Phillies Prez Montgomery Steps Down

Montgomery is a native and lifelong Philly guy
The Philadelphia Phillies organization announced on Thursday afternoon that club president David Montgomery, serving in that post since 1997, is stepping down temporarily due to medical reasons. The 68-year old who also serves as the Phillies CEO is a part-owner and general partner, and recently underwent surgery in relation to cancer of the jaw.
It was further announced that Baseball Hall of Famer and former club GM Pat Gillick will serve in Montgomery’s post during his recuperation period. It is hoped that Montgomery will be able to return actively to the team presidency once he is fully recovered.
Last night, Montgomery was one of the first in line to congratulate the local Taney Dragons, the team that won the hearts of Philadelphians with their advancement to the 2014 Little League World Series earlier this month. CSN’s Phillies “insider” Jim Salisbury on Twitter (@jsalisburycsn): “Dave Montgomery was the first guy in line to congratulate the Taney kids last night. The guy is all-Philly first team and a warrior.
Montgomery grew up in Philly, attending numerous games at Connie Mack Stadium during the 1950′s and 60′s. He graduated from Penn Charter high school and then from the University of Pennsylvania. He continued with his Penn education at the Wharton Business School, graduating in 1970, the Phils final season at Connie Mack.
In 1971, Montgomery was hired as a member of the Phillies sales department with some intervention from organizational legend Robin Roberts. He spent some time as the scoreboard operator at Veteran’s Stadium, and then quickly rose through the organization, becoming the head of sales and marketing, and by the end of the 70′s had become the head of the business department.
In 1981, Montgomery became part of the team put together by Bill Giles to purchase the Phillies from Ruly Carpenter. With Giles as the principle owner, Montgomery became the executive vice-president. He would serve in this post, helping run the team and make numerous important decisions, for the next 16 seasons.
In 1997, Montgomery ascended to the club presidency when Giles took on the position of Chairman and began the fight for a new ballpark. This made Montgomery the first Philadelphian to head the organization in six decades. He has been active in numerous Philadelphia civic ventures, for his University of Pennsylvania alma mater, and has served Major League Baseball in a number of roles.

Fire Ruben Amaro

It’s an idea so simplistic that it has developed its own active Twitter hashtag of #FireRuben, and as the Phillies enter a 3rd consecutive lost September under his watch it is very fair for Fightin’s fans to start saying out loud and often. 

