Time for Phillies to give Alec Bohm a full shot to start in 2020

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It is only a matter of time before Bohm’s powerful bat is impacting the Phillies lineup

 

The Houston Astros won the 2017 World Series and are now playing in their third consecutive American League Championship Series. They won 107 games this season, most in Major League Baseball.

Whether they ultimately capture another title this year or not, Houston is the current model organization in MLB. The folks who run their ball club clearly know what they are doing.

Shortstop Carlos Correa was the first overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft. He became a big-league starter in 2015 at age 20.

Third baseman Alex Bregman was the second overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft. He became a big-league starter by the following July at age 22.

Second baseman Jose Altuve was signed by Houston as a free agent out of Venezuela at age 16 in 2007. By July of 2011 at age 21 he was a big-league regular.

Yordan Alvarez spent his rookie season in MLB this year as the Astros primary Designated Hitter. He blasted 27 home runs while slashing .313/.412/.655 at age 22.

The point? There is no reason that talented ball players aged 20-22 should be held back from their Major League Baseball debut simply due to their birth date.

In fact, more than ever, professional baseball is a game for players in their 20’s. Getting as many of those years as possible out of your best players is becoming more and more important.

The old way of MLB teams holding young players back in order to gain more years of contractual control should be considered as antiquated thinking.

If a young player demonstrates that he is going to be valuable to your organization, the strategy should be to buy them out of a few free agent years by paying them more at a younger age, as the Phillies have done with Scott Kingery.

In 2018, the Phillies made third baseman Alec Bohm their choice at third overall in the MLB Draft. He was billed as an advanced college bat whose hitting ability and maturity could allow him to quickly reach the big-leagues.

When spring training opens at Spectrum Field in Clearwater, Florida four months from now, there is absolutely no reason that a 23-year-old Bohm should not be the Phillies annointed starter at the hot corner.

Not waiting until May or June after receiving six, eight, ten weeks of experience against Triple-A pitching. Not later in the summer. Not next September when rosters expand. Right away, in Clearwater.

During his first full professional season this year, Bohm demonstrated the hitting ability that had made him such a high pick. He slashed .305/.378/.518 with 21 home runs and 55 extra-base hits across 540 plate appearances while rising through three minor league levels.

No more authoritative hitting expert than former Phillies World Series winning manager Charlie Manuel had this to say regarding Bohm’s hitting ability earlier this year:

He’s going to hit. He’s going to be a line-drive hitter with power. He’s going to be an RBI guy. He’s a tough out. I liked him in college and like him even more now.

One question mark regarding Bohm’s status at the time of his selection was defense. Would he ever become a good enough defender at third base to stick at the position at the MLB level?

This past May, Bohm was named as the Phillies organization minor league defense player of the month. In late June, Mike Drago of The Reading Eagle quoted him regarding his work at the position:

I worked a lot at third base, and on defense (in the offseason), not to prove anybody wrong, but to be the best player I can be. It’s paid off.

Drago also noted that when Philadelphia Inquirer’s Bob Brookover brought up the fact that some had questioned his defensive chops at the time of his draft selection, Bohm responded: “Those guys don’t know what they’re talking about.

The Phillies minor league infield coordinator Chris Truby, whose four big-league seasons in the early-2000’s included playing in 242 games at the hot corner himself, had this to say per Drago regarding Bohm’s commitment to defense:

I don’t know that he’s ever taken defense as seriously as he is now. He has made tremendous strides since Instructional League (in September 2018). He’s taking this defense thing personally.

By July, Manuel was absolutely gushing about Bohm’s offensive ability. Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia quoted the hitting guru on the club’s prospect:

I think when it’s all said and done and his career balances out where it should be, I’m looking at a guy who is going to hit anywhere from .285 to .300 and hit anywhere from 25 to 30 to 40 home runs. It depends on how many he happens to catch that season.”

For his strong 2019 performance, Bohm was named as the Phillies minor league player of the year. In late August for Baseball America, Salisbury quoted Phillies director of player development Josh Bonifay:

Day in and day out, he’s continued to show why the organization believed in him. His ability to command the strike zone and do damage on pitches is impressive. You make a mistake, whether it’s on the heater or a breaking ball, and he’ll hit it hard somewhere. He’s a line-drive hitter who drives the ball with carry. He uses the whole field. He’s fun to watch.”

