Philadelphia Phillies manager Pete Mackanin delivered an effective first full season of work.
Pete Mackanin didn’t expect to become the Philadelphia Phillies manager in late June 2015. But Ryne Sandberg provided his employer with same-day notice and ‘Mac’ was asked to pinch hit. Then the handwritten interim tag that hung outside his office was replaced with a permanent sign by season’s end. Now, after his first full season as a big league skipper, a reasoned review of all efforts shows that the baseball lifer did more than just stand in the dugout.
Philadelphia sported a .420 (37-51) winning percentage after Mackanin was asked to take over last season. ‘Ryno’ left with a .351 (26-48) crease in his pants. That mark wasn’t acceptable to the Hall of Fame player or to anyone else. Sandberg’s work also appeared to confirm that he didn’t possess the range of skills that are needed to effectively lead modern baseball personalities. And the contrast Mackanin created remained apt as 2016 played out.
All teams want to make progress. Larry Bowa represented a fresh take when former general manager Ed Wade hired him to lead the 2001 team. Bowa took over for Terry Francona, who didn’t have much to work with and was backed by an organization that wouldn’t spend money during the pre-Citizens Bank Park years. Bowa’s energy was right for his times. He bonded with Jimmy Rollins and began to shape the early core of what became the franchise’s second-ever World Series team.
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Pat Gillick eventually succeeded Wade in the front office. He retained Charlie Manuel and the rest became history. Gillick’s groomed replacement, Ruben Amaro, Jr., cried when he fired Manuel in August 2013. Sandberg, like Amaro, was an heir apparent. Similar to the then-embattled GM, this prodigal son failed to carry the mantle.
Mackanin’s squad performed better this season (71-91, .438 winning percentage) than last. Bowa’s first full season in 2001 resulted in an unexpected 86-76 record (.531). His team only fell two games short of the Atlanta Braves, who won the National League East. So, ‘Bo’ bested Mac’s first year. And Mackanin beat Francona’s first Phillies year (1997: 68-94, .420). Of course by 2007, Francona was wearing two Fall Classic rings for leading the Boston Red Sox.
The results that Dallas Green and Manuel produced in 1980 and 2008 respectively represent the goal of any successor. Nothing short of a World Series championship, within a reasonable period of seasons after having been hired, is good enough. Whether Mackanin will still be in place by the time the Phillies have a fully stocked, healthy and productive 25-man roster that truly is a postseason contender is unknowable right now.
Philadelphia will decide whether to pick up the 2018 club option this 65-year-old no-frills, straightforward guy has in his current contract. GM Matt Klentak and his boss, team president Andy MacPhail, will collaborate on that call sometime next year.
But, if given the chance, the current Phillies manager appears to embody the needed intangibles to continue growing with a young roster which stands to incorporate veteran enhancements in coming years. Mackanin’s approach gives him a chance to win and with that the future of this organization seems rightly classified as encouraging.