When introduced earlier this week as the new general manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, Matt Klentak laid out five elements that he and the entire organization would need to make work in order to create a long-term winning environment.
This week down in Clearwater, Florida, the Phillies began to hold their annual organizational meetings, which will help lay out the course of the franchise in both the short and long terms. It is certain that Klentak is taking this ideal opportunity to begin emphasizing those elements.
Those five elements as reported by MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki are: discipline, connectivity, information, culture, and winning.
An examination of each will show that the club has a long ways to travel in order to reach his goal of winning, and then maintaining that success on a consistent basis.
Klentak’s idea of “discipline” in summation means that the organization needs to have an identity, and that identity needs to become the foundation on which everything that the club does on every level is built upon.
Once that identity is agreed upon, there needs to be direction. The club needs to come up with a real plan to get where they want to be, while standing firm in who they are as an identity.
That’s where the discipline part becomes important. Rome wasn’t built in a day. If you know who you are, and where you want to go, and have a good, well-considered plan, then you need to follow it, giving it a real chance to work over time.
In Klentak’s own words: “Once we set that road map, we are going to follow it and be disciplined on how we follow it.”
Welcome to the 21st century, and the actual embracing of an age-old term: teamwork. There cannot be little fiefdom’s within the Phillies kingdom, operating by their own plan, under their own agenda. No one in the organization can be allowed to go rogue.
That isn’t to mean that innovative thinking are stifled, and flexibility based on a given situation is not allowed. Connectivity simply means that there needs to be an accepted organizational process for reaching goals, and that communication needs to be strong throughout the organization.
As Klentak said: “In process of all areas of baseball operations, we will be connected. We will work together.”
For how long have fans, and in fact, industry experts, called for the Phillies to more intimately embrace sabermetrics and other modern methods of talent evaluation? Some efforts had already begun, but clearly the brain trust under Klentak will expand these efforts.
The Phillies should be second to none in the types of information that it utilizes, the systems that it uses to access and evaluate, and the people who it hires to put that information to its best use.
“…we will use every form of technology and information available to us to be at the forefront of information in this industry,” said Klentak. That should be music to the critics ears.
Klentak made a very astute observation when approaching this very important element of building a winning organization for the longterm.
“…we can’t force culture, but we can build an environment that allows our players to succeed — to play loose and play confidently.”
How many times have you heard this kind of phrase tossed around: a “Dodger Way”, the “Cardinal Way”, some “Phillies Way” of playing?
Clearly, Klentak would like the Phillies style to be free-flowing, open, and positive. Players in the 21st century respond much more positively to a less restrictive, non-authoritarian approach. However, players also have to bring positivity into the clubhouse.
Attitude, lifestyle, personal discipline. All of these things need to be important to the players, individually and collectively. Character will help build a positive, winning Philadelphia Phillies culture.
Culture is often elusive, but one thing is certain: for more than a century, outside of brief periods of time that rarely lasted more than a handful of years, the Phillies culture has been a losing culture. That simply must change, and it will not be easy.
For some, this might seem like the “duhhh” piece to this “Five Keys” puzzle. However, it has always been a given that winning cures a lot of ills, creates a lot of chemistry, and goes a long way towards making your “culture” look strong.
The Phillies cannot become the Philadelphia 76ers, content to bide their time and take 5-6-7 years to build a contender. That may be a bit of an unfair comparison, as the MLB and NBA models are completely different. But the idea is understood: the Phillies need to begin winning, soon, and need to continue that winning on a consistent basis.
To win consistently in Major League Baseball requires two main things: getting regular pieces from your minor league system integrated successfully and productively to the big league squad, and making the correct choices when bringing in talent from outside the organization, such as via free agency and the draft.
Everybody “wants” to win. For management and ownership to say that it wants such a thing is, frankly, unimpressive. “If we are successful in those first four points, we will do a lot of winning,” said Klentak.
The proof is in the pudding. What matters is, what is the Phillies management team prepared to do in order to make that consistent winning happen?
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Matt Klentak is certainly an intelligent young man. He certainly has accumulated a nice background in the game over the last decade or so. He definitely has a good working relationship with club president Andy MacPhail, who himself has a strong relationship with ownership leader John Middleton.
This week’s organizational meetings for the Phillies are just the first step, but they are an important time. First impressions make a difference. Hopefully Klentak can not only make that good impression throughout the organization, but more importantly those in positions of importance within the organization buy into his ‘Five Keys’ approach.
And if someone or some group is not willing to be a part of this new team, this new way of operating, this new “culture”, then they need to be quickly shown the door. Together forward, following the ‘Five Keys’ – that is the “Phillies Way” now.