You know how you learn a piece of information, process it, and then you let it rattle around for a few minutes before forming an opinion? Well, today, when the Phillies announced Pete Mackanin wouldn’t return as manager next season, I began that process. I read it on Twitter. I said, “Oh. Wow.” And then I waited for the synapses in my brain to fire so I could feel some kind of way about it. Here’s the weird thing, I let it sit there for a bit, and I…I just don’t feel any way about it.
When the Phillies fired Charlie Manuel, I felt sorry for him and a little bit pissed because he took the fall for Ruben Amaro’s complete ineptitude. When the Eagles fired Chip Kelly, I belted out a hearty “FUCK YEAH!” With Mackanin, I don’t know, it’s just somewhat hard to get worked up one way or the other over the move because he did an average job with well below average players. There’s something to be said for the fact that most players seemed to play hard for him, but there’s also nothing that jumped out about him that made anyone say, “This is the guy.” That’s really the knock on Mackanin—he was just a guy who did a respectable job while keeping a seat warm. He was never going to be at the helm when the Phillies were ready to contend, but I was nonetheless a bit caught off guard by the move, primarily because the Phillies still seem at least another year away from contending. I figured this move would happen, just a year from now, particularly given their recent improved play.
The Phillies’ win percentage rose from .333 before the All-Star break to .486 after it. They won six more games in the second half of the season than they did in the first, despite playing 15 fewer games. In the event they sweep a shitty Mets team this weekend, they will actually finish the second half over .500 with a 38-37 record.
The players, for their part, didn’t seem particularly fazed by the move. J.P. Crawford, Nick Williams, and Rhys Hoskins each gave stock replies about being surprised by the move (while seeming completely unsurprised) in the clubhouse prior to Friday night’s game. In fact, the most interesting thing said came via Williams, who told CSN’s Marshall Harris that he learned of Mackanin’s firing from his fiancé who told him while he was in the clubhouse hot tub. Guess there wasn’t an emotional team meeting to break the news.
The real story, however, is where the Phillies go from here. One name that has emerged early is that of Lehigh Valley manager Dusty Wathan. Crawford, Williams, and Hoskins spoke glowingly of the 44-year-old, who Hoskins characterized Friday as a manager he “felt comfortable going to with baseball stuff and non-baseball stuff.”
The move would make some sense given his familiarity with the team’s core group of young players, but I’m not so sure that is the direction the Phillies will go. Klentak told reporters that they will look at internal and external options, but with a team that finally appears poised to spend a shit ton of money and an increasingly impatient ownership that would like a return to relevance, I wouldn’t be surprised if he and President of Baseball Operations Andy MacPhail look outside the organization. “Hey, Manny Machado, you will have the chance to play for DUSTY WATHAN!” doesn’t sound like a great sales pitch. At the very least, if Wathan does get the job, it has not yet been decided. If it had been, Klentak would have emerged from his meetings in Clearwater this week, fired Mackanin, while simultaneously announcing Wathan’s promotion. It sounds like a fluid situation far from completion.
While their ultimate direction remains unclear, one thing clearly came into focus with today’s move and it is that the Phillies are about to become players at the offseason table once again.