Philadelphia Phillies relieve Mackanin from managerial role

Philadelphia Phillies fire manager Pete Mackanin
Pete Mackanin said the right things on Friday, but you could tell from his demeanor he wasn't clear on the logic. Ten weeks and one day from signing a contract extension to remain as the Phillies' manager it was announced Friday he was fired.

This after the Phillies have played significantly better since the All-Star break (36-37). This after rookies and prospects like Rhys Hoskins and Jorge Alfaro have finally begun to feel somewhat at ease at the major league level. This after general manager Matt Klentak publicly said just 10 weeks ago he was “absolutely” comfortable with the manager being the man in the dugout when the Phillies’ rebuild transitioned into a team ready to contend.

Mackanin, 66, will finish out the remaining weekend with the Phillies before transitioning into a special assistant role in the front office. He has gone 174-237 since replacing Ryne Sandberg as manager in 2015.

“I was a little surprised,” Mackanin said of the news that came a day earlier in a private meeting with Klentak. “But there are a lot of things in this business that are surprising. I’m good with it. Let’s put it that way. I’m disappointed surely. I’m not going to sit here and say that I’m all tickled pink about it. But I understand it and I’m happy to be a part of it down the road.”

Mackanin, who also played for the Phillies during the 1978-79 seasons, has spent 10 seasons with the franchise as a coach and manager.

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He served as Philadelphia's bench coach for four seasons from 2009 to 2012 under Charlie Manuel. The team won three of its five consecutive NL East titles in that span. He became the third-base coach in 2014 and served in that role until Sandberg abruptly resigned.

"Pete was an excellent manager for the time he was here," Klentak said. "I was a rookie general manager and I learned a ton from Pete and will continue to do so."

Something can be said about Klentak wanting to put his stamp on the organization as it appears to be turning into the competitive phase of the rebuild, especially considering he inherited Mackanin as manager. Still, the decision to award Mackanin an extension less than four months ago then remove him from the very same role is a bit of a head scratcher.

“We’re not firing him,” Klentak said Friday. “We’re transitioning him into a new role. I think when we extended Pete in May – and I’m on record as talking about it at the time – I think it was important at that juncture to demonstrate the stability in the organization and, as a credit to Pete and the group, we did get things on track. But I think as the season has gone on and as we have turned the roster over and as the young players have shown up here in Philadelphia, and we’ve seen some of that progress, we have reached the critical phase I alluded to earlier. I think it is time for us to turn the page and start looking forward to the future.”

Mackanin was a players' manager. He knew how to handle different personalities, and though stern at times, he exercised patience and allowed players to bounce back from mistakes. He handled the youth well and did an admirable job over the last two months balancing a roster with several players playing outside their position to make room in the starting lineup for someone else.

“We’ve played really good baseball in the second half,” said Cameron Rupp. “We’ve had good pitching, offense has been there, and we’re in the top in baseball in offense the last couple months. It’s not something you expect. You don’t come to the ballpark saying, ‘Who’s getting fired?’ or ‘Who’s not going to return?’ You come to the ballpark to get ready for the night and when you hear it, it’s a little surprising.”

Mackanin did everything asked of him. This move is less about his shortcomings as a manager and more about Klentak's desire to bring in his own guy to ideally take the Phillies to the next level.

“I’ve had to fire coaches and release players over many years,” Mackanin said. “When Matt told me he wasn’t bringing me back, I didn’t ask for a reason. I think whatever the reason is, that’s his reason, and that’s good enough for me.”
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BY PATRICK GORDON
Managing Editor
pgordon@philadelphiabaseballreview.com

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