Phillies scouting cuts a difficult decision during pandemic

Matt Klentak and Pete Mackanin of the Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Matt Klentak and Pete Mackanin of the Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

The Phillies have let go seven members of their scouting department, including some notable names

Friday was a difficult day in the Philadelphia Phillies organization as seven members of their scouting department — including 1993 National League champion Dave Hollins and former manager Pete Mackanin — were told that they would not have their contracts renewed for the 2021 season.

The Phillies are also parting ways  with Howie Freiling, Mike GarciaJeff HarrisChris Knabenshue, and Jesse Levis, according to NBC Sports Philadelphia Jim Salisbury. Mackanin, Hollins, Freiling, Levis and Harris collaborated on professional scouting for the Phillies, while Garcia and Knabenshue worked on the amateur scouting team. Mackanin, who managed the Phillies before Gabe Kapler, had the title of Special Assistant to General Manager Matt Klentak.

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Cost-cutting is an unfortunate trend in Major League Baseball, largely caused by the COVID-19 crisis. Almost every team has made layoffs, cutbacks, and budget cuts; scouts seem to have been the most affected.

The Chicago Cubs recently made 100-plus layoffs, many of whom include long-term employees. And, across their own organization, the Phillies have reportedly offered buyouts and have said that layoffs are “inevitable,” according to Salisbury. Sadly, the worst appears to have yet to come.

“I have so much respect for scouts. To me, they are the soul of the game and are some of the best and most dedicated people that you’ll ever meet,” Salisbury recently said on an NBC Sports Philadelphia podcast. “The way they love and serve the game, I just have so much admiration for them and this hurts so much.”

Salisbury went on to note that as scouting departments continue to decrease in size, he does not think it makes the game of baseball any better. For years now, he notes, front offices have “changed the landscape of this game” with the trend to “streamline and make things more efficient.”

“A lot of teams have cut back on their scouting operations,” Salisbury said. “Now, they are relying on data; video; and young, inexpensive eyes to do these evaluations.”

Revenues across the league are down; this past season, MLB reportedly lost $3 billion. Phillies Managing Partner John Middleton said that anticipated revenues next season will impact what the organization can do this offseason. In other words, bringing back J.T. Realmuto, Didi Gregorius, and making other significant improvements is at stake due to the pandemic.

This is not an easy time for anyone; these Phillies scouting department cuts are a sign of the times. We can only hope things start turning in a positive direction.

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