In the culmination of a six-week process, the Philadelphia Phillies announced today that 35-year old Matt Klentak has been hired as the new franchise General Manager. He thus becomes not only the 11th GM in franchise history, but also the youngest to ever fill that position with the organization.
Klentak comes to the Phillies after serving as the assistant General Manager with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for the last four years. Klentak has worked in Major League Baseball for most of the last dozen years since graduating from Dartmouth in 2002. He earned a bachelor’s degree in economics at the Ivy League school, as well as starring as the baseball team’s starting shortstop.
As reported here over the weekend, the Phillies had narrowed their search to three finalists, of which Klentak was the first we mentioned. Also as reported then, there were increasing signs that the announcement would come over this past weekend. Word indeed leaked out yesterday on the Klentak choice, and the club made that final announcement official today.
Let’s be frank about one thing right up front: no one knows for sure whether this was the “right guy” for the job, or the “best possible” candidate for the position. No one knows “how he will do” as the club GM in the coming years.
What we do know is that Phillies fans clamored for the removal of Ruben Amaro from that position. Done. Phillies fans clamored for John Middleton to step up and take charge of the ownership group. Done.
Now those same Phillies fans need to trust Middleton and the man who he obviously had a huge say in bringing in to run the organization as club president, Andy MacPhail, as they move forward in making decisions such as this hiring.
Klentak has worked with and for MacPhail in the past. That doesn’t make his hiring any more or less credible. It is simply factual that when people work together in one organization, and move to a position of power within another organization, that they are going to try to bring talented people who they trust and in whom they have confidence along with them.
The Phillies underwent a lengthy identification, selection, interview, and evaluation, and process of available candidates. From 2008-11, Klentak was MacPhail’s right-hand man with the Baltimore Orioles. In the end, Klentak was clearly one of their favored choices as a finalist, and if a comfort level with MacPhail pushed him to the top, then fine.
“…if we do our jobs right, we will turn this into a winner and it’s gonna be fun for a long time.” ~ Klentak
It’s now time for all three men: Middleton, MacPhail, and Klentak to get to work in moving the organization forward in the rebuilding process. Middleton needs to make wise financial decisions that may include a couple of bold expenditures. MacPhail needs to utilize the resources provided by Middleton properly. Klentak needs to work the phones, grease the palms, and swing the deals that will help push that process forward.
As quoted by the Associated Press, Klentak knows there is only so much that he can do in the end, at least as far as a timeline on that rebuild translating into a winner: “I have very ambitious goals. I want to win. When is going to be dictated by the players. The game isn’t about the guys who wear ties and sit at the table.”
Many have wanted the Phillies to take a more analytics-based approach to player development. Under Klentak, that will absolutely take place. However, Jake Kaplan at Philly.com quoted Klentak as favoring a more balanced approach: “Teams that lean too far in one direction…are teams that tend to get in trouble. I want to make sure that we are looking at all avenues, all pieces of information, and create a nice, balanced approach…“
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There was a lot of the usual glad-handing, back-slapping, and ego-stroking at today’s press conference to announce the hiring. It’s simply all a part of the process in today’s media-starved world. But now, the real work of rolling up the sleeves behind closed doors by these men will make or break this franchise over the next few years.
Some of that rebuilding process has already begun, pushed by Middleton as he began to take the reins, directing former club president Pat Gillick and ex-GM (now Boston Red Sox first base coach) Ruben Amaro Jr to start turning over an aging roster.
This year, the Phillies successfully integrated a handful of rookies who all performed well into their regular lineup and pitching rotation in 3rd baseman Maikel Franco, center fielder Odubel Herrera, and starting pitchers Aaron Nola and Jerad Eickhoff. Next season, that group should be joined by top prospect shortstop J.P. Crawford at some point. Also, a number of other young pitchers will be getting a shot at the rotation and bullpen.
In the end, as we have anticipated all along, expect the next calendar year, including the full 2016 season, to be another year of examining, evaluating, and building upon the young talent already present in the organization.
“There’s a really strong foundation of players in this organization, some of whom are in the big leagues and some of whom are coming,” said Klentak as reported by Corey Seidman with Comcast SportsNet. “I think that, coupled with the first pick in the draft, the largest international bonus pool this year, the first priority in the waiver period, the first pick in the Rule 5 draft…if we do our jobs right, we will turn this into a winner and it’s gonna be fun for a long time.”
All realistic fans of the team are prepared for a possible rough 2016 season. What they want to see is at least incremental improvement. Exciting selections in the MLB Amateur Draft, a couple of more strong youngsters added at the big league level. Hope that this will not be a half-decade rebuild, but that the Phillies can return Citizens Bank Park to the glorious days of a half-decade ago, sooner rather than later.
Today’s hiring of Matt Klentak to fill the GM position puts the team in place that will make the moves that will ultimately make that happen. Today was a nice day for smiles and speeches. In Philly, talk is cheap. Sure, we want to get this right. We also want to win, and would prefer to not wait until the next decade for it. Get to work fellas.