Could the Philadelphia Phillies actually reach or exceed the .500 mark in the 2016 season?
The last time we met, I gave you the first of five reasons that I believe the Phillies can indeed see a vast improvement over their disaster 2015 season. In that first installment of this series, I spoke about the rotation, noting that it has been filled out with actual Major League caliber arms, rather than the scrap pile replacements the club was throwing out there for many games last season.
Today, I want to take a look at the second reason that I believe the 2016 Phillies will have more success: manager Pete Mackanin.
#2 The Manager
I actually love Mackanin. It was obvious that the team became re-energized when he took the helm last season. The Phillies put together a 37-51 record after he took over following Ryne Sandberg‘s resignation. While that does not seem like a strong output for a manager, please remember the hand that Mackanin was dealt when he took over at the end of June.
The team was not exactly stockpiled with talent in the pitching rotation, as I laid out in the last piece of this “2016 Keys to Success” series, and the offensive lineup was not jam-packed with the 1927 “Murderer’s Row” New York Yankees. And the parts of that lineup that were working, specifically Maikel Franco, were not available to him for much of the season.
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Many have said Mackanin is one of the more respected men around the game. That sentiment was reflected in the way his players spoke of him. In a story written last season, Philly.com’s Ryan Lawrence did a tremendous job complimenting Mackanin’s relationships with the players. He quoted players including closer Ken Giles and longtime first baseman Ryan Howard, and the instant feedback was glowing to say the least.
“He’s the main reason we’re on a great streak right now. He knows how to keep us loose and he’s just letting us enjoy ourselves. Basically, he just wants us to go out there and succeed. He’s letting us do what we want to do and he’s helping us on the way. It’s huge,” Giles said.
Lawrence also mentioned a time from when Mackanin was the interim manager of the Cincinnati Reds, and confronted future Hall of Famer, Ken Griffey Jr. about one of the superstar’s most popular habits.
“I know how you like wearing your hat backwards, but that’s not happening anymore while I’m here and I’m going to fine you each time you’re wearing it like that,” Mackanin said. Junior listened.
The players responded when he would get upset in Philadelphia too. Mackanin was not afraid to make those same types of statements during his interim tenure here, benching Odubel Herrera for not hustling.
It seems as though he has the disciplinary attitude of Larry Bowa, perfectly balanced with the player respect of Charlie Manuel. Decisions such as that Herrera benching are going to be crucial for a young team moving forward.
With veteran leaders Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins gone, and Howard and Carlos Ruiz finishing up their Phillies tenure, Mackanin will need to garner respect mostly on his own, and it seems as though he already has it.
The best part of his situation is that no matter what happens in 2016, the Phillies front office looks like a group of mad scientists. If Mackanin works out and the team overachieves, they’ll have him for another year. If not, they likely won’t pick up his option, and they can move on to the man they believe can take them to where they want to be as the rebuild moves forward.
I know one thing: I will be rooting for Mackanin. His long road as the guy in the background is finally complete. He is now finally going to be taking his turn directly in the spotlight as the full-time permanent manager. I think he has been ready for a long time.