So the Phillies plan is to interview veterans Dusty Baker, Joe Girardi, and Buck Showalter among the candidates for their vacant managerial job. I’m good with the first two — but not Showalter. I really don’t need one more person with a Baltimore Orioles connection rattling around Citizens Bank Park.
Regardless, what has become increasingly clear — particularly in the last week — is that this franchise has far greater problems other than whoever’s running things in the dugout. Gabe Kapler may have deserved the heave-ho, but the Phillies could now replace him with the ghost of Sparky Anderson and it won’t hide their flaws.
Team Dysfunctional was on full display last Friday when its top brass held a rambling news conference revealing that triumvirate to be divided, defensive and dumbstruck. It was the worst presser our town has witnessed since the “Next Question” debacle of Terrell Owens doing sit-ups in his driveway.
I ran a Twitter survey afterward asking fans if they felt better about the Phils after the news conference. More than 3,100 people responded, and 95 percent said “no.”
They shouldn’t. It became obvious during the 57-minute calamity that John Middleton has no faith in his top aides.
The principal owner fired Kapler over the objections of GM Matt Klentak and president Andy MacPhail — just as he fired the hitting coach at midseason and beseeched Charlie Manuel to put on the uniform again. He’s going to be the one choosing the next manager.
Klentak wasn’t going to pretend to agree with Kapler’s sacking. He probably should have, just for the appearance of unity. Now the owner looks like an impetuous George Steinbrenner at best and an incompetent Daniel Snyder at worst. Call him “John Meddlesome.”
But Klentak and MacPhail were plenty defensive when reporters asked valid questions about their failings. How come Kapler got the ax after two seasons, but they get to stay around? How can they explain the Phillies’ inability to scout, draft and develop talent?
MacPhail mumbled something about the bullpen twirling a 3.50 ERA in the second half this season. He bragged of the Phils having three of the Top 100 Prospects in MLB.com’s new ranking — ignoring that just one of them (Alec Bohm) cracks the Top 85. And he had the temerity to cite Cole Irvin (he of the 5.83 ERA) as evidence that the farm system pipeline is working.
Klentak, meanwhile, came off as dismissive of the fan base. He cited “market realities” as a reason it “is tougher in this market” to promote his vision of progress and “pushing the envelope.” In other words, we are too backward of a city to understand his futuristic thinking.
Hey, Phillies fans just want a winner — something they haven’t seen for eight seasons. Most aren’t against analytics, at least in concept. What they’re against are defensive shifts that don’t work, trying to turn slap hitters into launch-angle disciples and forcing every pitcher to rely on a rising four-seam fastball.
No one likes being talked down to. And that’s what Phillies management did last week.
Six months ago, after signing Bryce Harper, Middleton could have been elected mayor of Philadelphia. And, let’s face it, if he goes out this off-season and overspends on topflight pitching (read: Gerrit Cole), we’ll all showing up on Opening Day.
But teams rarely succeed just by signing free agents. A broken farm system is a formula for failure. So is a divided front office.
Right now, the Phillies appear to have both of those.