Friday, September 11, 2015

No Game Played But The Phillies Still Win

GAME RECAP: Phillies Game Postponed Due To Rain

The Phillies and Cubs will play a single-admission doubleheader Friday at Citizens Bank Park. Rain postponed Thursday night's series opener between the two teams. The doubleheader will begin at 5:05 p.m. ET. Phillies left-hander Adam Morgan (5-5, 4.42 ERA) will face Cubs right-hander Jake Arrieta (18-6, 2.03 ERA) in Game 1. Phillies right-hander Alec Asher (0-2, 10.61 ERA) gets the start opposite Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks (6-6, 4.08 ERA) in Game 2. Fans holding tickets to Thursday's game may exchange them for tickets to any remaining Phillies home game this season, including Friday's doubleheader. The tickets may also be exchanged for any 2016 home game, when single game tickets go on sale in February. Exchanges should occur by May 31, 2016.

  • Andy MacPhail announced Thursday that Ruben Amaro Jr. would not return next season as general manager. MacPhail has begun a search for Amaro's replacement. Scott Proefrock will serve as interim GM until MacPhail announces a hire.
  • This will be Hendricks' first career start against Philadelphia, the only National League team he has not faced. Hendricks has a 3.56 ERA in 13 home starts this season, but a 4.56 ERA in 14 road starts.
  • Arrieta is 12-1 with a 0.99 ERA (12 earned runs in 109 innings) and 108 strikeouts in his last 15 starts. His only loss came against the Phillies on July 25, when former Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels threw a no-hitter at Wrigley Field. Arrieta also has a 17-inning scoreless streak.

The Cubs will continue their postseason pursuit with a doubleheader Friday against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Rain postponed Thursday night's series opener between the two teams. The single-admission doubleheader will begin at 5:05 p.m. ET. Phillies left-hander Adam Morgan (5-5, 4.42 ERA) will face Cubs right-hander Jake Arrieta (18-6, 2.03) in Game 1. Phillies right-hander Alec Asher (0-2, 10.61) will face Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks (6-6, 4.08) in Game 2. Fans holding tickets to Thursday's game may exchange them for tickets to any remaining Phillies home game this season, including Friday's doubleheader. The tickets may also be exchanged for any 2016 home game, when single game tickets go on sale in February. Exchanges should occur by May 31, 2016.


