As the Philadelphia Phillies coaches prepared the club for the 2016 season, we introduced them to fans in a series here at TBOH.
Now in this, our final installment of introducing this year’s staff, I’ll take a look at the Captain of the ship, 64-year old Pete Mackanin, now beginning his first full season as an MLB manager.
Mackanin has traveled quite the path to earn his first gig as skipper of a big league club. Drafted by the Washington Senators in 1969 as a 2nd baseman, Mackanin played for nine seasons in Major League Baseball from 1973 to 1981 with the Rangers, Expos, Phillies and Twins.
Mackanin’s most productive season as a player came in 1975 with the old Expos, when he belted a dozen home runs and drove in 44 runs in 130 games. He came to Philadelphia in 1978, but played a total of just 18 games in red pinstripes over the next two seasons. Mackanin spent the final two years of his career in Minnesota as a member of the Twins, and then made the jump into the coaching ranks.
He got his first taste of managing all the way back in the 1988-89 off-season when he guided Águilas del Zulia to the Venezuelan Winter League title. He then took that club into the 1989 Caribbean Series and won there as well.
In 1990 he got his first taste of managing state-side as skipper of the Cincinnati Reds’ AAA Nashville affiliate. Mackanin directed them to an Eastern Division championship in his first season while the parent Reds won the World Series. Mackanin remained in that position until the 1992 season.
In 1995, Mackanin was named Minor League Manager of the Year by The Sporting News after leading Montreal’s AAA affiliate Ottawa Lynx to the International League crown. He then entered the MLB coaching ranks in 1997 with the Expos, hired as their 3rd base coach.
After four seasons in Montreal, Mackanin briefly went back to managing in the minor leagues before resurfacing with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2003, with whom he would serve as manager Lloyd McClendon’s bench coach.
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When McClendon was fired in September of 2005, Mackanin was named interim manager, finishing out that season with a 12-14 record. Mackanin wasn’t hired as the full-time manager after the year, and he moved back to the Reds organization as a Major League advance scout.
Mackanin would get his second opportunity to manage a big league team when the Reds’Jerry Narron was relieved of his duties on July 1st, 2007. Though he would guide the club to a 41-39 record in the season’s final months, the Reds would still finish in 5th place in the NL Central with a 72-90 overall record. Despite Mackanin’s success, Cincy decided to go in a different direction, naming Dusty Baker as their new manager.
In 2008, Mackanin returned to the scouting aspect of baseball, working for the New York Yankees. In 2009, he came to the Phillies organization to work on Charlie Manuel’s staff as the bench coach, staying in that position through the 2012 season. The Phillies elected not to renew Mackanin’s contract for the 2013 season, and he decided to return to scouting with the Yanks.
Mackanin’s time away from Philadelphia wouldn’t last long. After Ryne Sandberg replaced Manuel as the Fightin’ Phils’ skipper toward the end of the 2013 season, Sandberg brought in Mackanin to coach 3rd base for the 2014 season.
When Sandberg suddenly resigned on June 26th of last season, Mackanin was named interim manager for the third time in his coaching career. The move came just days before the Phillies had announced that Andy MacPhail would be named team president.
“He had a great rapport with everybody. That was true with guys who played and even the ones who didn’t play.” ~ Bowa on Mackanin
This time, Mackanin made the most of the opportunity by going 15-5 in the first 20 games after the July MLB All-Star break. Despite the fact that he finished the season with a 37-51 record (just 22-46 after that hot start) it was good enough for MacPhail to reward Mackanin with a one-year extension to stay on as the Phils’ full-time manager for the 2016 season.
Mackanin is highly regarded around the game for his ability to communicate with players, letting them know exactly what he expects in a way that they understand — something Sandberg failed to do in his time here. That communication ability was a major reason Mackanin stayed on as manager.
“He had a great rapport with everybody,” Phillies bench coach Larry Bowa said in a piece on Mackanin by the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Bob Brookover. “That was true with guys who played and even the ones who didn’t play. He talked to them all. It does help that he speaks Spanish. He let guys know that he played and he understands how hard the game can be. Here’s an example: Cesar [Hernandez] missed first base and was called out and when he came back to the dugout, Pete looks at him and says in Spanish, ‘Hey, Cesar, that’s what the bags are there for.’ “
Mackanin apparently did a good job of impressing his bosses this spring in Clearwater, as general manager Matt Klentak announced a one-year contract extension for Mackanin taking the skipper through the 2017 season. There is also a Phillies club option for the 2018 season on the contract.
Having been involved with the game for more than four decades as a player, coach, scout, and manager, Mackanin is a stickler for good, fundamental baseball. That adherence to fundamentals was a major reason he brought in former Phillies player Mickey Morandini, who also became known for emphasizing fundamentals as a minor league skipper, this past off-season to coach 1st base with the Phillies.
With the organization well into their rebuilding program and the team’s top prospects set to make their debut in the big leagues at some point this season, Mackanin will be faced with handling many different types of personalities at different stages of development during the course of the 2016 Phillies season.
After finally getting a much-deserved chance to manage in the majors, if anyone’s up for the challenge, it’s Mackanin. The Phillies season kicked off yesterday afternoon with a disheartening loss to the Reds in which the bullpen blew a late lead and the offense spun its wheels. These are the challenges that Mackanin will continue working to help the club overcome as they move forward.