The team needs a new direction, from the top, and it’s time to fire Ruben Amaro from his position as General Manager of the team.
There have been a number of traditional media and blogger articles written in recent days and weeks on this topic, so I’m not going to spend a lot of time rehashing those thoughts. Here is one very simple question that you need to answer, if you are not sure about Amaro: were he to be released today, is he likely to ever again be considered for a GM job with any other franchise for the rest of his life?
The GM of a franchise in Major League Baseball can be properly looked at with two questions.
First, what have you done for us in the past? Second, why are you the person to guide us into the future? A positive answer to the first is not always a good reason when evaluating the second, but it does give the incumbent a leg up on other possible candidates. I would put it to you that any honest evaluation will show that Amaro’s “past” is mediocre, and that his “future” should not happen at all.
There are two highlights over the course of the Amaro Era, which has lasted from his elevation to the position following the 2008 World Series championship through to the current day. Those two highlights would be an appearance in the 2009 World Series, and a franchise-record 102-victory regular season in 2011. The decisions made that put together the “Four Aces” and set the wheels in motion for that 2011 regular season are easily his high-water mark as GM.
What Amaro was doing for the most part during the period of 2009-2011 was tread water. He had a winning hand, dealt to him by his two immediate predecessors, Ed Wade and Baseball Hall of Famer Pat Gillick. He let Jayson Werth go, trying to replace him with Raul Ibanez. He orchestrated a trade for Roy Halladay, but traded away Cliff Lee on the same day. He stumbled and fumbled, trying to find the right combo, and nothing ultimately worked. The team still won with a core moving through its prime, but it couldn’t again win the big one.
Then came that 2011 season. We all know what happened. Riding those four aces of Halladay, Hamels, Oswalt, and Lee the team was able to go up against opponents almost every single game knowing it had the better starting pitcher on the mound. It showed in the results of a 102-60 regular season. But then came the Cardinals, and Chris Carpenter, and that 2011 Phillies team fell victim to the perils of an “anything can happen in a short series” playoff.
To that point, you can say that Amaro was doing okay. He hadn’t won a World Series of his own yet, but the streak of NL East crowns had stretched out to 5 in a row. But now some storm clouds were gathering. The core of players that had led the charge to the top over the last half-decade were all aging together. The pieces being brought in to support them were not working out. The decisions being made were beginning to show as poor. The Phillies weren’t winning any longer, and there was no help coming from the minor leagues.
There has been a slow, steady deterioration of results in the Amaro Era since that 2008 World Series victory. A return to the World Series in 2009, but a loss there. A return to the NLCS in 2010, but a loss there. A return to the playoffs in 2011, but a loss there in the first round. A .500 record in 2012. A losing record in 2013. Last place now here in 2014. All the while, the farm system has deteriorated to the point that it is consistently rated near the bottom by most talent evaluators.
When things go as badly in an organization as they so obviously have for the Phillies under the watch of Ruben Amaro Jr, there is only one place to lay the blame: at the top. He has made the decisions regarding player contracts, draft choices, free agency. He has done the hiring, or continued the tenure, of the team’s other talent evaluators such as coaches, his own assistants, and scouts.
There are going to be many huge decisions that need to take place in order to turn this Phillies organization around, and to again fill up the stands at Citizens Bank Park. 
Those do not involve holding tribute night’s to Little League teams. They do not involve more Dollar Dog days. They do not involve giving away more bobbleheads. They involve building a winning organization throughout with impact prospects, and putting a winning product on the field in South Philly. Ruben Amaro is not the man to be entrusting with those decisions.
The Phillies need a General Manager who is not tied to the organization’s past, especially not to the 2008 World Series champions. They need someone who is going to be focused on tomorrow. They need someone who has experience, and who most importantly has good contacts throughout baseball and the respect of his peers, who has built those relationships and who can work with other GM’s.
Club President David Montgomery can thank Amaro for his work. He can fete Amaro’s rise from the son of a Phillies player, to a Phillies player himself, to an Assistant GM for a World Series winner, to GM of a record-setting team. Make it as positive as you want. But if you want positive results on the field in the near future, those will not come from the past. Certainly not from his past. The time has come for the Philadelphia Phillies ownership group to fire Ruben Amaro Jr.

Playoffs? You Kiddin’ Me?

“Playoffs?…You kiddin’ me?”
Following a loss in the 10th game of the 2001 NFL season that dropped his Indianapolis Colts squad to a 4-6 record, head coach Jim Mora went off on one of the most memorable post-game press conference tirades in sports history. 

In the midst of lambasting his team’s turnover-prone performance against the San Francisco 49ers, a reporter unwisely brought up the topic of what effect this might have on the Colts playoff chances. 

Playoffs?” Mora asked incredulously, “Don’t talk about…playoffs? You kiddin’ me? Playoffs? I just hope we can win a game.”

Coach Mora’s immortal rant was ringing in my ears the last couple of days when, to me just as incredulously, I noticed a number of Phillies fans on social media announcing that the team was just 9 1/2 games out of the Wildcard, and might still have a chance at the playoffs. Playoffs? You kiddin’ me? Playoffs?

I personally stopped checking the MLB standings, at least as far as the hometown Philadelphia Phillies are concerned, more than a month ago. 


