Phillies president discusses Klentak's decision to reassign Mackanin
By Todd Zolecki
PHILADELPHIA -- The moment that Phillies general manager Matt Klentak told Pete Mackanin that he wanted a new manager next season, the expectations for the Phillies ratcheted up dramatically.
Ninety-plus losses in 2018 will not be viewed through same lens as they were in '16 or '17.
"The GM only gets so many managers," Phillies president Andy MacPhail said Tuesday in a wide-ranging state-of-the-team news conference at Citizens Bank Park. "If you make this move, you're going to increase the scrutiny on yourself. 'Are you prepared for that?' He understood. He's unafraid."
MacPhail discussed Mackanin's surprising reassignment -- he will be a front-office advisor next year -- and how it changes the outlook for a team that is rebuilding and still expected to have one of the smaller payrolls in baseball next season. It remains a topic of interest, because the Phillies signed Mackanin to a contract extension in May, when the team was beginning to play some of its worst baseball of the season, only to announce Friday they wanted a change, despite finishing 38-38 (.500).
"When Matt flipped that switch, he did change the expectations," MacPhail said. "I think that's a fair point."
MacPhail said Klentak is aware of the ramifications. When Klentak approached him about replacing Mackanin with his own man -- Klentak inherited Mackanin from former general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. -- MacPhail said he asked him why.
"I told him that this is going to confuse people," MacPhail said. "You just extended the guy when we stunk four months ago, and now we're getting better and you make a change. You're going to have to explain that.
"He feels like it was the appropriate time."
Times have changed -- including, apparently, the team's timetable to win. The Phillies might not be ready to reach the postseason in 2018, but they should not be in the running for the No. 1 pick in the '19 Draft, either.
"It's natural to think, 'Oh my gosh, you reassigned Pete. He did something wrong. He was bad,'" MacPhail said. "It doesn't necessarily have to be that way. Matt is tasked with the job of assessing his talent. It's an evolving roster. As we all know, this roster evolved like crazy from what it was at the end of 2016 to what it is today. If he thinks it's time for different leadership based on how his roster evolved, that's really his decision.
"I always expected, when we extended Pete, that we were eventually going to pass the baton to another manager."
That is not a surprise. Many others expected the same, both inside and outside the organization. The only surprise, again, is that the Phillies think they are close enough to that time to make the change now.
"Pete was in a tough spot," MacPhail said. "You think about it, and you'd just come off that awful game in Baltimore [on June 16, 2015]. You had [Chase] Utley yelling at [pitching coach Bob] McClure and [Jeff] Francoeur pitching. It was pretty bad. Pete has taken us from that point to this point. He's taken us from A to B.
"If Matt thinks that, 'OK, I'm at this point. Now, to get to here, I need a different voice,' that's up to Matt and I support his decision. He understands the consequences."
MacPhail said he hopes to have a new manager in place before the GM Meetings, from Nov. 13-16 in Orlando, Fla. He declined to offer specifics on what type of manager Klentak wants, but it is believed he will look for somebody younger and analytically inclined. It is unclear if prior managing or coaching experience is required.
"The manager has to trust the GM is doing everything he can to make his life better," MacPhail said. "And the GM has to trust the manager is getting the most out of the talent he has. It's a critical relationship. He is going to have to find somebody that he is comfortable with and thinks he can deliver those things he's looking for."
"You guys need to understand how much Matt likes Pete and how much Matt respects Pete. That was not an easy thing for Matt to do. He knew it was the young guy reassigning the old guy. ... He understood [that] had he felt that way and not taken action, he essentially would not have been doing what his job requires him to do."
Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.