Much like the passage of a baton in a relay race, the Phillies are looking for a seamless transition to the next stage in the life of their franchise.
With Pat Gillick set to step down at season's end, the Phillies will let their next president, Andy MacPhail, get himself up to speed as a special assistant for the next three months. This before he takes the reigns of the club next offseason.
"I know this franchise has been around a very long time," MacPhail said at a press conference Monday, "and I think this it the first time [the team has] gone outside of the organization to fill this role [of team president]. I am a little surprised you've hired me since I have been out for 3 years."
MacPhail, prior to his time away from the game successfully led the Orioles to a complete overhaul that has resulted in the current competitive AL East combatant. He spent 12 years with the Cubs as president and CEO and reached the postseason twice in Chicago.
Before that, he was the youngest GM in history to win a World Series title with the Twins during the 1980s. He also served as a key negotiator for Major League Baseball during collective bargaining twice.
“Andy brings an uncommon blend of old school experience and new age thinking,” John Middleton, a Phillies principal owner, said. “Old school because he has been building winning teams for over three decades.... in Baltimore, he greatly expanded the use of statistical analysis in player evaluations. That’s the new age thinking. These qualities, combined with his positive leadership style, make him the ideal candidate to lead the Phillies organization.”
Gillick said MacPhail will assist him during the trade deadline but will not be making any decisions until the fall (the Phillies are expected to deal ace Cole Hamels, closer Jonathan Papelbon and a bevy of others). But that's by design. The 62-year-old needs to get back into a groove.
"This game has probably evolved two times over since I've been gone," MacPhail said.
The Phillies' rebuild is beginning to look up, with the Phillies boasting two of the top prospects in all of baseball in shortstop J.P. Crawford and pitcher Aaron Nola. Each are tearing through the high minors and are close to joining young big league talents like Maikel Franco and Cesar Hernandez.
But with no manager to call the shots (Gillick said Pete Pete Mackanin will remain interm manager at least through the Brewers series), and the worst run-differential and record in baseball, changes are likely on the horizon. It's something fans have been clamoring for since the team first hit the skids in 2012, after five-straight division titles.
"I know enough about fans, the fans have the right to think whatever," MacPhail said. "If they want it done tomorrow I get it, I understand. Sometimes it is hard for us. [Fans] can turn it off and walk away we are there every day. We can get as impatient but we have to stay with our program. Even though it's not pretty now you need to have the courage of your convictions."
"It's going to happen it's just a question of when," he continues, commenting on when the team would be competitive again. "And how effecient we can be to make it happen sooner."
How did things get so bad?
The Phillies went from best to worst, seemingly in a flash. Here's just a brief look at the mess Andy MacPhail and company will need to weed through.
- In 2007 the Phillies won their first NL East title since 1993, starting a stretch of five straight.
- In 2008 the team won the World Series, and won the pennant the following year.
- In controvercial trades, the Phillies relinquished several prospects to depleate their farm system for Cliff Lee, Hunter Pence and others. When they eventually dealt many of these players away they received little in return.
- Following their 101-win season in 2011, the Phillies missed the postseason in 2012. They haven'y been back since.
- Management has been stuck with massive contracts for Ryan Howard, Jonathan Papelbon and others, making them difficult to trade to help jumpstart the rebuilding process.
- As of Monday afternoon, the Phillies 27-50 record is the worst in baseball and their run differential of -123 is as well. They trail the entire MLB in many statistical categories.