But following a five-game winning streak that included a four-game sweep of the NL Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers, the Fightins had closed to within nine games of the .500 mark. They sat just eight games out of first place. It was the closest they had been in two weeks, and the optimist in me still held out a sliver of hope as we approached the All-Star break.

The team then proceeded to lose 7 of the next 8 games to fall 15 under .500, 13 games back, and I was done. There would be no miracle in 2014. These Phillies were what they were, a losing team, and it had been coming. The team fell from their lofty 2011 franchise record-setting perch to a .500 finish in 2012, then to their first losing season in a decade, a 2013 that saw them finish 13 games below the .500 mark. There would be no getting back up.

That 1-7 stretch began a 13-20 mark of futility over more than a month of play leading into mid-August and a homestand that began last Monday night. So what has happened suddenly to make some segment of the fan base believe that the post-season, the “playoffs”, is even a remote possibility?

First of all, it began with a basic: the team started to win a bit. With last night’s victory over Washington, the Phils have clinched winning their 3rd straight series. They took 2 of 3 vs. the Mariners and Cardinals each last week, and now have won the first two in the series with the Nationals. It’s been a nice little stretch of play, winning 6 of 8 on the homestand thus far. But all it has accomplished is this: nothing that matters.

The Phils are still a full dozen games below the .500 mark. They are still 15 1/2 behind the first place Nats. They still have the worst record in the National League East, the 4th-worst in the entire league. At those 9 1/2 game out in the Wildcard race, they have 9 teams standing between them and the 2nd Wildcard playoff berth. Despite their recent winning play, they have gained no ground in that race over the last 10 games. 

Folks, I have said it before and I’ll say it again: I am not only Mr. Glass Half Full, I am Mr. Glass 3/4 Full. But there comes a time when even the most optimistic have to be realistic. If the Phils somehow reach the playoffs, I will walk the 23 miles from my home to Citizens Bank Park wearing a sign saying “I Didn’t Believe” – but I won’t have to take that walk. The Phillies have no, zero, shot at a 2014 playoff berth. There will be no post-season play, no October baseball at all in the City of Brotherly Love.

MLB Mid-August 2014 Power Ranking

Bearded closer Sean Doolittle and the A’s remain on top

The Oakland A’s were on top of the first Power Rankings back in June, slipped just a notch to 2nd in July behind Kansas City, and were tied at the top with the Angels on August 1st. Here in the middle of August, they move back on top of the rankings all by themselves.

In addition to being on top of these rankings, they are also baseball’s top team by record. Their win-loss mark of 73-48 comes out to a .603 win percentage, the best in baseball, and they hold a 2-game lead in the A.L. West. Meanwhile, three other teams: Baltimore, Washington, and the LA Dodgers, have all taken charge in their respective divisional races and will be tough to catch. But the other 3 divisional races remain up for grabs. The NL Wildcard race has 4 teams within 4 games, and the AL Wildcard has 3 teams within 4 games.

POWER RANKING – AUGUST 15TH

1. OAKLAND ATHLETICS
The A’s have been consistently at or near the top of the Power Rankings since the summer began. GM Billy Beane has assembled an excellent all-around team that can beat you in many ways, and manager Bob Melvin and his staff keep them focused and enthused. The A’s are baseball’s #2 offensive team overall, have the 5th-rated defense, and rank 10th in pitching. Those numbers are full season numbers. With the pre-trade deadline pickups of ace-caliber starting pitchers Jon Lester and Jeff Samardzija, they made themselves clear favorites for a deep post-season run.

2. KANSAS CITY ROYALS
When I ranked the Royals at the top back on July 1st, there were many who scoffed. After all, KC has not been to the playoffs since their lone World Series victory way back in 1985, nearly three decades ago. But most everyone around the game has recognized the young talent they were accumulating over the last few years. It is all finally coming together. This past week, they took over the A.L. Central lead from recent perennial winners Detroit. They are for real, featuring what is by far the #1 defense in the entire game. The Royals also have the 6th-rated pitching staff. Their offense is just 11th, and they could use an impact bat, which might have to come from someone already on the roster stepping forward down the stretch.