The Phillies sent Bohm to the Arizona Fall League in September where he became a starter in the annual Fall Stars Game. Josh Norris of Baseball America opined the following after watching Bohm’s performance in the AFL:

Gifted with the tools to become a classic corner-infield masher, Bohm’s .390 average places him third in the AFL through games of October 8.

MLB Pipeline now ranks Bohm as the top third base prospect in the game. But Jim Callis of MLB.com, while praising Bohm’s bat, still has questions on the defense when he wrote the following:

To get to the big leagues, Bohm will need to continue refining his defense at the hot corner. He has enough arm strength for the position, but his range is fringy and he lacks consistency. He made a wide throw on a seventh-inning grounder Sunday, his third error in six AFL games in the field after making 12 miscues in 83 regular-season contests.”

First base is not available in Philadelphia. Rhys Hoskins turns 27-years-old in March, just beginning the prime of this career. Hoskins is not scheduled to become a free agent until after the 2023 season.

Hoskins is a relatively inexpensive and powerful bat for an organization that already has spent a lot of money in free agency and is likely to spend a lot more in the next couple of years.

Incumbent third baseman Maikel Franco has legitimate 25-30 home run power and will spend much of the 2020 season still at just age 26. But his overall ceiling is nowhere near as high as Bohm, and Franco will likely be used as trade bait this coming winter.

The Phillies have a reputation as being notoriously slow in giving their top prospects a shot at the big leagues. But that reputation is beginning to fall by the way side.

Aaron Nola was the Phillies first round pick in the 2014 MLB Draft at seventh overall as an advanced college pitcher. He debuted in the big-leagues the following summer and was a regular member of the starting rotation at age 23 in 2016.

Adam Haseley was the Phillies top pick at eighth overall in the 2017 MLB Draft. He appeared in 67 games and was playing regularly by the end of the 2019 season at age 23. While a better outfield defender than Bohm will be in the infield, Haseley’s bat is nowhere near as advanced or impactful.

The Phillies need these types of exciting, inexpensive, homegrown talents to begin impacting their lineup as soon as possible. Bohm is plenty old enough and appears mature enough to handle the big-league lifestyle. His confidence and talent are undeniable.

Bottom line, there is no reason that Alec Bohm should not be the Philadelphia Phillies starter at third base right out of the gate in the 2020 season.

Phillies off-season personnel schedule and deadlines

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Baseball super agent Scott Boras will be a central figure in the game, likely including with the Phillies, once again this off-season

 

Much of the attention surrounding the Philadelphia Phillies during this coming week will be rightly focused on the interview process as the ball club searches for a new manager.

Meanwhile, the Major League Baseball postseason excitement will roll on as both the National and American League Championship Series continue. By the end of this week or early next, both pennants will have been won, and the World Series match-up will be set.

Where individual veteran players are concerned, at least those not still participating in the playoffs, the month of October largely finds them in a holding pattern.

Most of those players are safely under contract for the 2020 season and have a fairly good idea of where they will be playing next year.

However, there are a number of players who will become free agents or the object of trades. Others will have their roster spot come up for evaluation, with some to be protected and remain with their current organization while others are exposed to the free agent market.

Let’s take a first look at the 2019-20 Major League Baseball off-season schedule and deadlines, and the individual Phillies players who will find themselves directly affected.

As the off-season moves forward, I will frequently be addressing these players, events, and deadlines on a more individualized and detailed basis. This should once again be an eventful off-season for the Philadelphia Phillies, so stay tuned.

The NLCS will last at least through Tuesday and the ALCS at least through Thursday. That means the earliest the World Series can begin would be this coming weekend.

Odds are that at least one LCS will go farther, meaning the Fall Classic probably won’t begin until some time next week. The likelihood is that we will have a new world champion crowned by the final week in October, which gets this off-season clock started.

First day after the World Series ends: Teams can trade Major League players once again. Also, eligible players will officially become free agents. However, they must first pass through a five-day period in which these new free agents may negotiate only with their current team.

The following are players of interest who appeared with the 2019 Phillies and who will also become free agents at the conclusion of the World Series: Corey Dickerson, Brad Miller, Sean Rodriguez, Logan Morrison, Drew Smyly, Jason Vargas, Pat Neshek, Tommy Hunter, Jared Hughes, Juan Nicasio, Nick Vincent.