Finally! – Andy MacPhail said Thursday afternoon that he expected the decision to be easier. But in the end, MacPhail still made the decision he believed he would make in June, when the Phillies announced MacPhail would replace Pat Gillick as team president after the 2015 season. MacPhail told Ruben Amaro Jr. on Thursday morning that he would not return as general manager, initiating a GM search for an organization in the early stages of a lengthy rebuilding process. Amaro left Citizens Bank Park a short time later. Assistant general manager Scott Proefrock will be interim general manager until Amaro's replacement is hired. "I didn't think this one was going to be as hard as it turned out to be," MacPhail said. "I've read everything I could read. I've listened to try to help me understand as much as I could about the past, and I've learned as much as I think I could over a two-month period about an organization and those changes that have impacted the game over the last few years, all with the intent of finding a way to return the Phillies to consistent contenders, a place they enjoyed in the not-too-distant past. Unfortunately to accomplish that goal, the conclusion that I reached was that we needed a fresh perspective in the baseball operations department, a fresh approach." MacPhail said he made up his mind to remove Amaro two or three days ago. After informing Amaro and then meeting with the baseball operations staff, MacPhail and Phillies owner John Middleton answered questions about the decision during a news conference. "You look at any business, the decisions made are made not exclusively by one person in isolation, but from everybody else in the organization," said Middleton, who revealed the conversation about Amaro's fate began in December or January, when ownership interviewed MacPhail for the job. "But that doesn't mean in well-run and successful companies there isn't accountability. So even though people are making decisions in groups, there is still a person who is primarily responsible for that decision and has to be held accountable. So I think we recognize that we had a problem, and we're trying as fast as we can to get out of that problem and get back to winning." MacPhail said it would be ideal but ambitious to hire a GM before the team's organizational meetings at the end of next month. He said he had not contacted any potential candidates, although he certainly has been thinking of them. MacPhail should have no shortage of interest. The Phils are a team willing to spend money, and ranked their farm system as the seventh best in baseball, which means talent is percolating to the big leagues. Amaro played a role in resurrecting the once-barren farm system with a slew of trades in the past nine months, deals Amaro finally got permission to make once Gillick issued the order to rebuild in August 2014. But before that, the Phillies fell from a franchise-record 102 victories in 2011 to a team on pace for the worst record in baseball, despite one of the highest payrolls. Amaro could not escape that. Fans' sentiment turned against him as the team continued to lose. He also made comments regarding the fan base and iconic players like Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, which Middleton said ownership noticed. "We were certainly aware of the fans' feelings," Middleton said. So who is the ideal candidate to replace Amaro? "He needs to hire himself," Middleton said of MacPhail. "And I say that because, 30 years ago, a very young Andy MacPhail was general manager, a newly minted general manager [with the Twins]. This guy was sitting in an office in Minneapolis and he was playing with mathematical, statistical, analytical tools. And he was using them to try to figure out how he could make better evaluations, therefore, better personnel decisions." "I intend to look at a wide spectrum of candidates," MacPhail added. "I would think it would be a mistake if we pigeonhole ourselves into saying, 'We're going to go for young analytics,' or 'We're going to go for an experienced baseball guy.' I see that out there with other clubs. Why would you restrict your ability to talk to whoever you want? I think you have a responsibility. Like I said two months ago, let's look at everything. And it's the same philosophy here. Let's look at a wide spectrum of candidates. You might be surprised." But once a new GM is hired, how will it work? The Phillies hired MacPhail to mostly work with the baseball operations staff. He will make the final decisions on major matters, although ownership always has the final say when it comes to payroll, etc. "I'm not here because of any marketing acumen," MacPhail said. MacPhail insisted the next GM would not be his subordinate. "I've been in this role before," MacPhail said. "I've had GMs under me before. If you talk to them, I think they feel like they had a fair amount of autonomy." Regardless, change is coming to an organization many think has been slow to adapt to change. "When Tiger Woods decided to change his golf swing in the prime of his career and people were going, 'Are you crazy? You're the best golfer in the world,'" Middleton said. "He said, 'Well, I need to be better.'  Their questioning was about the risk associated with somebody at that level going out and trying to do something different. So it's hard sometimes to convince people when they are highly successful as the Phillies have been that maybe the world is changing and maybe you need to look at it a little differently and do some things differently, and that's a hard thing to do."