3. LOS ANGELES ANGELS
The Halos are obviously one of baseball’s best teams. Unfortunately for them, they play in the same division as the very best team in the game. The Angels have battled Oakland most of the year, and just two weeks ago the two teams were tied at the top of the Power Rankings. Since then, the A’s have opened a 2-game cushion on their division rivals. The Angels remain comfortably in charge of a playoff berth, holding the A.L.’s top Wildcard spot by 5 full games. They own the game’s #1 offense, and have baseball’s 6th-ranked defensive unit. It’s their 12th ranked pitching staff that is holding them back a bit. As I mentioned previously, they could use another proven, veteran starting pitcher. In any event, they look like a post-season shoo-in at this point, and we might finally see the game’s most exciting young player, their 23-year old superstar Mike Trout, take home the MVP Award.

4. TAMPA BAY RAYS
This may be a case of a team cashing in a major trade chip, pitcher David Price, just a bit too soon. The Rays were awful at the start of the season, falling below the .500 mark on April 23rd and bottoming out at 31-48 by June 24th, at which point they were a season-high 13 games out in the division and the “for sale” signs were clearly up. Funny thing happened after that, they began to win, and win regularly. They have now won 6 of their last 8, with the only two losses coming via opponents walk-offs. They are just a game under .500 after going 29-12 over the last month and a half, and are just 6 out in the Wildcard race. In short, had they kept Price, they might have a shot. They are the only team in MLB besides the A’s to rank in the Top 10 on Offense (5), Pitching (7), and Defense (10) and cannot be counted out.

5. WASHINGTON NATIONALS
The Nats have taken charge in the N.L. East over the last couple of months. Rising from below .500 and not even being spoken of in the first Power Rankings on June 1st, Washington now owns a 7-game lead in the loss column on 2nd place Atlanta. They are the N.L.’s hottest team, and it’s best all-around club. The Nats rank 9th in baseball on offense, and those numbers have been rising. They are just 14th in defense, held back there by injuries during the first half to Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper, and here in the 2nd half to Ryan Zimmerman. But they possess the game’s 1st overall pitching staff. Pitching wins in the post-season, and their enviable starting rotation depth should keep them as N.L. favorites right on into the post-season.

6. BALTIMORE ORIOLES
Bonus Commentary: Buck Showalter is a miracle worker. With the loss of catcher and team leader Matt Wieters in the first half, and now of Manny Machado for at least a couple of weeks, that will have to continue. But the O’s are starting to open up a big lead in the A.L. East, now up to 7 1/2 games.

6. BOSTON RED SOX
Bonus Commentary: Some find it amusing that in what has been an awful follow-up to last year’s World Series win, the Bosox have consistently been a Top 10 team in the Power Rankings. The numbers don’t lie, folks. This team is better than their record. Don’t be surprised if they quickly turn it around in 2015.

8. SEATTLE MARINERS

9. ATLANTA BRAVES

10. LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Best of the Rest:
Detroit Tigers, Milwaukee Brewers, Saint Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates, Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees, San Francisco Giants

My Call:
Some of these races are clearing up. The A’s may pull away with their starting pitching acquisitions, previously their only weakness. The Beltway pair of the Orioles and Nats are already pulling away in the respective league’s East division races. Everything is too early to call, but right now, I see the Washington Nationals as the best bets to actually win their division in the National League, and with Oakland as at least a clear playoff team in the American League. Hopefully in two weeks, on Labor Day, I may be able to call something formally.

Phillies: 
For my fellow fans of the Fightin’ Phils, things in our neck of the woods are even worse statistically than they have looked on the field and in the standings, if that is possible. The Phillies are the worst team in the National League, the 2nd worst ahead of only Houston in all of baseball. And the Astros have far and away a better farm system. Out of 30 teams in MLB, the Phils are 24th in Pitching, 25th in Defense, and 28th in Offense. They have no strengths, they are old and/or under-achieving, and they don’t have a lot of impact-level talent coming from the Minors. This will not be an easy fix, especially with the current General Manager steering the ship.