Fifth day after the World Series ends: This is the final day to reinstate players from the 60-day injured list. Importance? Room will need to be made on the 40-man roster for any players who the club wishes to retain. This is also the deadline for clubs to tender qualifying offers to eligible free agents.

Currently on the 60-day Injured List with the Phillies are Dickerson, Hunter, Neshek, Robertson, Victor Arano, Jake Arrieta, Seranthony Dominguez, Jerad Eickhoff, Adam Morgan, Andrew McCutchen.

With Dickerson, Hunter, and Neshek all becoming free agents, the Phillies will have to make decisions involving the others. Robertson will be an interesting decision.

If the club protects all seven non-free agents, there are a number of 40-man roster players who still have minor league options and could be strategically demoted/opted to make room. Those include Arano, Deivy Grullon, Edgar Garcia, Austin Davis, Cole Irvin, Ranger Suarez, and Enyel De Los Santos.

Fifth day after the World Series ends: Perhaps most importantly at this time, free agents may now sign with any club they wish. Just as last off-season with the pursuits of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, expect the Phillies to be involved in both rumors and actual negotiations with most big-name available players.

The club is expected to go hard for one or two veteran pitchers this off-season in the free agent market. Possible targets include starters Gerrit Cole, Madison Bumgarner, Zack Wheeler, Rick Porcello, and Stephen Strasburg (should he opt out of his contract with the Nationals), reliever Dellin Betances, and former Phillies hero Cole Hamels.

Among position players the Phillies could target as new starters, third basemen Anthony Rendon and Josh Donaldson and outfielder Marcell Ozuna (as a center fielder) would be among the leading possibilities. GM Matt Klentak will certainly be looking at strengthening his bench in free agency as well.

Players who appeared with the Phillies this past season who will become free agents and could be targeted to return include Dickerson, Miller, Hughes, and Vincent.

Fifteenth day after the World Series ends: Deadline for players to accept qualifying offer.

This should not affect the Phillies in any way. There are no pending free agents who are eligible for a qualifying offer from the club who will receive one.

November 20: In addition to my birthday, this will also be the deadline for MLB teams to add players to their 40-man rosters to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft.

The Phillies will need to add top ten organizational prospect pitchers Adonis Medina and JoJo Romero to their 40-man in order to protect both this year.

December 2: Tender deadline. Sometimes referred to the non-tender deadline, it is the time by which teams must formally tender 2020 contracts to unsigned players. If a player is non-tendered, he becomes a free agent.

The Phillies will be tendering 2020 contracts to Rhys Hoskins, Vince Velasquez, and Hector Neris. Interesting decisions will come on a few other players including Cesar Hernandez, Maikel Franco, and Blake Parker.

December 9-12: The baseball Winter Meetings are held during this week in San Diego. On the final day, the Rule 5 Draft will be held.

For years, this was when many big trades went down. That was because it was a rare opportunity for the management teams of each club to be located in the same place at the same time.

While the Winter Meetings remain a hotbed of rumors in that regard, with the advent of modern communication methods the bigger trades can happen at any time.

Last year, the Phillies signed McCutchen during this period. Also, Carlos Santana, whom the Phillies had dealt to Seattle as part of the Jean Segura deal less than two weeks earlier, was traded by the Mariners to the Cleveland Indians.

January 10, 2020: Salary arbitration figures are exchanged between MLB clubs and any eligible players. It will be interesting to see the figures exchanged between Hoskins, Velasquez, and Neris with the Phillies. Possibly even Hernandez and/or Franco, if either or both is indeed offered a contract.

February 3, 2020: Arbitration hearings begin. The Phillies have not been to a hearing in more than a decade since losing in February 2008 to first baseman Ryan Howard. The club avoided a hearing with Aaron Nola a year ago, agreeing with their budding ace on a four-year, $45-million dollar deal with a club option fifth year.

  • February 22, 2020: The spring training Grapefruit League schedule begins with the Phillies visiting the Detroit Tigers at Lakeland, Florida. The club’s pitchers and catchers will be reporting to Clearwater on a date yet to be set, but which will come roughly a week or so earlier.

There is a chance that big personnel doings could still take place at this point. The Phillies are expected to once again be major players in free agency. Remember, Harper was not signed until spring training was already underway prior to the 2019 campaign.

