Great column by Bob Brookover today – Who Is Running The Phillies? – about the power vacuum that currently exists (or… doesn’t exist?) in the Phillies front office.
Here’s what we know: David Montgomery is sick. He may or may not also be getting pushed out. Pat Gillick, 77, is now the interim President– six years after retiring as general manager because being away from home was getting to him. Ruben Amaro is, inexplicably, still the current GM. Billionaire co-ownerJohn Middleton may or may not want to become majority owner. His son, John POWERS, has a cool Dodgers trolling hat and now enjoys this website, basically making me friends with Leo.
But Brookover, on the heels of the Phillies yet again issuing a statement to deny Howard Eskin’s continued reporting that Middleton is trying to take over the team, wonders who, if not Charles, is in charge:
It’s great that the Phillies are most concerned about Montgomery’s health. He’s a good man and that should be everyone’s primary concern. But the current arrangement creates questions that go beyond media reports about the future of the team’s presidency.
Who is in charge right now is a serious question, especially when the team is about to embark on a trip to the winter meetings in San Diego that will likely begin the heavy lifting on a long-awaited rebuilding job. Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. echoed the sentiments of the team statement and he also made it clear that he answers to Gillick.
“He’s my boss,” Amaro said. “Right now that’s pretty clear and that’s where we are. We’re operating kind of status quo.”
Brookover is, by far, my favorite Phils writer for questioning the organization in this manner (see Howard, Ryan handling). He raises a good point– the Phillies did leave a lot of ambiguity in that statement. And what’s more interesting than simply who’s in charge? is what does the non-answer mean?
The Phillies are in the midst of perhaps their most important rebuilding project of all-time. They have become a big-market, big-money team. They have a huge TV deal. They’ve seen how Philly can almost become a baseball town. If the 2007-2011 seasons accomplished anything for the long-term, it’s that they got fans thinking that the Phillies were no longer a perennial loser, but instead on the verge of becoming a powerhouse like the Yankees or Red Sox. I think everyone understood that the immediate window of success would slam shut someday, but the expectation was that the Phillies would be able to retool more than rebuild. Right now though, they don’t even have a plan to level (v.) the ground. There is absolutely no direction, no plan, no coherent series of imagined events that could lead to future success. Is that because leadership is unclear? Or is it made worse because leadership is unclear? Who knows?
To rebuild, to blow it up, requires top executives – namely, the owner(s) – to be on board. Sam Hinkie isn’t executing the Sixers’ plan by himself– he’s been given the go-ahead by Scott O’Neil and Joshua Harris. These things demand the approval and support of those in charge. Rebuilding in baseball doesn’t require a tanking process as drastic as what the Sixers are doing, but it still, of course, requires a plan. Who’s making that plan for the Phillies? It’s not Amaro. His hands were reportedly tied from offering Yasmany Tomas a contract. Is it Gillick? Fingers-crossed that it’s not. He’s 77 and doing this basically as a favor– I imagine he has no interest in overseeing a complete overhaul, the fruits of which wouldn’t be enjoyed until he’s on a deck somewhere in Canada staring with great wonder at the wilderness. It’s not Montgomery– he has a bigger fight on his hands. So who is it? It can’t be Middleton (yet, at least).
Apathy sets in when there’s no tension in these situations. Tiny example: The Phils couldn’t even be bothered to make the most perfunctory of announcements at midnight the other day. That’s a small thing, to be sure, but it’s the sort of thing world-class organizations don’t let slip. The bigger things are… failing to make any major moves at the trade deadline two years in a row… failing, as of yet, to move any big contracts during the offseason… failing to even have their shit in enough order to offer Yasmany Tomas a lowballed deal… failure to offer up anything remotely resembling a plan. It’s all made worse by the lousy PR department, which operates as though newspapers, Prism and, well, King are still king. I truly don’t think they get how disenfranchised fans have become with team over the last two years. This bottoming out was expected, but the failure to present us with a future about which we can be excited is a huge kick in the balls. For real, my balls hurt right now, and it’s all because I don’t know when I’ll be able to watch competitive Major League baseball again.
Losing sucks, but the Sixers are a great example of how it can be overlooked if there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Sure, it may not show in attendance and ratings, but few knowledgable observers are outraged at what’s going on. The Phillies’ recent struggles, on the other hand, are made infinitely worse by their lack of vision and their seeming dismissal of advanced statistics or even just modern thinking. And what’s most troubling is that there appears to be a serious lack of leadership at a time when the organization desperately needs leadership. We destroy Amaro around here (I think rightfully), but he may be just a symptom of the greater problem that is an institutional lack of foresight, control and awareness.