When Matt Klentak stepped down as general manager, assistant GM Ned Rice was chosen to take his place in the interim. It’s quite possible Rice could spend the next few months in that role. The Phillies have provided a few explanations as to why that is. One of those baffled fans and media alike.
“Who is going to want to uproot in the middle of a pandemic?” Phillies president Andy MacPhail asked at a recent press conference.
On Monday, the Philadelphia 76ers announced that they have hired six new assistant coaches and a coaching associate. Before that, they hired the highly-touted Daryl Morey as their president of basketball operations. A couple of weeks before, they brought on Peter Dinwiddie and Prosper Karangwa to work in the front office. Former Saint Joeseph’s University standout Jameer Nelson was also added to the scouting department. All of that came after the hiring of Doc Rivers as their new head coach.
The Los Angeles Angels have reportedly narrowed down their GM search to five finalists: Mariners assistant GM Justin Hollander, Cubs senior vice president Jason McLeod, Braves assistant GM Perry Minasian, and Diamondbacks assistant GMs Jared Porter and Amiel Sawdaye. Minasian appears to be the front-runner for the job, per The Athletic. The process could conclude as early as Friday.
New York Mets Team President Sandy Alderson told the media on Tuesday that the team is searching for a new president of baseball operations. They conducted the first interview Saturday and are expected to move quickly. One of the candidates, according to SNY, is Michael Hill, who previously served as the Marlins president of baseball operations.
“This shouldn’t take a long time,” Alderson said. “Wouldn’t want to put a time limit on it but we understand it’s important to get people in place.”
The Phillies have employed a vastly different approach compared to the Sixers, Angels and Mets. They’re taking it slow. So slow, perhaps, that they might not hire anyone at all until next year.
The reason why it’s so slow? They overcomplicated the situation. To them, the pandemic is a roadblock to finding a replacement. They also have a lame-duck team president on their hands who admitted that he was leaving after the 2021 season and is willing to step aside before then.
“I told him when I signed my last deal ‘this is it. It’s done.’ And it’s not exactly a secret in our offices that I was out after three. I certainly don’t want to be an impediment,” MacPhail said.
Ironically, that’s exactly what MacPhail has become. The Phillies can’t hire a new GM this year and search for MacPhail’s replacement the next. Any incoming president of baseball operations worth their value has to be given the chance to hire their own staff beneath them. Would MacPhail had been willing to take the job in 2015 if interim team president Pat Gillick hand-picked his GM?
Time is working against them and as the days go by, it seems more and more likely Rice will serve as GM for the remainder of the offseason.
It doesn’t have to be this way. In his press conference, MacPhail did mention a recommended change in the structure of the front office that actually makes a ton of sense. Instead of having a team president, the Phillies would have a president of baseball operations and a president of business operations that reports directly to Middleton.
The Phillies could hire a new president of baseball operations, who would go on to hire their own GM and assistant GMs to work underneath of them. MacPhail can assume the president of business operations job until he retires at the end of the 2021 season.
Maybe all of this is a moot point and the Phillies are willing to wait a year to hire Theo Epstein, whose contract in Chicago is expiring at the end of next year.
At the moment, however, the Phillies’ lack of action is grabbing the attention of the national media. Ken Rosenthal said on the Starkville podcast “I don’t understand what they’re doing, honestly. To me, if you’re going to fire Matt Klentak — OK, you can build a very strong case for doing that. But if you’re not going to replace him and if you’re simply going to continue with the man above him, Andy MacPhail, and the guy below him, Ned Rice, what exactly was the point of firing him?”
A league executive told ESPN’s Buster Olney that the Phillies’ approach to this situation is “small-minded.”
At the very least, MacPhail did mention in the press conference that they’ve gone through the preliminary stages of the search.
“We’ve already identified people and like I said, if what is easily apparent to us is a good fit that is there right away, we’ll move right away. I could see this thing going longer.
“Certainly through until ’21 when you have a little more clarity on what it is we’re facing. And again, I try to underscore this — you want the next regime to do well. You want to put them in a position to succeed. In my estimation, if you brought somebody in here right now, with a limited capacity to affect positive change, it’s borderline not fair to them.”
At the same time, there are mixed messages as to how involved MacPhail is in the search process. In most walks of life, the employee who failed to meet expectations doesn’t get a chance to hire their replacement. MacPhail mentioned in the presser that he did make a recommendation and Howard Eskin of Sportsradio 94WIP reported that at least one of those recommendations was Jim Hendry, who MacPhail hired as his GM back in 2002 when he was the president of the Chicago Cubs. It’s unclear if MacPhail reccomended multiple candidates or his reccomendations were limited to just Hendry.
Ultimately, MacPhail’s recommendation doesn’t matter. He believes that ownership needs to be more hands-on this time around.
“First of all, our ownership needs to be completely invested,” MacPhail said. “I think John in particular needs to take a more hands-on role than he did last time, not that he didn’t last time. But what we did last time is I went to Chicago. I interviewed about 14 candidates. I brought three back to ownership and I thought that would be a significant level of investment and the ownership would pick between those three candidates.
“I think John needs to be more hands-on early on. I’ve told him that because I’m not going to be here in a year and it doesn’t matter who I pick. They need to be invested.”
In the meantime, the Phillies will lean on Rice to make some key decisions in the short term.
“Most of what’s in front of us in the short and midterm, we can do internally and I’m very confident that Ned can get us through that.”
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