of Cleveland manager Terry and currently on the Mets Player development staff, took a sarcastic shot at new Phillies manager Gabe Kapler and the Dodgers organization on Twitter Sunday. Kapler and the Dodgers were investigated by MLB when Francona, an Afghanistan war veteran, claimed he was forced out of the organization because of Kapler's and Dodgers’ perceived anti-military bias.
Retweeting Fox and Friends' tweet on a California teacher caught on tape in a rant against the military, Francona wrote:
"In related news, the teacher who was caught on video calling Marines "the freakin' lowest of the low" is eagerly awaiting his invitation from @gabekapler to throw out the first pitch at a @Phillies game."
It highlights Francona frustration with the investigation.
"It is extremely difficult to reconcile the statements from MLB officials that they care about veterans while they allowed Gabe Kapler to act with impunity," Francona said Sunday. "It is hypocritical that a player can be suspended for making an offensive gesture during the World Series, which was followed by grand proclamations from the Commissioner about how this behavior wasn't acceptable, but when something occurs that is far more deliberate and manipulative, MLB allowed the individuals involved to avoid any consequences whatsoever."
In a letter to MLB back in January 2017, Francona, who worked for Kapler with the Dodgers, charged that he used the stereotypes of veterans with combat experience to create conflict and a hostile work environment. After he notified Kapler that he was going for an appointment at Home Base, which helps war veterans treat the psychological effects combat leaves, Francona said he felt he was being pushed out of his job in player development. Francona charged that Kapler immediately responded to news he would be going to Home Base, a program endorsed by the Red Sox when his father was the manager, by asking if he had "used hard drugs." He also began pressuring Francona to take a leave of absence against his will.
Francona said another issue was the fact that the Dodgers did not take his years of experience in the Marines into account when setting his salary. He had been offered a contract extension just months before, but offered less money than one of his subordinates of the same approximate age. The subordinate had spent more time working in baseball while Francona was in the military, he claimed.
He left his job with Dodgers in March 2016.
Months later, the Dodgers countered to MLB that Francona threatened their personnel. He denied any threat or violence or abusive behavior, but admitted he told Dodgers officials he wanted to expose them for behavior that he said played on a dangerous stereotype of combat veterans being prone to violence.
According to a report, the Dodgers launched their own investigation into Francona's concerns, but he questions the legitimacy of that investigation, saying he was never interviewed for the team inquiry. The Dodgers claimed he was fired because of a "personality conflict," or "philosophical differences," with Kapler. The Dodgers twice offered Francona settlements of $40,000 in June 2016 and $150,000 in November, but he didn't accept either offer. He hasn't taken any legal action against the team.
"I think it is fairly obvious that if these things weren't true I would have just taken the money to be quiet," Francona said. "It certainly hasn't been fun to stand alone against powerful people who have repeatedly demonstrated that they will bend the truth and ignore facts in order to advance their agenda, which in this case is sweeping things under the rug."
Instead, Francona eventually sent a nine-page letter of complaint to MLB.
The Dodgers and Kapler have said they were cleared in the investigation and MLB considered the matter closed.
"We did complete an investigation," said Pat Courtney, the chief communications officer for Major League Baseball told the Philadelphia Inquirer last year when Kapler was hired. "We can't comment on the results of that investigation, but the Phillies did inquire about the investigation as part of their due diligence."
Francona, however, does not feel his allegations were taken seriously by the Dodgers or MLB. He said he was told the results of the investigation verbally by MLB chief legal officer Dan Halem, but they refused to give him a hard copy of the results.
"It is frustrating to have this notion out there that Gabe Kapler and the Dodgers were 'cleared' in the MLB investigation. The fact that MLB chose to not hold them accountable is an indictment of MLB's values and is an indication of what they are willing to tolerate rather than an indication of the absence of wrongdoing," Francona said.
Proud of his service with the Marines, he sees this as a bigger issue of fighting against stereotypes of military veterans and campaigning for respect for veterans in the baseball community. He said he has tried working with MLB on veterans issues, but has grown frustrated that his complaints about this issue have fallen on deaf ears. He has come to the conclusion that all of baseball would like him to just be quiet and have the issue swept under the rug.
But Kapler's hiring in Philadelphia has made the whole situation more frustrating for Francona and his family. The Francona family is intertwined in baseball and this will not simply disappear even if he is silenced.
Kapler, who cited Francona's father as an influence on his baseball career, approach the Cleveland manager at the Winter Meetings in an attempt to clear the air. The senior Francona, however, made it clear that he did not appreciate what had happened to his son and rebuffed Kapler's attempt to talk, a source who was told of the interaction said.
Francona feels there is injustice in how he was stereotyped as a combat veteran. He is passionate that the Dodgers reaction to his visit to Home Base is exactly the fear that keeps other veterans from seeking help they need. He wants to see more protection for discrimination against veterans and better programs for Baseball to reach out to veterans.