The Phillies front office had not been held in high regard in recent years.
Mismanagement by former team president David Montgomery and former general manager Ruben Amaro helped to send the franchise down a suck spiral that saw them clinch five straight trips to the postseason to being the worst team in baseball last season.
Much was made about their MLB drafts over the last 10 years, how they were the only team in baseball to get negative Wins Above Replacement from their picks during that time. They ran away screaming from analytics and sabermetrics. Many of their free agent signings (Delmon Young, Michael Young, Ty Wigginton, etc.) were not well received, and on more than one occasion, the former GM put his foot in his mouth and said something embarrassing.
But times, they are a changin'.
The team has a new man in charge, team president Andy MacPhail, and a new general manager, Matt Klentak. The ownership group is now clearly headed by John Middleton, a man who has spoken often about the need to embrace advanced sabermetrics and running a results-based organization.
In a piece on Sports Illustrated's website this weekend, MLB writer Cliff Corcoran graded the Phillies off-season, the first one headed by MacPhail and Klentak, as an "A."
There are many reasons to be optimistic about Philadelphia. It has compelling young players in Herrera, third baseman Maikel Franco, righty starter Aaron Nola, shortstop prospect J.P. Crawford and the top prospects obtained in the Hamels and Giles trades, as well as almost complete financial flexibility and elite draft positions still to come. The Phillies' main goal this winter was to try to add to their stock of prospects and pre-arbitration players and resist the temptation to take on financial obligations by making immediate upgrades to the major league roster via free agency. They accomplished both and also added some depth at the major league level for the coming season.
But he's not the only one throwing bouquets at the Phils. Even the man who said the Phillies appear to be "tanking" the 2016 season appears to be applauding their plan.
The industry praise for the moves the Phillies have been making this winter, from the Giles trade to front office hires, has been growing.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) January 8, 2016
Well, technically he's quoting the "industry," whatever that is. My guess is it's a collection of informal conversations with team general managers, assistant general managers, managers, coaches, bat boys, and groundskeepers. And one has to wonder if these are the same people who said they were "concerned" about the level of tanking going on in baseball right now.
Which is all a bit confusing. Is what the Phillies doing good or bad?
Of course, what they've been doing is good. As Corcoran said, they have a bunch of young, pre-arb talent already on the Major League roster. They have a bunch of close-to-Major League ready talent in the upper minors who will be appearing on big club in the next two years.
And perhaps as importantly, they have left themselves all the room in the world financially to spend big when the time is right.
Yes, league executives are no longer giggling in the corner of the schoolyard at the Phils and their antiquated ways. They are being seen as a forward-thinking, smart franchise, finally coming to terms with the fact that this is the 21st century.
The Phillies are being praised.
Despite all this ugly, horrible, no good tanking.