Phillies Broadcasters Get Mixed Grades

As the play on the field has deteriorated over the last few seasons, the performance coming from the Philadelphia Phillies TV broadcast booth also deteriorated. Long gone were the glorious days when fans were able to enjoy the sounds of Harry Kalas and Richie Ashburn during the majority of the Phils’ TV and radio broadcast innings. Tom McCarthy, Chris Wheeler, and Gary Matthews made listening to TV less than enjoyable for many.
Despite changing some of the personnel on the TV broadcasts this season, the performance has remained uneven at best. Radio, on the other hand, has emerged with an incredibly enjoyable team. This all makes for an overall mixed bag. Here is a look at some of the key broadcasters, with a grade on their performance:
TOM MCCARTHY: ‘C’ – McCarthy only even gets this high of a grade for one reason, and that is his obvious love of the team. I don’t want my broadcasters being a downer, and I can’t stand the negativity that often comes from local sports talk radio. But McCarthy is way too far on the other end of the spectrum. He is not just a “glass half full” kind of guy, he is a Pollyanna. His jokes are not funny, and he tries to put a positive spin on almost everything, often when criticism of a player or the team is what is warranted. He seems like a really nice guy, and my gut tells me there is no way that decision makers will make a change. But as the lead man on TV broadcasts, he is a problem the longer he is kept. The Phillies would do well to find a better day-to-day baseball voice.
MATT STAIRS: ‘D’ – I will always have a warm and fuzzy place for Stairs in my fan’s heart for two reasons. First and most obvious is the homerun. You know which one. The 2-run moonshot crushed deep into the California night off Jonathan Broxton that gave the Fightins a 2-run lead in the 8th inning of Game #4 of the 2008 NLCS vs. the Dodgers. You may not remember the second though. I was driving home from the Jersey shore in early April of 2009 when Stairs crushed a homer at the end of a road game in Colorado. It would be the final homerun call in the career and life of Harry Kalas, who would pass away the following day. Stairs does not come across as personable on the air, and though he has the anecdotal stories required of an ex-player in the booth, he does not have the story-telling ability to relate them well enough. At this point, he looks like a mistake hire for the job, ala Gary Matthews, and we had to put up with Sarge for years.
JAMIE MOYER: ‘C’ – I preface this by saying that I love Jamie Moyer. He is a Philly guy, born and raised. He graduated from my Saint Joe’s alma mater. He helped pitch the team to a World Series victory. He was the last player my age to play for the Phillies. He does tremendous charity work, loves the organization, and is a likeable guy in so many ways. But on the air he seems to be forcing it. I think that over time, and with the right professional broadcasting partner in the booth, Moyer could be a longterm gem. For now, he gets the midling ‘C’ grade. But I believe there is more here. Because of who he is overall, I am much more willing to give him the chance to prove that than I am with Stairs.
Jamie Moyer, usually observant, fails to notice as Raul Ibanez's t-shirt begins to explode. (Image courtesy of 1.bp.blogspot.com)

