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May 11, 2017

Why Phillies GM Klentak decided time was right to extend Mackanin

Pete Mackanin can figure the math, and that’s why not that long ago he didn’t believe he’d ever get an opportunity to fulfill his professional goal of being a full-time major league manager.

His first interim job came about a month after his 54th birthday, with the Pittsburgh Pirates. But it lasted all of 26 games and the interim tag was never lifted.

The second interim job came two years later. He lasted a little longer (80 games) and actually led the Cincinnati Reds to a winning record. But, again, the interim tag was never lifted.

So when Mackanin first joined Charlie Manuel’s coaching staff in 2009, stayed on for four seasons before being fired, and then rejoined the Phillies on Ryne Sandberg’s coaching staff at the start of the 2014 season, he figured Father Time was no longer on his side for a big league managing gig.

But, as the saying goes, three times a charm. Shortly after his 64th birthday, Mackanin became a full-time big league manager when the Phillies lifted the interim status.

Since then, a new front office regime has liked Mackanin enough to hold two separate press conference within the span of 15 months to extend his tenure as Phillies manager, the most recent coming on Thursday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park.

“Next year will be my 50th year in professional baseball,” the soon-to-be 66-year-old Mackanin said. “And with this contract, I will have spent more time with this organization than any other organization I’ve been associated with, so it means a lot to me. … When I took over here as an interim, it kind of stuck. The fact that I was given an opportunity to stick around, the continue with managing the team, it means a whole lot to me. My wife and I are extremely grateful to the Phillies organization.”

Mackanin’s new deal gives him a new contract for 2017, guarantees him another season in 2018, and includes a club option for 2019.

“Whether it’s the interaction of the players, his interactions with the media, with the fans, whether we’re on a winning streak or a losing streak, I think he’s clearly solidified that he’s the leader of this club,” general manager Matt Klentak said.

Mackanin’s previous contract was set to expire at season’s end. His new one allows him the possibility to be in the same role when the Phillies complete their rebuild and field a contending team.

“I can certainly envision it,” Mackanin said. “I’ve got that National League championship ring from 2009 my first year as a coach here. And I’d like to get another one. … Certainly, that would be (nice). I’d be a little bit older [laughs] but that’d be great.”

Klentak, who joined Mackanin on the dais in the media room at Citizens Bank Park on Thursday, was asked a similar question.

Does this contract mean you feel comfortable and are confident that Pete can be the manager not just through the rebuild but into the next phase, into contention?

“Yeah, absolutely,” Klentak said. “Pete is the manager. And there is no timeframe on that, this is not a temporary thing. Pete’s the manager. And I have every hope and every confidence that he will be as we turn this around and the wins start coming that he is going to be right here.”

Here is more from Klentak, on the timing of the deal, the current status of the team, the growth of the players under Mackanin’s tenure, and more:

When did the timeline of this contract take shape, why now?

Klentak:  "The first time I was asked about Pete’s status was at the Winter Meetings back in December … I said something along the lines that we had time for that and we’d do it when the time was right. Last year we did it in spring training, this year it happens to be May. I think if you look around baseball, sometimes teams extend managers years in advance, some take it down to the wire. So, there is no one way to do it. But what I’ve seen from the first six weeks of this season is a team that plays hard on every pitch. And I recognize, fully recognize that our record is six games under .500. But take yesterday’s game as an example. We got down big late in the game and those players fought in the 8th inning to load the bases, fought again to put up runs in the ninth. And we’ve been doing that every night. I think the effort level of this team – we can see progress in what’s happening right now. Pete can see it, we all can see it’s happening before our very eyes. Obviously, it’s not reflected in our win-loss record yet, but we can see the progress happening. And that’s why we’re making this decision, the team is playing very well for this man to my left."

Does this contract put Mackanin in a better position to deal with the tougher decision as a manager, wield power in a clubhouse? Were you evaluating that?

Klentak: "It all boils down to leadership. Whether it’s a young player that Pete is trying to help through the early paces or a veteran player, or having a tough conversation about playing time, whatever the case might be, all of that boils down to leadership and communication. And those are things in the last year and a half that, yeah, we’ve evaluated, but they are also things Pete and I have talked about. We have a pretty open relationship about what’s going on downstairs (in the clubhouse) or what we’re working on upstairs (in the front office) when we’re making player moves. It’s definitely something we’ve evaluated but I also think it’s a strength of Pete’s."

Win/loss record aside, are you and the coaching staff getting the most out of these players, where they stand in their development? Do you have to look at the staff?

Klentak: "If you look at it on a team-wide basis, I’ve been encouraged over the first six weeks of the season. Even in our tough road trip through Dodger Stadium and Wrigley Field, we had leads in all of those games and our players fought to the very end. This team is playing hard to reach their potential. And that’s our role, whether the front office, the manager, the scouting department’s role, we’re all trying to put the best players on the field that we can and help them achieve whatever their ceilings are, different players have different ability levels and ceilings, but we want to get the maximum out of them that we can, and that’s something that Pete and his staff do. I think Pete’s staff is working very well right now. Working well together, working well with the players, working well with Pete. I think in a lot of areas it’s being reflected on the field.”

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @ryanlawrence21

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