Phillies owner John Middleton shows he is clearly not “a potted plant”

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Gabe Kapler was fired after two seasons as Phillies manager

 

On Friday, October 11, 2019, less than two weeks after their once promising season came to an end with a final disheartening defeat that left the club without a winning record for an eighth consecutive season, the Philadelphia Phillies held a press conference.

The purpose of the presser was ostensibly to address the firing of manager Gabe Kapler. However, as principal owner John Middleton sat down at the dais, flanked by general manager Matt Klentak to his right and Phillies president Andy MacPhail to his left, there was clearly an even broader agenda.

The goal of Friday’s session was undeniably to put out the fires now raging throughout the Phillies fan base. That flame sparked as the club slowly fell out of contention over the final two-thirds of the season, then completely collapsed over the final weeks for a second straight year.

But the flames are not out. In fact, judging by the response on both traditional and social media, those flames are only burning hotter today.

The bottom line appears to be that not only did the fan base want Kapler gone, but Phillies fans also wanted to see Middleton turn the page on what has thus far been a failed MacPhail-Klentak regime.

That will not be happening – at least not for now. Logic would appear to say that, now readying for the third manager during their term, both men are now squarely under the spotlight themselves, about to face increased scrutiny from the owner.

If the failures of the first four full years under MacPhail and Klentak continue next season, it would be absolutely negligent for Middleton to allow them continued management roles with the team.

The biggest takeaway from the show was that Middleton himself is clearly the man who will have the final say in every important matter as this organization attempts to reach its goal of becoming a long-term contender.

Middleton is involved. Not just in the way that an owner is usually in charge. He is going to not only be intimately involved in the biggest big-league talent acquisitions, but also have the final say in a new manager and other key personnel moves.

MacPhail opened the press conference with a statement in which he laid out Middleton’s decision-making process in releasing Kapler with one year to go on the manager’s contract.

The club president provided that, on the recommendation of he and Klentak, the owner had undertaken a wide-ranging, week-long process of evaluation which included receiving positive feedback on Kapler from a number of sources. However, MacPhail then stated the following:

What John didn’t hear was any explanation of why we were 20-36 over the last two Septembers. Or more importantly, what was gonna be in place to ensure that didn’t happen again.

What MacPhail never once addressed was his own role in the failures of those two September collapses. It is the job of he and his hand-picked GM Klentak to provide the players, in both minor league depth and big-league talent, for the manager to have as resources to compete and succeed at the highest level.

As the second questioner from the local media called upon, Howard Eskin of SportsRadio 94 WIP FM and sports director at WTXF-TV wasted no time in asking the question of Middleton that was on the minds of most fans:

John, when you fired (former Phillies GM) Ruben Amaro, you said it’s a results based business…Gabe Kapler took the hit. And I’m wondering why it was just Gabe Kapler? And I, among other people, are wondering why…those two gentlemen are sitting with you today?

Middleton then went on a minute and a half spiel in which he questioned Eskin back, then tossed out some statistics showing improvement in the bullpen over the last couple months of the season. Bottom line, the owner failed to address the pivotal question directly.

MacPhail then jumped in, attempting to justify his and Klentak’s low-rated minor league system. The club president made excuses regarding picks lost due to free agent signings and the selection of high school players, and hung his hat on two or three recent draftees ranked by many services as among the top 100 in the game.

The fact remains that it was MacPhail and Klentak’s decision to select those high school players, including Mickey Moniak with the first overall pick of the 2016 MLB Draft, over talented older prospects who have already impacted the big-leagues for other organizations, players who came from those same drafts.

Alec Bohm (34), Spencer Howard (88), and Bryson Stott (89) rank among the current top 100 prospects in baseball per MLB Pipeline, while Baseball America ranks just Bohm and Howard on their top 100 prospects list.

The draft is an inexact science, and teams are going to have hits and misses, even near the top of the first round. But talent comes to a Major League Baseball organization from more than the draft.

Despite four years of those drafts and four years signing international and other free agents to the minor league system, the Phillies organization is ranked among the bottom one-third in depth of minor league talent by nearly every reliable evaluator.

Baseball America had them at #25 back in mid-August. Fangraphs currently ranks the Phillies at #23 overall among MLB organizations. While MLB didn’t provide a recent full ranking, the Phillies were not listed among the top half of organizations back in August of this year.

