Even though Matt Klentak is gone, the Philadelphia Phillies still have issues.
We’ve had a few days to decompress from the good news that Matt Klentak is no longer running the show for the Philadelphia Phillies. But things still aren’t very sunny around here. If Klentak were the only party responsible for five years of middling baseball, you might think that better days lie ahead. The lingering presence of Andy MacPhail, however, continues to cast a pall over the organization.
I stand by my assertion that the MacPhail era has been a disaster for the Phillies, something that I wrote about well over a year ago. Keep in mind this was before the club’s second straight September collapse and then the subsequent drawn-out firing of the hapless Gabe Kapler.
It was also before MacPhail’s disciple Klentak assembled the worst bullpen since FDR was in the White House, which was directly responsible for the Phillies missing the playoffs in a season where more than half the league qualified for them. It was before we knew how badly the J.T. Realmuto situation would deteriorate, with the best catcher in baseball almost certainly departing this offseason. And it was well before owner John Middleton embarrassed himself in front of the media recently and proved that he has no idea what he’s doing.
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But, back to MacPhail.
I can’t say for certain that the long-time baseball executive doesn’t have a clue anymore, because I don’t know exactly what he’s been doing for the last five years. Aside from bringing in his protege Klentak, who subsequently picked Gabe Kapler, there is no paper trail for any decisions that he’s made in his role as President of Baseball Operations. And the most meaningful sound bite/quotes we have from him in recent years came last summer when he took the most carefree approach ever when asked about how the Phillies might try to make a playoff push. Absolutely deplorable.
I know that guys like MacPhail have to answer to the boss, toe the company line, and work within the budget they are allotted. But they get jobs in the first place because of their track records, which were supposed to have given them the kind of insight and experience that can make a tangible difference (as in, a positive one) on an organization over the course of several years. No such luck on that front.
MacPhail’s past successes, which came 30 years ago but apparently are still impressive to John Middleton, mean absolutely nothing right now. More recently, teams with which he’s been employed have missed the playoffs in the last 12 full seasons that he’s spent with them, a stretch that spans from the Cubs to the Orioles to the Phillies. Fun fact: MacPhail’s best season in his four years as GM in Baltimore was 69 wins. The year after he resigned, the O’s won 93 games and made the playoffs. But let’s just keep putting blind faith in the guy.
Andy MacPhail’s contract with the Phillies runs through the 2021 season, and all indications are that he plans to let it run its course and then retire. And that’s great. But here and now, he’s still heavily involved in the day-to-day processes of the team as they look for new leadership. Ned Rice, Klentak’s former right-hand man, has been named interim GM. Klentak still lurks in the shadows, re-assigned to working at the Campo’s in Ashburn Alley or whatever the Phillies can dream up to get their money’s worth out of him. And MacPhail continues to hover, a symbol of the last few years of futility.
And so I ask, what exactly has changed with the Phillies? As of right now, nothing. A culture shift is needed if this team is ever going to get pointed in the right direction once again.
Until then, it’s folly for John Middleton to put any sort of trust in Andy MacPhail and the kind of thinking, business decisions, or whatever you want to call it that has dragged the Phillies into their current situation, a bigger mess than they were in at the start of this “rebuild” five years ago. And that’s why the Phillies are going nowhere fast while MacPhail still has Middleton’s ear and exerts any kind of influence whatsoever.
Removing Matt Klentak was only a start; there is much work left to do for John Middleton. Unfortunately, there’s not much reason for optimism right now. The Middleton family, in case you didn’t know, amassed their wealth in the tobacco trade. Perhaps, then, it’s only fitting that they got rich by peddling lethal products because the Phillies are absolutely killing me right now.