When Pete Mackanin first took over after Ryne Sandberg abruptly resigned as manager of the Phillies this summer, it was assumed he would just be a placeholder until the new team president hired a new general manager who would then hire a new manager to take the reigns next year.
And while the Phils are still on pace to lose 100 games for the first time since President John F. Kennedy's first year in office (1961), the team has performed better in the second half, 27-32 (.458), despite a 4-14 September. And with that improvement, Mackanin appears to be on board as the team's full-time manager for 2016.
Perhaps the surest sign that we can expect "Happy Pete" back next year is how he came down on one of the pleasant surprises of this rebuild, Odubel Herrera, over the weekend. Clearly agitated at some emotional outbursts by Herrera, one that included the 23-year-old flinging a bat into the on-deck circle after making an out in Atlanta on Sunday, Mackanin benched Herrera for the rest of the game, and had some strong words for the rookie afterward.
"Boys play Little League and men play Major League Baseball," Mackanin said (per Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News). "We will not pout, we will not feel sorry for ourselves. If you want to, then you don't belong here. He had to learn a lesson. To me, he's been pouting for a few days, so I just wanted to make sure he gets the message."
Mackanin went on.
"This game is easy to play when everything is going your way. When you're hitting and pitching and winning games, it's easy. Character (expletive deleted) comes out when you're struggling. What kind of person are you? That's what we talk about with the pitchers, to see if they can can get over the hump in getting out of jams . . . You cannot afford to pout or feel sorry for yourself at this level. You've got to play like a man."
Herrera has been lauded for most of the season for his spirited, high energy play. Is this the first time Mackanin's had a problem, or has it come up before this year?
"Lately he's been showing his emotions a little bit more," Mackanin said. "We're just not going to stand for it. He's got to understand that it doesn't work that way. I'm sure he's going to understand."
For the record, Herrera, a Rule 5 pick, has had a remarkable season, leading the team with a .298 batting average. He has a .335 on-base percentage, eight home runs and 27 doubles in 135 games.
But he has struggled as of late. Since September 14th, he's just 3-for-20 (.167 batting average) with a .250 on-base percentage, and the team has struggled to score runs. Frustration and fatigue is understandable, but Mackanin wants to make sure it doesn't become a problem for a player who, for most of the season, has been praised for his energy and attitude.
We don't see what goes on in the clubhouse, so it's unfair to come down hard on Mackanin without knowing all the facts. But it sure seems like an odd fight to pick, with the guy who has been worth 3.3 bWAR and didn't seem to be doing anything to show up the coach. Does Mack really have a problem with a player showing his emotions? Did he really need to refer to Herrera as if he were a child? What's not "to stand for?"
Certainly, benching Herrera for throwing his bat after making an out is reasonable, but Mack's comments afterward seemed like an overreaction, too strong, something reserved for a player who shows up their manager or screams obscenities at the other team.
Mackanin's comments felt like something Sandberg would have said.
However, Mack's handling of Herrera certainly signaled one thing. He believes he's going to be back as the team's manager in 2016.
Why would he have gone out of his way to deliver a message to Odubel, and by proxy, to the rest of the team if he didn't feel he was going to be back?
Interestingly, it took an "unhappy" Pete to drive home the point that yes, "Happy Pete" will be the team's manager next season.