When MacPhail took over as club president and hired Klentak as his general manager in the fall of 2015, the Phillies were clearly in rebuilding mode. They also had one of the top-ranked farm systems in baseball. Today, after four years, the club has still not registered even a winning season, and the farm season has virtually collapsed.

Both MacPhail and Klentak mentioned that outfielder Adam Haseley, the eighth overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft, and pitcher Cole Irvin, the club’s fifth rounder in 2016, have already impacted the Phillies big-league roster.

Haseley slashed just .266/.324/.396 over 242 plate appearances this season, but did play solid defense. Irvin had a 5.83 ERA and 5.06 FIP while surrendering 45 hits over 41.2 innings in which he struck out just 31 batters this season. That is hardly a duo to hang your hats on as you try to defend your record in talent evaluation.

In response to a question posed by Kevin Cooney of PhillyVoice and Forbes, Middleton made it clear that the search for the new manager would be conducted by Klentak. But that would happen only after the GM sat down with he and MacPhail and laid out a profile of what to look for in a candidate.

Middleton will then be presented with the final name for an interview and evaluation. Clearly, the owner will have the final say on who is hired as the next Philadelphia Phillies manager.

During the course of the press conference, it was pointed out that the Phillies front office was “allowed to play the long game” by making the decisions not to give up young talent at the trade deadline in order to help the 2019 team reach the postseason. Meanwhile, Kapler was forced in the shorter term to try and compete with a lesser roster.

To that, Middleton stepped in with a matter-of-fact response: “That’s the inherent nature of the business. And it’s been that way for a hundred years, and it will likely be that way a hundred years from now. That just goes with the territory. And if the manager doesn’t like it or can’t handle it, then the manager shouldn’t be the manager.

What the owner was saying is a baseball truth that was known well to Kapler: managers are hired to be fired. The list of big-league skippers who get the job and then remain in the same position with the same organization over the long haul, eventually leaving or retiring on their own terms, is extremely short.

As the press conference wound towards a conclusion, Todd Zolecki of MLB.com questioned Middleton directly regarding the owner’s assertiveness in getting intimately involved in matters over the last year.

Especially, Zolecki questioned Middleton regarding any concerns that the owner may have that, had he not gotten so involved, things would be even more troubling today under the MacPhail-Klentak management team.

I’d like to think I actually bring value to an organization. That I’m not a potted plant sitting in the corner…This is what CEO’s do. You wouldn’t have a need for a CEO if everybody in that organization made every decision correctly every time.

Middleton never addressed, at least not in any way that will be accepted by the fans, the status of MacPhail and Klentak. But that is a bit telling in itself. If the two men do not see themselves as now more on the hot seat with the owner than even the new manager will ever be, they are sorely mistaken.

There is one man in charge of the Philadelphia Phillies these days. That man decided that it was time to change managers – again. It will be that man, John Middleton, who will now have to answer to his fan base should his decision to keep this upper management team in place backfire.

MLB League Championship Series 2019 preview and predictions

 

The 2019 Major League Baseball postseason has already provided plenty of October excitement, with three of four Division Series pushed to decisive Game 5 dramatic conclusions.

Now the final four surviving ball clubs have moved on to battle in the respective League Championship Series over the next week or so. The two winners will earn their respective league pennant and advance to face-off in the World Series.

As for predictions, I went 1-1 in the Wildcard games and 3-1 in the LDS. With all of the craziness that is normally October baseball, I’ll take that 4-2 record and run with it. My LCS predictions come at the bottom of each series preview below.

This may be hard for most of my fellow Philadelphia Phillies fans to swallow, but at this point I will be rooting for the Washington Nationals to win it all.

My reasoning is that if the Phillies are not involved during any MLB postseason, I always root for any team(s) that have never won a World Series to finally enjoy that experience.

The Nationals have been in Washington since 2005 after playing their first 36 seasons north of the border as the Montreal Expos. The lone World Series crown in the history of our nation’s capital was captured by the Washington Senators back in 1926. That franchise moved to Minnesota, becoming the current Twins, back in 1961.

So, with that said, here the scheduled dates, times, locations, and TV network for each  in both the National League and American League Championship Series.

I have also listed the likely pitching match-ups, and the numbers in parentheses following the team names are where each finished in my final 2019 MLB Power Rankings of all 30 big-league ball clubs.

