Starting in December, we’ll have three new contributing writers at Phillies Nation. Here’s one of them, Kirsten Swanson, writing about why John Middleton might just be the new face of the Phillies.
Welcome Kirsten to Phillies Nation!
The 2016 season left the Phillies organization – and fans – with perhaps more questions than answers. The club’s top prospect never got the once-expected September call up, Maikel Franco couldn’t sustain his bursts of promise and the young rotation was plagued with injuries.
With one year deeper into a rebuild, one with no set timetable, the savior the fans were hoping for didn’t step forward. That is, until John Middleton was designated as the control person of the organization earlier in November, a move that seemed inevitable but still a critical piece in propelling the rebuild further.
Middleton has been a Phillies part-owner since 1994 and currently owns a 48 percent stake in the team. Up until 2015 when he practically appeared out of thin air at the press conference to introduce Andy MacPhail as president of baseball operations, Middleton was a mystery to fans. In fact, other than Bill Giles and then David Montgomery, the entire Phillies ownership group had been a mystery. The mystery wasn’t a problem when the team was winning, but now in a phase of transition, the fans needed someone – anyone – to be held accountable and take responsibility for the changes that were sure to come.
Enter Middleton. He has turned into the voice of the organization and, until one of its promising stars steps up to the plate (literally and figuratively), Middleton is also the face of the franchise. To many he has given the organization a breath of fresh air, not just with his willingness to be in the public eye, but because of his willingness to embrace change.
After the Phillies spent years holding onto players for far too long and rejected the importance of analytics, Middleton seems to understand the changes that need to be made in order to make the team competitive again. He oversaw the hiring of MacPhail and General Manager Matt Klentak, two outside hirings – a rare thing for the Phillies at the time. Since then, the analytics department went from having a staff of zero to what Middleton says is, per his interview with CSNPhilly, one of the top departments in the league.
The organization is still very much in the middle of its rebuild, but unlike the early stages there seems to be reason behind every move. At long last, the Phillies enter the 2017 season with a clean slate, having no remnants of the ’08 championship team. Fans will find it easier to remain patient when there is a person at the forefront who seems to care as much as they do. While it remains to be seen if his steering will result in good fortune, Middleton has now become the person fans will look to for answers and, for better or for worse, is the person the fans will hold accountable.
In John we trust?