By now, you’ve surely heard. Former Blue Jays minor league pitching coordinator and deeply mustachioed Phillies catcher Sal Fasano has lost his job. Toronto let him, as well as several other prominent figures from their development staff, go in a franchise-rattling shake-up from which it is unknown if they will ever recover.
Fasano served in many roles with the Blue Jays; he was their catcher for 16 games in 2007, their roving catching instructor after his 11-year, nine-team playing career ended in 2008, and managed their Double-A franchise in New Hampshire to a league championship in 2011, as the Phillies, undoubtedly inspired by his success, were putting together the best record in franchise history. For his efforts in managing the likes of Travis d’Arnaud, Rajai Davis, Adeiny Hechevarria, Yan Gomes, Casey Janssen, and Dustin McGowan, Fasano was awarded the 2011 Eastern League Manager of the Year award.
But before all of those reasons to not fire Fasano happened, he was a catcher for the Philadelphia Phillies for 50 magical games in 2006, just when people were starting to not be disgusted by the Phillies anymore. He hit .243 in 140 AB, which is not typically the sort of stat that gets you a fan section at Citizens Bank Park. But we were a little more liberal with them back then - if Vicente Padilla can get one, than the catcher with the sick facial hair who buys everyone pizza is definitely getting one.
And so Sal’s Pals were born.
Now that he’s looking for work, where could the Phillies slot a former fan favorite and minor league Manager of the Year?
In July of that 2006 season, the Phillies traded Fasano to the Yankees, but a dozen Sal’s Pals followed him to the Bronx. A New York Times writer blinked owlishly at their display, took a sip from his $19 breve latte, and inquired what exactly compelled these people to don wigs and root enthusiastically for a part time catcher who no longer played for their team. One of their founders told him:
"Sal is someone we can relate to. He looks like a regular guy, like the guy who fixes your toilet or hauls away your trash.’’
The thing is, if you asked Fasano to actually do those things, he probably would, because he’s that good of a guy. And then he would go out for beers with the rest of the janitorial and/or plumbing staff and they would all have a great time. Some of them would probably grow mustaches, too, never admitting it was largely due to their admiration of Sal. The point is, the man doesn't consider himself above anything, and literally everyone loves him.
This may be a better post for the end of the year, when the Phillies may have made an adjustment or two to their coaching staffs. At the moment, obviously, there aren’t any openings. In fact, there’s not a Phillies minor league affiliate that is currently in lower than second place. The playoffs are in all of their futures, presumably, which actually makes the concept of September call-ups to the major league level slightly problematic.
Things aren’t outwardly dire enough to make a serious change, barring personal issues. There was the Dave Brundage vs. Nick Williams kerfuffle this season in Lehigh Valley, but that’s difficult to navigate without being in the room when it went down. Had Williams been clipping his toe nails in Brundage’s office? We’ll never know. But Sal Fasano doesn’t give off the vibe of a real ass-chewer in the clubhouse, keeping a tight leash on the level of ‘tude being spewed by future stars. He seems to subscribe more to the "Hey, why don’t we all grow a mustache" school of managing.
The Phillies would have to be able to find some use for the man who turned Dustin McGowan into a league champion. But they’re likely not the only organization to have interest in the 45-year-old. ESPN’s Jeff Pearlman famously said Fasano would be in the Hall of Fame if entrants were measured on their personalities and not baseball skill. While Toronto rips out any remainders of the Alex Anthopoulos regime, there are probably teams that would see an influence like Fasano, nod, smile, and pick up the phone. And Fasano would answer, too, just like he did the first time Pearlman reached out to him, finger health be damned:
When I dialed Fasano's cell phone, I assumed he'd be either in his apartment or at the ballpark.
"Hey, Jeff, great to hear from you," Sal said after I introduced myself.
"But lemme ask you a favor. Could you call back a little later? I just got hit by another pitch, and I'm in an ambulance heading for the hospital. I think I broke a finger…"
As the Phillies push forward with an admirable new front office that has embraced, however many years late, the more modern aspects of player evaluation, Fasano seems to represent an age of coaches who were good with players instead of numbers. This whole time, the most rational, revered voices in baseball have been preaching balance - that there is a place for both traditional scouting and PHIL the super computer in baseball. Fasano would be a hardy injection of personality into the Phillies developmental realm; which is not something I’m saying the Phillies specifically need (I am not going to be the man crying for change in a year when the entire farm system is going to the post season), just something that, should it appeal to them, they’d get by the mustacheful in the form of an ex-player already celebrated by everyone.