Additional Analysis – If it had just been a matter of not renewing the contract of the general manager, that would have been difficult enough. It's never easy to let somebody go who has been part of the organization for years. The Phillies' decision to part ways with Ruben Amaro Jr. was particularly fraught, however. Amaro was more than a guy who kept a high-profile seat warm for seven years. He was more than the steward of a team that won three division titles on his watch. He wasn't perfect. He made some moves that backfired, which made him just like every other general manager who ever lived. Otherwise, incoming club president Andy MacPhail wouldn't already be making calls, putting together a list of potential replacements. To an unusual degree, though, he was part of the fabric of the team. He was born in Philadelphia. His father, Ruben Sr., played and coached for the Phillies. He grew up and attended prep school in the area. He also played for the Phillies. He was a bat boy for the 1980 Phillies team that became the first in franchise history to win the World Series. He was the assistant general manager for the 2008 club that became the second to take home the big, shiny trophy. John Middleton, spokesman for the ownership group, acknowledged all that. "Moments like this are also occasions for reflection and gratitude," he said. "Ruben has a long history with the Phillies. He started as a bat boy in 1980, continued as a player. He was here for our glory years. As an assistant general manager [under Ed Wade and Pat Gillick] for 10 years, he helped and contributed significantly to rebuilding the organization from the depths of the late '90s that led to the World Series championship in 2008. "I'd like to thank Ruben personally for his years of service to the organization ... and for the scores of memories that all of us will cherish forever." As a general manager, Amaro will be remembered for being bold and unafraid. He signed free agents like Raul Ibanez, Pedro Martinez, Jonathan Papelbon and A.J. Burnett and traded for big names such as Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Hunter Pence and Michael Young. He traded for, traded away and re-signed Cliff Lee. He assembled the Four Aces rotation in 2011. He did all that with the full encouragement of the organization that was trying to win as many championships as possible with a once-in-a-lifetime nucleus that included Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard. And if it had worked, if the Phillies had won one or two more World Series, who knows? Maybe the inevitable decline that followed because of the draft choices that were lost as compensation for free agents signed and the prospects traded away for established stars wouldn't have been viewed as harshly. But after losing the World Series to the Yankees in 2009, Amaro's first year on the job, the Phillies never got that close again. They were eliminated by the Giants in the NLCS in 2010 and by the Cardinals in the NLDS in 2011, despite winning a franchise-record 102 games. Now they have baseball's worst record. Once the franchise decided to rebuild, Amaro did an impressive job of restocking the farm system. MacPhail, who came on board in July, was impressed by what he was able to get back for Hamels, Utley, Jonathan Papelbon and Ben Revere. "Ruben Amaro ran that Trade Deadline. Ruben Amaro didn't do anything that Ruben Amaro didn't want to do," MacPhail said. "I think, in fairness, it would be difficult to make the case that Ruben Amaro did not do good work when I was here. I think he really did." None of that changed the ultimate decision in the end. But that, and Amaro's long history with the organization, did make that choice more difficult than it normally would have been.

So, Who Stays? – Andy MacPhail told Ruben Amaro Jr. on Thursday that he would not return next season as general manager. Perhaps the first question on the minds of people in the Phillies' front office and coaching staff: What does this mean for them? As MacPhail illustrated, a new team president often wants his own general manager. And a new general manager often wants his own people working underneath him. But MacPhail said that is not the case here. He expects the baseball operations staff to return, at least through next season. And it sounds like Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin has a good chance of returning, too. "I went to some effort to assure them that in the event there is a new hire and when that happens we're not going to allow a bunch of changes just so they can bring in people that they're familiar with," said MacPhail, who met with the baseball operations staff before Thursday's news conference at Citizens Bank Park. "That's not going to happen. These people have earned the right to stay here. They've distinguished themselves in my mind. It was the first thing Ruben asked about. I think they should feel their immediate future going into the '16 season is secure." Of course, the next general manager seems likely to use next season to evaluate his staff. After that, who knows? MacPhail indicated Mackanin has a good chance to return. Because of the time it will take to hire Amaro's replacement, he might want his new GM to begin working immediately on player personnel, instead of beginning an exhaustive managerial search. "I would encourage everybody not to make any assumptions about what's happening today to have any domino impact on the manager," MacPhail said. "I think that's something that's still under review. I know the tradition is that the GM picks his manager. I'll just go full disclosure here, if that happens, and it takes you a while to find a GM and then he gets consumed the first month or two with a manager and coaching staff, look how much of the offseason we've lost. That's a high price to pay. So we have to keep that in mind as well." "The big way to measure those things are energy, effort enthusiasm," MacPhail said about Mackanin's job performance. "The manager doesn't necessarily have any impact on the talent. The organization provides it to him. The best thing he can hope to do is increase the level of energy, effort and enthusiasm. And certainly we had a month-long streak where this team had the best record of anyone coming out of the break, so he certainly has demonstrated that he was capable of doing it." Said Mackanin: "I feel hopeful. … I think he's going to make the decision based on a number of different things. I think, like he said, everybody is still being evaluated. And certainly whoever comes in as the new GM should have some say on who he wants to manage the team. That being the case, I just have to see whatever happens. I can't do anything about it."

