Back on June 24th, 2015, the Phillies were blitzed by the New York Yankees 10-2, dropping their record to 26-48. Two days later, Ryne Sandberg had enough. He handed in his resignation to Phillies management. In parts of three seasons, Sandberg tallied an underwhelming 119-159 record as the skipper. The Hall of Famer was highly coveted by the Phillies, which in turn, led to a controversial and perhaps premature firing of beloved manager Charlie Manuel. Sandberg’s flaws were well documented, one of the biggest was a lack of communication with players. When Sandberg stepped away, Pete Mackanin was called in to put out the fire. It is hard to believe that this is Mackanin’s first gig as a full-time skipper.
Mackanin played a total of nine years in the majors, two with the Phillies (though just 18 total games). He has loads of experience in professional baseball that range in both the majors and minors, including a scout, bench coach, third base coach, and an interim manager on two occasions, but never a manager on a full time basis.
Mackanin was named as the interim manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates at the end of the 2005 season. With 26 games left in the season, Mackanin finished with a record of 12-14. In 2007, he had another interim role for the Cincinnati Reds, this time with a much larger sample size. Mackanin led the Reds to a 41-39 record after Jerry Narron was fired with a 31-51 record. After the season, Mackanin lost the job to current Nats skipper Dusty Baker.
Following Sandberg’s resignation last season, Mackanin was once again named interim manager. It appears the third time was the charm. After a rocky 3-14 start, Mackanin and the Phils reeled off an impressive 16 wins out of their next 21 games. They were fun to watch again. Walk-offs, blowouts, no-hitters…Mackanin finally brought some life back to what was thought to be a dismal season. Due to that success, the interim tag was finally removed from Pete Mackanin on September 23rd. He was getting his first chance to put his stamp on a team as a full-time manager.
Mackanin is certainly not as fiery as Larry Bowa and he’s not as laid back as Charlie Manuel. He’s in the middle. No-nonsense is probably the best way to describe the 65 year old. He’s not afraid to bench players as well as call them out to the media. Mackanin sacrificed a ballgame in Detroit when All Star center fielder Odubel Herrera failed to run out a ground ball. Herrera recorded three hits before taking a seat next to the skipper in the seventh inning. The Phils lost by a run and Herrera’s spot came up again in the ninth. Mackanin’s message to the All Star was more important than the win, and on a team not competing for a playoff spot, it was absolutely the correct move. Late last week and into the weekend, Mackanin sat Herrera for three out of four games with lefties on the mound. The benching was attributed to a mid-season reprieve; however, Mackanin also noted that the benching was for deeper a message – Herrera’s lack of plate discipline as of late.
This season has been a bit of a roller coaster, though more of a downward slope since the fast start. To begin the year, Mackanin was making all of the right decisions. He figured out the back end of his bullpen – using Neris and Gomez to close out games. We saw Pete ‘wheeling and dealing’ on several double switches to get multiple innings out of his bullpen. This shows Mackanin has his finger on the pulse of his team.
The Phillies’ record in one-run game stands at 23-15, a remarkable amount of wins given how young this squad is. With the lack of talent, especially on the offensive side, Pete has kept this team more than afloat – getting the most out of his players – the true testament of a good coach in any sport.
Pete Mackanin is building a winning environment in Philadelphia. Think about it… this Phillies team is 52-62. This time last season, the team was 45-69. You might think that’s only a seven game difference, but they were at the tailend of that 16-5 run discussed earlier. If the Phils continue to play .500 ball through the rest of August and September, it will yield 13 more wins than last season, a significant improvement from a year ago. Whether Mackanin is still in charge of the lineup card when these players finally blossom remains to be seen. But he will have already started the winning culture in the clubhouse, much like his current bench coach Larry Bowa did in his time as Phillies manager.