The 2015 Philadelphia Phillies’ season will go down as one of the more pivotal seasons of the last decade. No, not because of dramatic wins and October baseball; but because 2015 is the year the organization finally flipped the page on the 2008 Phillies. We have seen the departures of Jimmy Rollins and Cole Hamels. A week from now, Chase Utley could be wearing a different uniform. Ruben Amaro Jr.’s days seem to be numbered, Pat Gillick will be replaced by Andy MacPhail after the season and it looks like John Middleton is finally ready to step into the spotlight as the new face of the front office. As we transition from the end of the greatest era of Phillies baseball to an exciting core of young prospects ushering in a hopeful future, the team is still missing a clear candidate for a crucial position: the manager.
Prior to the weekend series in Milwaukee, the Phillies are 20-21 since Pete Mackanin took over for Ryne Sandberg and they are 17-7 since the All-Star break. This is the same team that went 26-48 (.351 win %) under Sandberg and looked historically awful doing it. The fact that the team has been playing .500 baseball for a little under two months should tell us two things: 1. The team wasn’t AS bad as the .351 win % led everyone to believe and 2. Mackanin is far better-suited for this team than Sandberg was. Under new leadership, the Philliesares hitting better, playing harder and, most importantly, they’re playing like they care. Guys, Chase Utley actually SMILED the other day. I saw it, I swear. But while Mackanin has done a fantastic job as interim manager, I still think it is imperative that the front office does not base their decision on one half-season of baseball.
Let’s not kid ourselves; this is a really bad baseball team. They’ll be a bad baseball team in 2016 and they’ll probably still be bad in 2017. However, that doesn’t mean the manager will be of any less importance. Similar to what the Sixers are going through, the front office will need to find the right manager that can help develop a promising young core of players and that process cannot be rushed or taken lightly. Maikel Franco, Aaron Nola, Ken Giles, J.P. Crawford and any other future prospect will need the perfect mentor-type personality to help them reach max potential. MacPhail and Amaro Jr’s successor (please, God, let there be a successor) will be tasked with hiring the manager who will help lead the team into the next decade. We’ve seen this before. Ten years ago, the Phillies had some promising young talent and Ed Wade had the responsibility of hiring the man who could take that core to the next level. There was pressure from the fanbase to hire the experienced Jim Leyland, who had some success in Pittsburgh and won a World Series with Florida. Wade chose a relatively unknown in Charlie Manuel and the rest is history. Would the Phillies have had the same success under Leyland as they did for Manuel? Would we have seen a world championship in 2008? We’ll never know. What we do know is Manuel was the perfect manager for that team and he handled the players’ personalities to perfection.
Mackanin could very well be that perfect manager for the next generation of players and his emphasis on communication and dialogue seems to be working. However, the front office should still do their due diligence on guys like Bud Black, Ron Gardenhire and any other candidate that could be out there. After all, of any move that has been made towards rebuilding a winning team, this one could prove to be the most important.