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July 01, 2015

What they’re saying: First impressions of Phils’ new power structure

If you were out of country the last few days, the normally uninteresting Phillies held a surprisingly interesting press conference. Even though the primary purpose was to introduce Andy MacPhail as the eventual team president after this season, there were plenty of other talking points that arose from the media session.

With the possible exception of a Cole Hamels trade sometime in the next month, nothing that the Phillies do for the rest of the season will feel as important as Monday afternoon’s presser. Considering that a lot of people, both local and national, formed their own opinions on the organizational restructuring, I figured we’d go ahead and aggregate some of them.


Phillies ownership has a face after all: Bob Ford, Philadelphia Inquirer

The first rule of Phillies ownership is that you don’t talk about Phillies ownership, at least not publicly. Ever since a group led by Bill Giles bought the team from Ruly Carpenter in 1981, the owners mostly stayed out of the public eye while Giles and David Montgomery did all of the talking.

Ford believes the arrangement would’ve stayed that way if the Phillies didn’t become the dregs of the league. That’s apparently why 60-year-old John Middleton, who owns a 48 percent share of the team, is finally stepping forward as its public face:

"I'm very happy with where I am now. Twenty-plus years ago when we joined this partnership, there were five or six owners. Now, it's down to two. Obviously, things can change in the future as they have in the past, but I'm not pushing for change," Middleton said. "As the ownership group has shrunk, the Bucks and my family have had increasingly larger positions and with that comes a level of responsibility different than it was 25 years ago. I think we have to acknowledge that and kind of step up."

That Middleton was on the dais along with MacPhail and lame-duck interim Pat Gillick was easily more significant than the passing of the presidential reins from one steady baseball lifer to another. Ownership, which has been the quietest of silent partners with the Phillies for decades, is apparently ready to clear its throat.

Phillies trying to maneuver the digital divide: Marcus Hayes, Philadelphia Daily News

Playing a sport in which sabermetrics/analytics/information are so crucial, the Phillies were voted the least number friendly team in major North American professional sports earlier this year. Pat Gillick and Ruben Amaro, Jr. insist they are making strides in this department, but many observers are still skeptical, including their boss:

"It was hugely important," Middleton said. "There's just no way we were going to hire somebody who was [not] open-minded and willing to look at every piece of information. It's just inconceivable to me that you'd hire somebody who just shut out a big chunk of valuable information."

By saying that, Middleton is accusing Gillick, Amaro and Co. of minimizing sabermetrics in their destruction of a catastrophically bad Phillies team that only four seasons ago finished a team-record run of five consecutive division titles. Middleton is saying they systematically "shut out a big chunk of valuable information."

Amaro's fate in MacPhail's hands: Jake Kaplan, Philadelphia Inquirer

What about Ruben? He’ll assist Gillick and MacPhail with the upcoming trade deadline, but after that, his future with the Phillies feels much more tenuous:

The most prominent case MacPhail will need to address come October is the Phillies' general manager position. It is far from a secret that the contract of the beleaguered Ruben Amaro Jr. expires when the team's season does on Oct. 4.

New presidents typically prefer their own people in place, especially in the front office's most prominent position. Although he would never say it publicly on the day he was hired, it's likely MacPhail would target a GM with whom he is more familiar and who closely subscribes to his methods of running a major-league organization.

Middleton, MacPhail were 'disappointed' by Sandberg's exit: Corey Seidman, CSN Philly

Without expanding much on the subject, Ryne Sandberg cited the change in leadership when announcing his resignation on Friday. He and MacPhail know each other well:

There was some history with Sandberg and MacPhail, who presided over the Cubs from 1994 to 2006. MacPhail was running the Cubs when Sandberg first decided he wanted to manage, going to the minor leagues to get that part of his baseball life started.

And as MacPhail explained, nobody was more disappointed than him that Sandberg chose to walk away from the Phillies when he did.

"I can tell you my reaction was disappointment," MacPhail said Monday. "I'm not in a position of telling you or making any idea of what kind of manager he was. I've known Ryne since our time in Chicago. To me, actions speak louder than words. Here's a guy that walked away from a state-of-the-art contract (as a player) in the mid-90s because he was worried about the well-being of his family. That's huge in the character department for me.”

Phillies Announce Hiring of Andy MacPhail, Hope Abounds: Bill Baer, Crashburn Alley

Back on the subject of sabermetrics, Baer pointed out how Middleton and MacPhail’s enthusiasm for new information is a marked change:

Both stressed the importance of adapting which, as we’ve pointed out here repeatedly, includes being open-minded to new ideas and ways of collecting information. MacPhail brought up an interesting point, which was that even if one is fervently opposed to Sabermetrics, one should still take the time to understand it wholly simply to better understand how opposing teams are thinking. That logic, from the Phillies? It was a breath of fresh air.


Phillies turn to Andy MacPhail to play franchise Mr. Fix-It: Christina Kahrl, ESPN

As Kahrl notes, MacPhail is 3-for-3 in rebuilding down-on-its-luck franchises. Now that I think about it, there are a few similarities between him and The Wolf in “Pulp Fiction”:

In each of those three situations, MacPhail was taking over an organization that had become a national laughingstock. And in each of them, he left the team better off than how he found it. The only other man in the game with a similar reputation for taking on Superfund Site disaster franchises and getting them stable again would be Sandy Alderson, who cleaned up the post-Finley Oakland A's in the ’80s, took on the San Diego Padres during the difficult tail end of John Moores’ ownership of the team and then lent his credibility to a New York Mets franchise wracked by the Wilpons’ financial peccadilloes.

The Orioles would have never started winning without Andy MacPhail: Mark Brown, Camden Chat

The title is self-explanatory, and SB Nation’s Baltimore Orioles blog recapped some MacPhail’s greatest hits in Baltimore. In particular, the Erik Bedard deal that netted the O’s both Adam Jones and Chris Tillman stands out:

Had the trade only been Jones for the Orioles, the O's still would have ended up ripping off the Mariners. More than any other Oriole right now, you can't imagine this current string of success without Jones being here. He is the best player on the team and he's quite clearly the leader in the clubhouse. Jones has been a part of so much of a new breed of Orioles magic that it's hard to pick just one moment... but if you were going to pick just one moment, surely it would have to be the home run that told the world the 2012 Orioles meant business.

MacPhail hiring induces questions about how Phils will operate: Buster Olney, ESPN Insider

Olney says other front offices are curious how the Phillies will handle their business at the trade deadline:

What will the Phillies' process be? Will general manager Ruben Amaro, who doesn't have a contract into 2016, make the phone calls and swap the text messages, or will he be merely a conveyor of information for MacPhail and current Phillies president Pat Gillick? Will Amaro have the authority to make deals on his own, or will MacPhail or Gillick be the man behind the curtain? (There is a belief in the front offices of other teams that Gillick has held and wielded the real practical power in recent months.)

In case you missed it at PhillyVoice

•    Mullin tried to figure out how Amaro can keep his job.

•    Also, should Chase Utley play over Cesar Hernandez?

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann