By now you have certainly heard that the Phillies have removed the interim tag from manager Pete Mackanin and signed him to a 1 year extension through 2016, with a club option on 2017.
If nothing else, the move reveals just how much power incoming president Andy MacPhail has, in that he can choose the 2016 manager without any input from a new general manager. Ownership obviously feels that MacPhail is smart enough to make this kind of decision, or else there wouldn’t have been an announcement so soon.
However, the question must be asked: is this the right move? More specifically, does this move make sense to do right now?
I’m not here to say whether or not Mackanin is the right man for the job. Record-wise, his team hasn’t played all that well since the brief hot streak following the MLB All-Star break.
But as most fans know, this team isn’t about wins and losses. It’s about player development at the big league level and keeping the energy level up in spite of all the losing.
It’s fair to say that the player development angle has gone well. Some young players, such as Aaron Altherr, Jerad Eickhoff, and Cameron Rupp, have had varying degrees of success once they were given regular roles.
It’s also fair to say that the energy level is leaps and bounds ahead of where it was prior to the break. This was something MacPhail specifically noted after the announcement. While it isn’t showing in the standings, the team has noticeably played harder for Mackanin than they did under Sandberg.
Still, the timing of this seems a bit off. It appears to me that MacPhail has already put the new general manager, whoever he or she may be, in the awkward position of having to work with someone he/she may not prefer leading the team on the field.
It’s customary that incoming baseball leadership wants to choose their own leaders on the field. If MacPhail has already done so, then how much power can the new GM actually hold if one of the first major decisions they would usually get to make has already been made?
I’m not saying that the new GM and Mackanin can’t, or won’t, get along with one another. After all, anyone accepting the job will be doing so knowing the managerial situation as they themselves are hired. But that new GM should have at least been given a voice in the search for the managerial position.
It’s been noted that perhaps Mackanin is just a one year placeholder for the team, while the new general manager evaluates things during their first season. If that were so, it would appear to be tantamount to a slap in the face of Mackanin, a man who has put nearly 50 years of his life into the game of baseball.
To be able to reach this moment of finally leading a team of his own, then sweep the rug out from under him after one season of what projects to be another sub-.500 team is just unfair. Of course, he did accept a one-year contract with no guarantees beyond that.
The Phillies are beginning to run their team in the 21st century fashion of having a splashier, high-profile name as president of baseball operations, with a 2nd person assuming the GM title. Most other teams operating in such a manner have given their new GM a chance to help choose the on-field management.
Including the new GM in the managerial hiring process helps to ensure that all three in the triumvirate of power are on the same page, since each was handpicked for their respective jobs.
Most club presidents do defer more often to the general manager when it comes to these types of hiring decisions. To see the Phillies not following suit is a bit odd. Let’s hope that Mackanin is the right man for the job. We all know that another season of losing big isn’t what Phillies fans are looking forward to in 2016.