The Phillies are blowing everybody away with their success in the early part of 2016. You could even make an argument that they are the most surprising thing in baseball right now. However, the likely scenario going forward is that they will come back down to earth and fall out of contention. Or at least that’s what their Pythagorean win-loss percent would lead you to believe. But right now they are sitting a half a game out of first in the NL East, and slotted in as the first Wild Card team in the National League if the season were to end today.
Rookie general manager Matt Klentak isn’t about to let some early season success distract him from the big picture, though. He told CSNPhilly.com on Tuesday: “There will be nobody happier than me if we are still in playoff contention in July, and if that happens we’re going to do everything we can to help this team improve and get better and make a run at it. The job of a general manager is to balance both the short and the long term and I need be cognizant that right now we’re not even a quarter of the way through the season.”
It’s very refreshing to see the GM of this team be a realist. He knows what this team is–or isn’t. He’s not going to sacrifice the bright future of the Phils to try to make a playoff run based off an improbable run this early in the season. I know of a former GM that I think would have jumped the gun a bit and, had even the slightest chance at the 2nd Wild Card spot been even a remote possibility, might have made some bad and premature moves.
Now, Ruben Amaro Jr. wasn’t all bad. I truly believe that. He made some great moves, especially towards the end of his tenure (although, the actual decision maker of those calls could be somewhat in question).
But for a little bit there, he was prone to ignoring some warning signs and making moves to try to compete; and it completely blew up in his face. An example of this is the 2012-2013 offseason. He went out and acquired Ben Revere, Michael Young, Mike Adams, John Lannan, Delmon Young, and Chad Durbin. This was after he traded away Hunter Pence, Shane Victorino, and Joe Blanton. It seemed like the Phillies were confused on whether to rebuild or to try to compete. For some reason, Amaro said at the time he believed they could compete. What followed was the firing of manager Charlie Manuel, and being one of the worst teams in baseball for the next three years.
Klentak isn’t doing any of that. He seems to understand where the Phillies are now, and where they will–or should–be in the near future. And he doesn’t seem to be delusional when it comes to his views on the state of the team. I think the most telling quote from that Salisbury piece is this: “We continue to be open-minded towards any types of additions and ways to improve, but right now the success of our team has been built on pitching and defense and we’re going to continue to respect that.”
He acknowledged that the team is basically collectively swinging a giant pool noodle at the plate. It’s a legitimate need. So you know what he did? He brought up Tommy Joseph (who, by the way, was acquired in that Pence deal I mentioned above) to try and spark the team a bit. He didn’t trade. He didn’t sign anyone. He wants to build a culture, and he’s sticking to it. That’s important.
We should be excited about what’s next with this team, because both the GM and the players within the organization have bright futures.