NATIONAL LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES

Washington Nationals (9) vs Saint Louis Cardinals (6)

  1. Friday, 10/11, 8:08 PM EDT at Busch Stadium on TBS: Anibal Sanchez (WAS) vs Miles Mikolas (STL)
  2. Saturday, 10/12, 4:08 PM EDT at Busch Stadium on TBS: Max Scherzer (WAS) vs Adam Wainwright (STL)
  3. Monday, 10/14, TBA at Nationals Park on TBS: Patrick Corbin (WAS) vs Jack Flaherty (STL)
  4. Tuesday, 10/15, TBA at Nationals Park on TBS: Stephen Strasburg (WAS) vs Dakota Hudson (STL)
  5. IF NECESSARY – Wednesday, 10/16, TBA at Nationals Park on TBS: Anibal Sanchez (WAS) vs Miles Mikolas (STL)
  6. IF NECESSARY – Friday, 10/18, TBA at Busch Stadium on TBS: Max Scherzer (WAS) vs Adam Wainwright (STL)
  7. IF NECESSARY – Saturday, 10/19, TBA at Busch Stadium on TBS: Stephen Strasburg (WAS) vs Dakota Hudson (STL)

PREDICTION: Nationals in five

AMERICAN LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES

New York Yankees (10) vs Houston Astros (2)

(Pitching match-ups in Game Four are speculative, especially for the Yankees where J.A. Happ could be starting instead of Sabathia)

  1. Saturday, 10/12, 8:08 PM EDT at Minute Maid Park on FOX: Masahiro Tanaka (NYY) vs Zack Greinke (HOU)
  2. Sunday, 10/13, 8:08 PM EDT at Minute Maid Park on FS1: James Paxton (NYY) vs Justin Verlander (HOU)
  3. Tuesday, 10/15, TBA at Yankee Stadium on FOX/FS1: Luis Severino (NYY) vs Gerrit Cole (HOU)
  4. Wednesday, 10/16, TBA at Yankee Stadium on FOX/FS1: C.C. Sabathia (NYY) vs Wade Miley (HOU)
  5. IF NECESSARY – Thursday, 10/17, TBA at Yankee Stadium on FOX/FS1: Masahiro Tanaka (NYY) vs Zack Greinke (HOU)
  6. IF NECESSARY – Saturday, 10/19, TBA at Minute Maid Park on FOX/FS1: James Paxton (NYY) vs Justin Verlander (HOU)
  7. IF NECESSARY – Sunday, 10/20, TBA at Minute Maid Park on FOX/FS1: Luis Severino (NYY) vs Gerrit Cole (HOU)

PREDICTION: Astros in six

Once the two series have finished and the World Series match-up is set, I’ll be providing a preview as well as the Fall Classic prediction.

 

With Gabe Kapler out, what’s next for the Phillies?

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Kapler was let go after two seasons as the Philadelphia Phillies manager

 

Under tremendous fire from their fan base after a disappointing 2019 season, the Philadelphia Phillies had to make some type of change at the management level. Today, that change was announced.

The Phillies have fired manager Gabe Kapler after two seasons as the skipper and with one year remaining on his contract. The club went 80-82 in 2018 and then finished at 81-81 in the recently completed campaign under his guidance.

Telling in the decision is that it reportedly did not come from club management in the front office, but instead was made by ownership.

Per Bob Nightengale and Chris Bumbaca of USA Today: “The decision was made by Phillies owner John Middleton, and not general manager Matt Klentak, a high-ranking Phillies executive told USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity.

Middleton then released a statement himself, as reported by ESPN:

Several years ago, I promised our loyal fans that I would do everything in my power to bring a world championship team to our city. I will never waver from that commitment. … I have decided that some changes are necessary to achieve our ultimate objective. Consequently, we will replace our manager.

Just last week, I wrote that the Phillies should bring Kapler back. I felt that, while he indeed made mistakes, the injury situation was bad enough that he should be given the final year of his contract in 2020 to see if he could push the club forward.

However, Middleton reportedly took the time to not only consider the situation in his own head, but also sought out the opinions of a number of his team’s key players. It can now be assumed that those players did not aggressively back their manager.

