In what can only be described as unexpected news, Ken Rosenthal and every other beat writer reported on Friday afternoon that the Phillies have fired manager Pete Mackanin.
#Phillies announce that Pete Mackanin will NOT manage team in 2018. Will serve as special assistant to GM in ’18 and beyond.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) September 29, 2017
Phillies say Mackanin will finish season as manager. He agreed to contract extension to serve as Special Assistant to GM for 2018 and beyond— Todd Zolecki (@ToddZolecki) September 29, 2017
I put those tweets there just so you’d believe me, because I almost don’t believe it myself. The Phillies gave Mackanin an extension back in May when they were playing at a 520-loss pace (that’s how bad they were, they were losing games by just stepping off of buses and eating dinner), and it was a major vote of confidence.
GM Klentak when he extended Mackanin thru ’18 in May: “Pete is the manager. There’s no time frame on that. This is not a temporary thing.”— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) September 29, 2017
But Mackanin might have had a feeling things weren’t going his way. He said earlier this week that he didn’t know if the Phillies were going to bring him back in 2018, despite the extension. I thought that was ludicrous, because I couldn’t imagine the Phillies firing a guy they’d been so publicly supportive of. But even Pete was taken by surprise.
Mackanin described by a friend as “shocked.” #Phillies 35-37 since All-Star Game. Were 29-58 at break.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) September 29, 2017
I feel for Mack. He was given crap to work with for most of his tenure, and he made the best of it, even though the best they could be was some level of not good. But the Phillies’ post All-Star break record really doesn’t have anything to do with him. And his insistence on continually playing Freddy Galvis and batting him second defies explanation.
Not to say that this is what did him in. Mackanin himself may not have even factored into the decision. He was never going to be the manager of the next competitive Phillies team. He was simply a bridge between Ryne Sandberg (::shudder::) and whatever came next. But GM Matt Klentak and the rest of the front office might be feeling a bit more confident after seeing what their young prospects have done in the majors. “Whatever came next” might be closer than we all thought. There’s a great manager waiting in Triple-A, and several attractive options (ahem, Brad Ausmus, who is attractive in the most literal sense and in no other way) out in the wild. Those factors had to have been what moved the Phillies to do this.
This move says that Klentak is clearly ready to move to the next phase of the Phillies rebuild, which is to stop rebuilding and start building. They’re done fixing what was broken inside. It’s time to bring in the big guns and start turning this team into a contender.
Mackanin will stay on and manage the final three games of the season before joining the front office in 2018. This isn’t the best way for his long-awaited first MLB managerial job to end, but that’s the business.
The Phillies have a press conference scheduled for 3pm, and we’ll have updates to follow once that’s over. It’s gonna be a wild offseason, kids. Get ready for it.