Jamie Moyer joined the TV broadcast team this season. (Image courtesy of 1.bp.blogspot.com)
MIKE SCHMIDT: ‘A’ – The greatest position player in the history of the franchise was brought in this season to provide a player’s perspective for Sunday home games. For the most part, Schmitty has been excellent. He has great stories to tell from glory days of my youth. He is a fantastic conversationalist. He does a nice job of analyzing what a player or pitcher may be trying to do at a certain point in a game. At times he takes over the broadcast too much. My guess is that’s a natural outcome of the limited home-game Sunday opportunities he gets. If he were a regular, working every game, my bet is that he would be not just good, but great. I doubt the Phillies could get him to give up his life in Florida to do the traveling it would take to be a regular broadcaster. Shame.
RICKY BOTTALICO: ‘B+’ – Ricky Bo is not the greatest studio analyst and commentator in the history of pre and post-game shows. Not by a long shot. He can be too animated at times, and at times he just comes off as a buffoon. But I still like him. Why? Because Ricky Bo is one of the few associated with broadcasting this team who isn’t reluctant to call a spade a spade. He is not intimidated by bad circumstances, and doesn’t get carried away with good. He gives his opinion, usually strongly. I like that, even if he lacks polish. He needs to stay around in-studio.
BEN DAVIS: ‘A’ – Does it get any more handsome and chiseled than this guy? But let’s put aside his movie star good looks. The man was a baseball player, one from our area, born and raised a Phillies fan. And he does a really nice job on-air of expressing his opinion. Another one who is, like Ricky Bo, not afraid to hand out criticism when warranted. he’s sometimes a little stiffer, but he does the job with just a bit more polish than Ricky. Another one who needs to stick around in-studio.
JIM JACKSON: ‘B+’ – It’s so hard for me to listen to Jim Jackson and hear a Phillies game coming out of that voice, after hearing him broadcast so many Flyers games on the radio over the years. The guy is an excellent broadcaster, that isn’t the problem. He just doesn’t, for me anyway, have what I am looking for in an everyday baseball voice. As a Flyers broadcaster, I would give him an ‘A’ grade. Nice backup guy and post-game show guy, which is usually his role anyway. He is worlds better than Chris Wheeler or Gary Matthews, so that’s also a plus.
SCOTT FRANTZKE: ‘A+’ – The simple fact is that Frantzke is a great baseball radio broadcaster. The further fact is that his personable, natural chemistry with regular radio partner Larry Anderson is as tremendous as it is rare. Whether delivering the play-by-play, where his voice is perfect for the job, or commenting on issues surrounding the team on-field and off, or in bantering with Anderson, he is personable and professional. He also has a tremendous, understated humor. I didn’t think it would be possible to ever again experience a Kalas-Ashburn type enjoyable performance. With Frantzke and LA, it may not be quite at that legendary level – yet – but it is much closer than I ever thought I could hope to enjoy again. The team must keep him on board.
LARRY ANDERSON: ‘A’ – His work with Frantzke is the stuff that legends are ultimately made of in a baseball broadcasting team. Together they enjoy an on-air chemistry that is impossible to force. Their timing and humor together is impeccable. LA brings the former player perspective, and continues to display passion of the game and the team. I only gave Frantzke the slightly higher ‘+’ designation because of Scott’s play-by-play abilities. But when Frantzke and LA are together it’s magic. As I already said, they are as close to Kalas-Ashburn as I ever had a right to hope to expect to enjoy again in my lifetime. The powers-that-be need to be sure to commit to this team as long as possible. Wouldn’t it be awesome to get them on TV for at least a few innings each game as well? If Harry and Whitey could do it, why not Scott and LA?
The Phillies get other regular contributions from Comcast folks such as Gregg Murphy, Neil Hartman and Leslie Gudel. All three of them do a tremendous job of hosting, interviewing, analyzing, and commenting on the team. I refrain from giving them grades simply because they are neither former players, nor everyday game broadcasters. But all are professional, personable, and do a nice job in whatever role they are asked during any particular broadcast.
Overall, the Phillies broadcast team would get a ‘B’ grade, with an ‘A’ for the radio guys and a ‘C’ for the TV broadcasters. Replacing McCarthy with a better everyday baseball play-by-play voice would vastly improve that TV end. Maybe figure out a way to have that new TV guy and Moyer switch off a few innings each game with Frantzke/LA in the radio booth, ala with the old days of Kalas/Ashburn. Those would be my main suggestions for improvement going forward.