So, the owner made the decision that most of the problems with the 2019 Philadelphia Phillies were in the clubhouse and the dugout, and not in the front office. That much became clear when Middleton also let it be known that Klentak would “lead the search” for the new manager.

Be sure of this, while Klentak sorting through the candidates during the search and lining them up for interviews may indeed be the case, no manager will be hired at this point without input and likely final approval from Middleton.

I believe you can also be sure of another thing as well – the new manager will have some real experience in that role, unlike Kapler when he was hired.

That would leave out candidates such as former Phillies outfielder Raul Ibanez and the recently retired Carlos Beltran, two hot names being bandied about to fill one of the open MLB managerial positions this off-season.

While I believe he would make a perfect candidate, I do not believe that Joe Maddon will be the man. A big-league skipper for parts of 16 seasons, Maddon has an overall 1,252-1,068 record.

He has taken his teams to the postseason eight times, and won a World Series with the 2016 Chicago Cubs. Maddon was also the Tampa Bay Rays manager when they captured the American League pennant in 2008 before dropping the Fall Classic to the Phillies.

However, Maddon is widely seen as the front-runner for the open managerial position with the Los Angeles Angels. He has history there, spending more than three decades from 1975-2005 as a player, coach, scout, minor league manager, and big-league coach.

Maddon also served previously as the Angels interim manager in both 1996 and 1999. It is hard to believe that he wouldn’t take that job, hoping to help make Mike Trout and company into legitimate contenders.

So, let’s get right to it. Who do I see as the leading contenders to become the new Philadelphia Phillies manager beginning with the 2020 season? I have three leading candidates.

Buck Showalter

Now 63 years of age, Showalter has been the manager with four different organizations: New York Yankees (1992-95), Arizona Diamondbacks (1998-2000), Texas Rangers (2003-06), and Baltimore Orioles (2010-18).

Showalter has an overall record of 1,551-1,517 and won a division title with three of the four clubs. However, his teams had winning seasons in just 10 of the 19 full years that he was at the helm, and only reached the postseason five times.

It may be in his favor that he was hired for the Orioles managerial job during the time that current Phillies club president Andy MacPhail was serving in that position with Baltimore and while Klentak was their Director of Baseball Operations.

Joe Girardi

Turning 55 years of age this coming weekend, Girardi was the man in the dugout as the New York Yankees skipper when the Bronx Bombers took out the Phillies in the 2009 World Series. He put together an overall 910-710 mark in the Big Apple over 10 seasons from 2008-17.

Girardi’s teams reached the postseason six times, and reached the American League Championship Series four times. Just two falls ago, his Yanks held a 3-2 lead in the ALCS vs Houston before the Astros rallied to win the final two games.

He also won three World Series rings as a member of the Yankees late-1990’s dynasty. Girardi was the NL Manager of the Year with the Florida Marlins in 2006 after keeping a low-budget team in Wildcard contention for much of the summer. But he was fired following that one season after clashing with owner Jeffrey Loria.

Mike Scioscia

A local product who was born in Upper Darby and attended Springfield High School and Penn State University, Scioscia will turn 61 years of age in late November.

He was the manager with the Angels for 19 seasons from 2000-2018, leading that franchise to their only World Series championship in 2002. During his tenure the Angels won six AL West Division titles, including over five of six seasons between 2004-09.

Scioscia had an overall 1,650-1, 428 record at the Angels helm and seven of his teams reached the postseason. However, despite having the game’s best player in Trout for most of that time, the Angels made the playoffs just once over his final nine years.

He had a 13-year playing career with the Los Angeles Dodgers and was the starting catcher on their 1981 World Series championship team. Scioscia was an NL All-Star in both 1989 and 1990.

Other possibilities who fit the bill of an experienced big-league manager who might be open to consideration for the position would include John Farrell, Dusty Baker, John Gibbons, Clint Hurdle, Brad Ausmus.

Whomever gets the job of trying to guide the Philadelphia Phillies back to the postseason from inside the locker room and dugout, both Klentak and MacPhail should now consider themselves as being squarely on the hot seat.

The Phillies have not only failed to reach the postseason during the four full seasons of the MacPhail-Klentak front office regime, but the minor league system is widely regarded as among the weakest in the game.

That comes after four years of their leading the draft and international signing process. If the Phillies cannot become winners on the field, and should that minor league organization not begin to display legitimate depth of talent, heads in the front office should be the next to roll.