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Time for a secure Mackanin to light a fire

Back on May 11, with the Phillies losers of 10 0f 12 games after a six game win streak, Matt Klentak removed the lame-duck status from manager Pete Mackanin by extending his contract into next season. It was surely an odd time to do so while in the midst of a tailspin and following the criticisms of relief pitcher Joaquin Benoit. Since Mackanin’s extension, the Phils are 2-5.

Records aside, what does Pete Mackanin have to do to stick around even longer?

For one, be the same manager he was last year.

Be the guy that benched Odubel Herrera in the middle of a tie game for failing to run out a ground ball.

Be the guy that benched Cesar Hernandez last June because “he’s a better hitter than he’s shown.”

In those acts of tough love, both players responded in big ways. Herrera was the team’s lone all-star and Hernandez went on to hit .315 the rest of the year.

Be the guy that wasn’t afraid to hurt Ryan Howard‘s feelings. After he gave the icon ample amount of time to revitalize his game, he went with the younger Tommy Joseph. Although there was a small rift in the early going with Howard, both sides smoothed it over, and was handled with class the rest of the way. In a turn of good fortune, Howard and Joseph turned into an outstanding second-half first-base platoon, and Mackanin was able to send off the Big Piece in style the final weekend of the season.

All of the strings Mackanin had to pull last year ended up working in his favor.

Now that the team is 15-24 – a seven game difference from last year’s 22-17 start – and he has security for next year, Mackanin has the authority to start expressing the tough love again.

There have been several instances when players have refused to run out balls – including a ground ball double play off the bat of Herrera – that the skipper chalked up as the new culture of the game.

That could’ve been the opportunity to send Herrera a message.

Maikel Franco hit a ball of the wall last weekend in Washington and wasn’t the fleetest of foot out of the box. Instead, he wanted a good view of the ball. Another teaching moment Mackanin missed out on.

From this point on, Mackanin has to rally the troops and challenge them before it gets out of control. Maybe Franco’s job needs to be threatened with more play from Andres Blanco. Perhaps that will be part of his development. Same with Herrera, especially after Howie Kendrick rejoins the team.

Either way, a fire needs to be lit, and if it’s not now, it’s never.

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