And The Search Begins – Andy MacPhail was hired by the Phillies in June. He'll formally take over as team president at the end of the regular season. So it was natural for him to be asked Thursday afternoon about his profile for the team's next general manager in the wake of the announcement that the contract of Ruben Amaro Jr. will not be extended. Before MacPhail could speak, John Middleton reacted like a defensive back jumping a route and intercepted the query. "Let me tell you what I think and what I've told Andy he needs to do. He needs to hire himself," said the man who has emerged as the voice of the ownership group. He was kidding. Sort of. He went on to note that MacPhail was in his 30s when he got his first chance as a general manager with the Twins. "And he was playing with mathematical, statistical, analytical tools. And he was using them to try to figure out how he could make better evaluations, therefore, better personnel decisions," an animated Middleton said. "How did a young guy who never had the job before do that? The answer is, because he was constantly pushing himself to get better. ... What is crucial is that the person who is going to fill this job absolutely has to have a passion for winning, be really competitive. Has to be able to think outside the box. Has to be able to push himself and this organization to make it better and has to be able to embrace change. Because you cannot sustain success unless you're adaptable and flexible and able to deal with problems five years from now. "Because the problems five years from now are going to be different than the problems today. If you hire somebody today and they're a one-trick pony and all they can do is fix today's problems, they're not going to be successful five years from now. So what we have to do as an organization is find someone who can drive that culture, who can drive that change." When it was his turn, MacPhail smiled. "I'll give a more traditional answer," he said. Which was, basically, that he doesn't intend really to have a profile. "I intend to look at a wide spectrum of candidates," he said. "I would think it would be a mistake if we pigeonhole ourselves into saying, 'We're going to go for young analytics,' or, 'We're going to go for an experienced baseball guy.' Why would you restrict your ability to talk to whoever you want? I think you have a responsibility to look at everything. You might be surprised. You'll learn a lot of things." The only common denominator, he added, was that the general manager should have a different "horizon" than the manager. The guy in the dugout should focus on what's happening right now. The GM has to consider both long- and short-term objectives. For anyone trying to read tea leaves and figure out who might be on the short list, that didn't provide many clues. But here's a look at some logical candidates and why they could fit in. Baseball people will almost always at least consider people they've worked with before. So the names of 35-year-old Angels assistant general manager Matt Klentak and Yankees special assistant Jim Hendry naturally surfaced quickly. MacPhail hired Klentak in 2008 when he was president of the Orioles. And Hendry, 60, was his general manager with the Cubs. Executives from successful organizations are usually seen as attractive candidates. So one intriguing possibility could be John Barr, vice president and assistant general manager scouting and international operations of the Giants. San Francisco has won the World Series three of the last five seasons and is a far more analytics-savvy organization than it generally gets credit for. He's 57, but Pat Gillick was three years older when he put the finishing touches on the 2008 World Series championship team. Plus, he's a local native who still lives in New Jersey. Another who falls into that category: J.J. Picollo, 44, Royals vice president and assistant GM of player personnel. There are several former general managers with good reputations who could be available, including Ben Cherington, who stepped down from the Red Sox after Dave Dombrowski was hired; Jerry Dipoto, who resigned from the Angels; and Twins special assistant Wayne Krivsky. There are young assistants who are considered up-and-comers. Braves assistant GM and director of professional scouting John Coppolella; Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler; and Angels director of professional scouting Hal Morris would be examples. There are outside-the-box candidates. Like, say, Dan Duquette. There have been reports that his relationship with Orioles owner Peter Angelos soured when he was under consideration to become the Blue Jays president, a position that has since been filed by Mark Shapiro. Duquette is whip smart and has won wherever he's been. Major League Baseball is strongly urging teams to consider minority candidates. So De Jon Watson (D-backs senior vice-president of baseball operations), Billy Owens (Athletics player personnel director), Deron Johnson (Twins scouting director), Tyrone Brooks (Pirates director of player personnel), Ricky Bennett (Pirates pro scout), Dana Brown (Blue Jays special assistant) and Kim Ng (MLB senior vice president for baseball operations) could get looks. The Phillies aren't expected to interview internal candidates, although Middleton did say that MacPhail knows interim GM Scott Proefrock well enough from their days together in Baltimore that a formal interview probably wouldn't be necessary. So, since MacPhail isn't going to clone himself, he has a lot of names to consider. That process started, he said, as soon as he stepped off the podium on Thursday.

