Andy MacPhail is still in charge of the Phillies. Why?
This week news began surfacing that former Red Sox and Tigers executive Dave Dombrowski was a front-runner to replace Matt Klentak as the Phillies General Manager after he resigned in earlier in the month.
Dombrowski 64, is a strong candidate who ownership seems to be seriously considering. His track record over the better part of four decades speaks for itself. In 1997 Dombrowski put together the scrappy underdog Florida Marlins team who won the World Series. He followed that up by putting together two pennant winning teams for the hapless Detroit Tigers organization (who is even worse than the Phillies) in 2006 and 2012. After Theo Epstein left to take over the Chicago Cubs, Dombrowski oversaw the Red Sox from 2015-2019 winning the World Series in 2018 and posting three 90+ win seasons.
In Dombrowski, who has won baseball executive of the year twice in his career, the Phillies would be adding a leader with the experience and established baseball relationships that became a consistent question mark of the Klentak era.
According to Scott Lauber, Dombrowski would be more interested in the Phillies job than the current opening in Anaheim heading up the Angels. But his services come with the stipulation that be granted complete control of baseball decisions.
Currently that control within the Phillies organizational has interim GM Ned Rice, (who is a protege of MacPhail from his days in Baltimore), reporting to Team President of Baseball Operations Andy MacPhail.
MacPhail 67, has been in the position with the club since June 2015 when Pat Gillick retired and ownership decided to go in the direction of the young and analytically driven Klentak.
It all fit perfectly within the Phillies ‘keep it in the family’ and ‘hire a baseball guy’ philosophy. The team would look progressive to fans who had watched the movie Moneyball, and they would appear to be attempting to duplicate the success of teams around the league who had embraced statistical modeling. At the same time Middleton and ownership would sleep well at night knowing they had a safe, old school company man they could control in MacPhail making the final decisions.
Fast forward to 2020 and MacPhail has now been in charge of the Phillies for five seasons. His tenure is on its 2nd head coach and he is now seemingly involved in the search for his 2nd general manager.
Amazingly he has missed the playoffs for ten straight seasons dating back to 2011, when he was in the same position with the Baltimore Orioles.
The Phillies themselves have missed the playoffs for nine consecutive seasons and yet have a middle of the road farm system lacking high-end impact prospects. Other than Alec Bohm the team has failed to consistently develop young talent and transition them to the big league club. Even the young players who have reached the big league club such as Scott Kingery, Adam Haseley, Mickey Moniak, and Spencer Howard have struggled at times, lending doubt to their future impact. The outlook for pitching prospects is even worse.
Just last week in a flurry of shitty news the Phillies decided to fire senior members of its scouting staff in a move they attributed to the uncertainty surrounding Covid-19 and Brian Price retired as pitching coach meaning they will be on their 5th coach in as many years.
This past season the Phillies put together one of the worst bullpen groups in the history of baseball. MacPhail and his hand-picked GM Matt Klentak felt confident heading into the season with a group that would post a +7.00 ERA and would blow more saves than they converted.
MacPhail also signed off on these awful contracts during his tenure:
- David Robertson 2years/$23 million
- Jake Arrieta: 3 years/$75 million
- Odubel Herrera: 5 years/$30.5 million
But by far the biggest stain on MacPhail’s tenure as president is the current contract mess surrounding JT Realmuto. Forget that the Phllies traded away top prospect Sixto Sanchez to acquire Realmuto.
The fact that the front office allowed him to hit free agency as the best catcher in the league on its own is a fireable offense in it’s own.
Ownership, the team leader Bryce Harper and the fanbase are all in strong agreement that the team should retain the services of Realmuto. And for a franchise with the payroll flexibility and market size of the Phillies there are few viable financial reasons for not being able to afford him.
“He is still the team president, and he’s got – as I think you know – one more year left on his contract…his contract will be up at the end of 2021,” Middleton said. “He and I have been talking for two years…frankly, since he signed his extension…about what the world looks like when he steps down. And we’re not sure exactly when he’s gonna do that, but it’s a conversation that he and I have had multiple times and we’re talking about it even now.”
From that quote it appears Middleton is finally beginning to waver on whether to stay loyal to MacPhail. It is becoming apparent that if ownership wants to upgrade the general manager position, it will be tough to keep the status quo in the front office.
But at the same time Middleton highly values the opinions and baseball knowledge MacPhail brings to the front office. In the same interview last week, Middleton defended MacPhail, referring to his large quantity of league wide contacts and pointing to his two World Series victories as GM of the Minnesota Twins in 1987 and 1991 as evidence of his baseball success.
Allowing MacPhail to remain in charge of an organization because of accomplishments that occurred before many of the people who read this site were born is an awful decision. It’s the same organizational philosophy the Phillies have employed for decades. And it is one that repeatedly leads to the team sitting home every October.
For the Phillies to move forward as an organization with a modern and winning approach, John Middleton should force MacPhail to resign with one year remaining on his contract and reassign him as a special advisor.
I am not saying Dave Dombrowski is the correct fit for the Phillies, or that he should be the leading candidate for the position. In fact, I recently wrote why I thought Dave Kantrovitz should be high on the teams list. But keeping Andy MacPhail at the top of the front office makes little sense considering his recent on-field track record and honestly if we measure by just about any metric.
Mandatory Credit: Dickenson College