I rehashed the Philadelphia Phillies collapse over the final two months of the season in last week’s piece on the “significant changes” that I feel general manager Matt Klentak needs to make in this coming off-season. So, let’s not wade through that murky water again.
A great many Phillies fans became disillusioned by the collapse of the team after they had spent a month in first place in the National League East Division. One of those fans was local morning talk show host Angelo Cataldi of SportsRadio 94 WIP FM.
In a piece published on Monday at The Philly Voice, Cataldi laid much of the blame for that collapse at the feet of Klentak.
“For the three puzzling years of his tenure running the Phillies, the novice executive has mastered only one skill, and that’s finding a way to wriggle out of blame for his own resume of failure.”
“Matt Klentak is incompetent.”
“The young double-talker has survived three years of bungling because he has hidden, effectively, behind the new wave of analytics.”
There is more. Much more. But I’ll let you click into that above link and read it all for yourself.
Cataldi then doubled down, ostensibly calling on controlling owner John Middleton to fire his team’s general manager.
“How much more patient can he be with a general manager who has no record of success and who just oversaw a debacle reminiscent of 1964? Hey, John. The fans want that bleeping trophy back, too. Do something.”
The Phillies 38-year-old GM has not responded publicly to this point. However, on Wednesday morning another member of the team brain trust felt that he had to step up in response. And so manager Gabe Kapler called in to the radio station during Cataldi’s program and confronted the host.
“I thought that your article was disrespectful to a man (Klentak) that gives everything he has to bring a World Series championship to Philly.”
The Phillies skipper then went on a lengthy description of the team’s overall performance, and what he saw as the overall improvements made, while also acknowledging the depth of disappointment in the season’s final 45 days. He stated in strong terms that Klentak has played a pivotal role in leading the club to that improvement.
“I take issue with what you said. I’m a compassionate, competitive man. But generating anger for the sake of anger means that you end up just flat-out wrong like you were in that piece.”
Kapler then questioned Cataldi’s very sanity, calling the host out for what the manager feels has been a pattern of angry coverage of the team in recent years. “You’re still doing the same thing, Angelo. So, you talked about the definition of insanity. I’d take a minute to look in the mirror about that.”
It was then Cataldi’s opportunity to respond, and you knew that he wasn’t going to let this opportunity pass without expressing that anger and frustration once again.
“…all you just illustrated right there is that you join Andy MacPhail and Matt Klentak in being completely out of contact with the fans in this city. When I write a column it represents not just how I feel, but the hundreds of phone calls that I take every week, and have been doing for 29 years in this city.”
Cataldi then described the fan base and their relationship with this Phillies team as currently constructed perfectly when he added the following:
“The fans are completely detached from your organization right now. They proved it during the pennant race when they didn’t turn out to support the team.”
I included a link above to the full exchange between the two, which I encourage you to listen to immediately after finishing up this piece of mine. Even if you have heard it already, you are likely to find something you missed the first time around. It’s a must-listen for any Philly sports fan, but especially any Phillies fan.
While I have frequently disagreed with Cataldi over the years, that’s the nature of the beast. It’s his job to express his opinions and to do so in a colorful manner that encourages listener interaction. Passionate, informed people are going to see things differently.
But on this point, I am in full agreement with him. Cataldi is right on point when he says that the fan base is disconnected from the team.
Our Drew Rhoades here at Phillies Nation just published a piece yesterday regarding the Phillies increase in both attendance and TV ratings during the 2018 season. Rhoades wrote the following:
“The Phillies average attendance per game in 2017 was 24,118, which ranked 24th in all of Major League Baseball. They drew a total number of 1,905,345 fans. In 2018, the Phillies average attendance per game was up to 27,318, which ranks 16th in all of baseball. The Phillies also drew a total number of 2,158,124 fans this season, good for 17th in Major League Baseball.”
MacPhail used that increase to assert an increase in fan interest in his team. However, a closer look behind the reasoning for those numbers reveals that it may not be some huge increase in interest towards this current club.
The Phillies drew over 111,000 fans to the ballpark over three games in early August with the lowly Miami Marlins. That’s a strong average of 37,000 per game on average.
However, those crowds showed up mostly due to the Alumni Weekend festivities in which the Phillies formally retired Shane Victorino on Friday, enshrined Roy Halladay and Pat Gillick to the Wall of Fame on Saturday, and then honored the 2008 World Series champions with a 10-year reunion celebration on Sunday.
There was a late-June visit from the New York Yankees that drew nearly 130,000 over three games. However, when the Bronx Bombers came to town they were greeted by a huge influx of their own fans who had made the quick trip down I-95.
More than 79,000 packed Citizens Bank Park on the following Friday and Saturday when the division-rival Washington Nationals came to town. However, those were the annual fireworks display games, which have always guaranteed a big turnout.
More than 104,000 made their way to the ballpark for three games with the Los Angeles Dodgers in late July. But that series received a huge bump when just a couple of weeks prior, former Phillies legend Chase Utley announced that he would be retiring at the end of the season. This was a final opportunity for Phillies fans to watch the most popular player of the last two-and-a-half decades take the field in South Philly.
The Phillies drew more than 68,000 for two mid-August Inter-league games with Boston, two games in which the stands were filled with fans of the American East Division-leading Bosox.
My point? The Phillies received major attendance bumps this season from the opposition Yankees and Red Sox, from Chase, from their alumni, and from fireworks. Aside from those annual pyrotechnics, you won’t get those bumps most seasons.
Cataldi bases his opinion that Phillies fans are detached from the current team on the feedback he receives over the phone lines and on social media. I am very active on social media as well, have numerous conversations in person with Phillies fans during the season, and can back up his opinion.
If MacPhail, Klentak, and Kapler really believe the line that they have been trying to sell fans during this week’s series of interviews and media appearances, they are in for a rude wake-up call. Hopefully Middleton really steps in this off-season and cracks the whip, ensuring that the major steps needed to turn the fans and the team back around are taken.
MORE FROM PHILLIES NATION:
- Andy MacPhail is wrong – Phillies do need to “throw every resource at this year”
- MacPhail on free agency: you’re not going to throw every resource at this year
- Klentak: if change in rotation makes sense, we’ll explore it
- Klentak: Kapler learned this year that perception matters
- Hoskins praises Kapler’s interpersonal skills