Matt Klentak said all the right things when he was introduced as the 11th general manager in the Phillies long history.
“I have very ambitious goals,” Klentak said. “I want to win. When is going to be dictated by the players. The game isn’t about the guys who wear ties and sit at the table.”
But it is about those guys when it comes to acquiring the right players. That’s why Klentak, 35, was flanked by his mentor Andy MacPhail and John Middleton, who believe that the Dartmouth alum will help the Phillies turn around a team which finished the 2015 season with the worst record in baseball.
Middleton wants to catch up with the rest of baseball in the analytics department. The suddenly visible billionaire owner believes Klentak, who has worked with the Orioles, Rockies and Angels, can bring the Phillies into the 21st century. MacPhail, who worked with Klentak in Baltimore, agrees with Middleton, who raves about Klentak.
“We found an executive with the keen ability to understand cutting-edge baseball analytics, coupled with superior scouting, player development and leadership skills,” MacPhail said.
Klentak will have his work cut out for him but as he notes, there is reason for optimism and he’s correct. The former college shortstop described the Reading Phillies as “loaded.” Klentak is looking forward to the first selection in the June draft and the first pick in the Rule 5 draft. He also has an ownership that has deep pockets and a desire to win.
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“I’ve worked in Baltimore and that was more of a rebuilding time,” Klentak said.
It took a few years but the Orioles drafted and developed players. Baltimore has won more regular season games over the last four years than any team.
And then there are the two teams, who are participating in the Fall Classic.
“Look at what’s on display in the World Series right now,” Klentak said. “Two clubs (the Mets and the Royals) who have gone through very disciplined rebuilds, two clubs that have had very different time frames for doing it. It’s important to realize that the players will dictate that.”
Rebuilds can be quick thanks to those making the behind the scenes decisions. The Houston Astros won 51 games in 2013. Just two seasons later, the Astros prevailed 86 times during the regular season.
The Cubs won 66 games in 2013 and they improved on that with 31 more wins this season.
But Klentak is correct, it’s the players, who will dictate the team’s success.
Is Maikel Franco a franchise player? Will JP Crawford meet the hype? Who will the Phillies select with the first pick in the 2016 draft?
Considering what MacPhail and Klentak indicate, it will be a hurler. Will it be a fast-tracker, who makes a quick impact ala Aaron Nola? Klentak and the Phillies are on the clock.