October 13, 2017
Two weeks ago, the Phillies managerial search officially began when general manager Matt Klentak announced that Pete Mackanin would not be returning in the role for the 2018 season.
The first week was somewhat quiet, with the Phillies’ brass obviously putting together a thorough list. According to one respected insider, they may have considered as many as 50 names.
The second week started with arguably the most preposterous baseball rumor you’ll hear all winter. And it ended with the Phillies conducting a trio of interviews with internal candidates for the managerial vacancy: first base coach Juan Samuel (once a interim manager under Andy MacPhail’s Baltimore Orioles), Triple-A Lehigh Valley manager Dusty Wathan (a respected managerial “prospect” who has helped guys like Nick Williams, Rhys Hoskins and J.P. Crawford grow in the last two years) and front office utility man Jorge Velandia, officially one of four special assistants to general manager Matt Klentak but also a man who worked on the coaching staff for more than half a season in 2015 after Ryne Sandberg resigned in mid-June.
There’s a chance any of those three could be on the final coaching staff even if they’re not named manager, although the new manager will obviously be constructing his own staff (recommendations from his new bosses will surely be heard, of course). Their familiarity with the players on the roster could help them secure a role; hitting coach Matt Stairs should be back, but, again, he’s not guaranteed anything.
Velandia’s name is probably the most interesting of the three internal interviewees since he wasn’t on the coaching staff in 2017 and because his resume could be just the kind of one that particularly appeals to the Phillies front office.
As the Phils continue to bolster their analytics department – a directive made by managing partner John Middleton after Ruben Amaro Jr. was fired – they’ll want a field manager that understands the value of all of the data at his disposal and someone who can work in unison with everyone in the baseball operations department, not just the 25 players in the clubhouse. Someone like Velandia – who has been equally comfortable in a big league uniform dealing with players or in a well-pressed shirt in advising Klentak and co. – brings a unique set of skills to the ballpark.
This brings us to the third week of the managerial search, which gets underway after the weekend.
According to a report in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway will interview for the Phillies job next week. Two other external candidates who could join Callaway in the interview process fit the aforementioned description of baseball men who have experience both as big league coaches and as front office executives.
Tim Bogar was let go by the Seattle Mariners two weeks ago following his second season as bench coach. He’s worked on a big league coaching staff for eight seasons with Seattle, Boston, Tampa, and Texas (he was an interim manager with Texas in 2014).
But Bogar also spent the 2015 season as a special assistant to the general manager with the Los Angeles Angels (Jerry Dipoto). And that just so happened to be Klentak’s last season with the Angels, so they obviously worked together pretty closely. Bogar, 50, also worked as Joe Maddon’s quality assurance coach in 2008 in Tampa (on a team that advanced to the World Series to take on the Phillies, of course).
Like Bogar, Gary DiSarcina, 49, will be looking for work after John Farrell was fired as the Boston Red Sox manager this week. The Red Sox, much like the Phillies, aren’t committing to anyone on their coaching staff while the managerial post is in limbo.
DiSarcina was a bench coach with the Red Sox in 2017 after working on the Angels coaching staff for three seasons. Yes, there it is again: the Angels. Again, like Bogar, DiSarcina worked in the front office under Dipoto in 2011 and 2012.
Earlier this month, NBC Sports Boston spoke to DiSarcina about being a potential managerial candidate for the Phillies.
“It's an honor to have it mentioned,” DiSarcina. “Especially a team like Philadelphia. I’ve known Matt Klentak since my time with the Angels, going back five, six years ago. … It’s good that other people notice your work and other people notice you and want to talk to you and stuff.”
His superior at the time, Farrell, also gave DiSarcina a pretty good endorsement in the same NBC Sports Boston story.
“He’s got a great way to connect with players,” Farrell said of DiSarcina. “He sees the field and the game great. He’s got front office experience to understand what goes into building a roster. … I would anticipate with his resume, how he interacts with people, I would fully expect he would be a candidate.”
One more free agent coach who would be an intriguing hire, perhaps not as manager but as the pitching coach or minor league pitching coordinator: Jim Benedict.
Benedict was among the four executives new Marlins co-CEO Derek Jeter fired at the end of last month. It was somewhat surprising, given that it was only two years ago that Benedict was hired away from Pittsburgh as a celebrated pitching guru (in the rare coaching/front office transaction that actually required compensation to go back to the Pirates).
Benedict played an important role in helping the Pirates end a 20-year playoff drought as a pitching instructor who helped build and rebuild the likes of Francisco Liriano, Edinson Volquez, A.J. Burnett, Charlie Morton, J.A. Happ, and Mark Melancon into impactful pitches. The Phillies tried to hire Benedict as pitching coach four years ago (to join Ryne Sandberg’s staff, replacing Rich Dubee) but were rebuffed by the Pirates.
But after he was let loose by the Marlins at the conclusion of the 2017 season, Benedict, like Bogar and DiSarcina, is free to join any club’s coaching staff or front office.
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