What does that mean?
Does it mean John Middleton is thinking about canning Matt Klentak and Andy MacPhail? Does it mean that nothing will happen it all? Did a preconceived plan to replace Gabe Kapler with somebody else hit a snag?
We don’t know, at least not right now, so we read between the lines and look for clues.
One of those clues jumps right off the page and slaps you across the face, and it’s the set of quotes Middleton dropped on 94 WIP back in March, after the Phillies completed the Bryce Harper signing and wrapped up an offseason that also included the additions of J.T. Realmuto, Andrew McCutchen, Jean Segura, and David Robertson.
“I mean, seriously, Branch Rickey never had this kind of offseason. Pat Gillick never had this kind of offseason,” Middleton said. “I’m not telling you [Klentak] had the greatest single offseason in the history of baseball, but you know what? If you make that statement, people might quibble with it but they can’t really argue with it too hard. Because nobody’s ever done what this kid did.
“I’ve always thought this was an exceptional young man. He has great instincts. Watching him create this strategy to fill all these holes and have to do it sequentially and still leave that last big piece in the signing of Manny or Bryce — honestly, it was brilliant. I’ve always known Matt had the confidence that he could step up to the plate and deliver when the time came, but the difference is today he’s delivered and he knows that he can perform.
“This guy, really he is a full-fledged, elite GM in this game.”
Surely he is not going to fire Klentak after saying that, is he? There’s no way he can gut the front office after making those claims on March third, exactly seven months ago to the day.
That’s why it feels to me like this is less of a Gabe Kapler/Matt Klentak/Andy MacPhail thing and more of an internal struggle that Middleton is navigating right now. He obviously likes his guys. He said great things about them in the not-too-distant past. Then that group COLLECTIVELY went on to underachieve across the board.
It feels to me, the uneducated casual baseball observer, like Middleton is really conflicted here. I don’t have any evidence to back that up; it’s just a guess, really. I also find it intriguing how you hear these tidbits about how he reportedly listens to the radio and takes stock of Twitter reaction and things like that, which Joe Giglio really dove into last night on a quality shift at 94 WIP. It’s one thing for an owner to understand the pulse of the fan base, but basing hiring and firing decisions on fan opinion is another entirely.
Anyway, we’re looking for bread crumbs here, and those March quotes might as well be an entire loaf of discarded Sara Lee Artesano.