Something To Work With – So, just like that, the Phillies are in the market for a new general manager. And they're not alone. The Red Sox, Angels, Mariners and Brewers are also actively looking to fill that important position. Depending on how things shake out elsewhere, other clubs could be added to the list before the infield dust finally settles. In other words, it's not a given that the Phillies will simply be able to tap their first choice to replace Ruben Amaro Jr. on the shoulder and that will be that. There's the possibility that a highly regarded candidate could have more than one option. And if that were to happen? "There was a really interesting quote by, I think, an American League executive," said John Middleton, who has emerged as the spokesman of the Phils' ownership group. "[He] said, 'You look at that franchise, you look at the farm system with the prospects they pulled in at the Trade Deadline, you look at the Spring Training facility, you look at the fan base, you look at the Major League stadium, you look at the money behind the team. No wonder Andy MacPhail came out of retirement. What an opportunity.' And I think I'd take that little blurb, cut it out and just hand it to somebody and say, 'This is why you should be here instead of somewhere else.'" All valid points. There's no perfect situation, but a closer look at the Phillies shows a lot more potential than might be expected from the team with the worst record in baseball. What's tough for Amaro, of course, is that the strength of the farm system has largely been built by the trades he's made since December, when he began dismantling the nucleus that helped the organization win five straight division titles, two National League pennants and a World Series from 2007-11. By trading Jimmy Rollins, Cole Hamels and Chase Utley (plus Jonathan Papelbon, Marlon Byrd, Antonio Bastardo, Ben Revere and Jake Diekman), Amaro hauled in 15 players. Twelve are ranked by as among the team's Top 30 prospects. And if those guys help the Phils to their next run of excellence, it's the next general manager who will bask in the applause and be soaked in the champagne. That's nothing new in baseball, by the way. When the Phillies won it all in 2008, general manager Pat Gillick took pains to point out all the good work that his predecessor, Ed Wade, had done to make the title possible. It happened again to Wade, now a Phils scout, after he was hired by the Astros. Much of what Houston has accomplished on its road back to contention has its roots in deals he made before being dismissed. The man responsible for identifying the person who could inherit all of this is MacPhail, who has been observing since being hired in July and will formally take over as club president from the retiring Gillick at the end of the season. He is also bullish on what lies ahead. "I think there are reasons to be enthusiastic about the position-player future of this franchise, based on what's on the field now," MacPhail said, referring to players like third baseman Maikel Franco, second baseman Cesar Hernandez and outfielders like Odubel Herrera, Aaron Altherr and Darnell Sweeney. "Admittedly, it's flashes, but what's on the field and what's in the high levels [is strong] -- even given the attrition that is going to happen as they migrate up toward the big leagues." MacPhail also acknowledged, and took pains to refute, the perception that he'll retain most of the power and that whomever he hires will be little more than a glorified assistant. "I can understand why that is," MacPhail said. "Ownership has made it clear, [as when he was hired], that they certainly want me involved in baseball operations. And, let's face it, I'm not here because of any marketing acumen. "But at the same time, I've been in this role before. I've had GMs under me before. If you talk to them, I think they feel like they had a fair amount of autonomy, which I think is important to them to be able to do their job. They can't be in short pants running back to the president every time they have to make a decision. I have to create a culture where they have some autonomy. They should keep me apprised, but that is a balance I'm going to have to strike." Even if the Phillies didn't appear to be well positioned to make a fairly quick turnaround, MacPhail wouldn't have any problem finding someone to fill the opening. There are, after all, only 30 of them. They pay well, with nice perks. But the truth is that there are several factors that make the Phils an attractive destination, which will make it that much easier to recruit the person they finally decide they really want.

The Phillies have returned to their lackluster ways and regained their grip on last place in the NL East with a record of 54-86. Given the departures, aging stars, injuries, and bipolar performances this season, this could still end up being the worst team in franchise history… at least that is something to hope for this year! All time, the Phillies are 52-57-0 on this day.

No comments:

Post a Comment