I don’t think it’s possible for me to agree with David Murphy any more than I do.
Here’s Murph, writing about the Phillies’ reported pursuit of longtime boys club member and apparent friend of Pat Gillick, Andy MacPhail, to run the team:
Maybe MacPhail is an exception. Maybe the Phillies are targeting him because they desperately want to build a modern baseball organization and they think he knows exactly how to do it. This isn’t about hiring a 62-year-old vs. hiring a 26-year-old. I have nothing against old people, apart from the crippling education and health-care costs they have inflicted on a generation that they then have the temerity to call selfish. I love my parents, and they are old. They also watch CBS, and if I hired them to run HBO, each episode of “Game of Thrones” would end with Tom Selleck imparting a life lesson to somebody. Their idea of an instant video app is the public library. Again, I love them.
Maybe MacPhail hates CBS. Maybe he is a long-lost descendant of House Targaryen. He does have blond hair. But considering the Phillies’ track record, it is difficult to convince oneself that they are targeting a member of one of baseball’s oldest executive lineages because of his progressive credentials. The problem with MacPhail is that he is the exact guy you’d expect them to hire. If you hired a sketch artist to draw a picture of the Phillies’ next president based on their usual profile, the sketch artist would say, “Why am I drawing you a picture? We both know they are going to hire MacPhail.”
Self-indulgence aside, that was perfect.
The idea of MacPhail may be worse than MacPhail himself. We really don’t know what sort of change he would bring to the Phillies. What we do know is that he built a couple of great Twins teams, had (relative) success with the Cubs (who went on to two first-place finishes the two years after MacPhail left– 2007 and 2008), and helped construct a small part of what has turned into a very good Orioles team.
On the surface, it seems all good… until you remember that baseball has changed drastically over the last five years. A deep understanding of advanced statistics, sabermetrics and market inefficiencies aren’t just a nice to haves, they’re requirements now. Where the A’s and Rays, and to an extent, Red Sox, were ahead of the curve a decade or so ago, they’re now just part of a pack – which includes just about every team except the Phillies – that is embracing a new way of quantifying value in baseball (and sports in general).
You can argue that the Phillies were the last great team to be built on old-school philosophies. Big power hitters, expensive closer, intangibles. And even that took the core of an All-Star-laden team hitting their collective peak – ages 28-30 – at just about the same time. Pat Gillick, to his credit, played a large role in rounding out the roster to include Greg Dobbs, Matt Stairs, Jamie Moyer, J.C. Romero, Joe Blanton, Jayson Werth, Brad Lidge, and others. But the time for the sort of thinking used to construct that team has passed.
Which brings us back to MacPhail.
It’s probably the number one requirement of a team President or GM in 2015 to have at least a grasp on analytics. And as I wrote the other day, hearing that MacPhail has “longstanding relationships with Phillies chairman David Montgomery and club president Pat Gillick,” two guys who clearly don’t embrace new-school thinking, you have to question whether he’s the right man for the job. Gillick, Amaro, Wade, and even Montgomery (though at this point he has little to do with the day-to-day baseball operations), are stuck in reverse. Is MacPhail, their friend, the guy to drive this thing forward? Murph doesn’t seem to think so, and I’m inclined to agree with him.