“I’ll tell you this is about as miserable a time in baseball as I have ever, by far. And it’s not about me. It’s just a miserable process.”
That was just one in a series of what were demoralizing statements made by Philadelphia Phillies president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail during a press conference held over Zoom on Friday with reporters covering the ball club.
During the virtual presser, MacPhail repeatedly demonstrated why it is that I have hung the moniker “MacPhailure” on him for a couple of years now. Let’s go over a few of the ‘Debbie Downer’ statements uttered by the Phillies executive.
On club finances and the need for the team to lay off employees: “Ownership makes money when they sell the franchise, not when they operate. At the same time, the losses we accrued in 2020 and what is reasonable to assume for 2021, it’s not pretty. It’s not pretty.”
Are fans supposed to either understand, or sympathize with, that statement? It is nothing more than an excuse for being cheap. The chief beneficiary of any Phillies sale one day will be John Middleton and/or his heirs. He bought into the club for a 15% stake at $18 million back in 1994. Now, 26 years later, he controls 48% of a team that is valued by Forbes at $2 billion dollars. That is “billion”, with a “b”, and that is not a typo.
To speak about any operating loss by the team in 2020, possibly even 2021 as well, as if it were the be-all and end-all in making financial decisions by ownership of a professional sports franchise is fraudulent. You took gains for years. You will recognize an inconceivable gain one day upon selling. You can certainly afford to suck up a loss for a year or two.
At the beginning of October the Phillies forced general manager Matt Klentak out of his position. In addressing a possible search for a replacement, where there are many attractive and qualified candidates available, MacPhail stated: “...who’s going to want to uproot in the middle of a pandemic?”
Seriously? The Los Angeles Angels are at this very moment in the process of conducting interviews with numerous candidates for their open general manager position. They include former Los Angeles Dodgers scouting director and the San Diego Padres’ current director of player personnel and senior advisor to the GM, Logan White.
The Angels also have interviewed Billy Owens of the Oakland A’s, both Amiel Sawdaye and Jared Porter of the Arizona Diamondbacks, and former San Francisco Giants GM Bobby Evans. My guess is that none of them, nor anyone else who may be interviewed, would have any problem “uprooting” at this time.
I made the case just this week here at The Bell for the Phillies to seriously consider what would be the historic choice of Kim Ng to become the first female general manager of an American major pro sports franchise. My bet is that she would be happy to “uproot” herself.
Finally, MacPhail stopped just short of admitting that he is really no longer interested in his own job: “If John (Middleton) thinks he can land a big fish by moving me aside and getting somebody to become the president, I would happily do that.“
It is time for Middleton and any other Phillies decision-makers to face the facts. This was a poor hire from the very beginning, and it is now time – past time – to move on from MacPhail.
“I didn’t expect to be here in Year 5 and still be under .500,” MacPhail said on Friday. “That is a severe disappointment to me. I don’t know why we play like we do at the end of September for the last three years, but I thought our team was relatively well positioned to go to the postseason. It did not.“
It was extremely revealing to hear him say “I don’t know why…” during the session. But it should not be surprising to anyone who examines MacPhail’s professional record over the last quarter-century.
Following the 1994 season, MacPhail was hired by the Chicago Cubs to become their CEO and club president. He served in that position through the 2006 season. The Cubs made the playoffs twice, getting swept out of the NLDS in 1998 and going to seven games with the Florida Marlins in the 2003 NLCS. In that 12-season span the Cubs won their division once and finished in last place three times, including his final season. Seven times they finished no better than fourth.
In June 2007, MacPhail was hired by the Baltimore Orioles as their President of Baseball Operations, a position that he would hold through the 2011 season. In his four full seasons at the helm the Orioles finished in last place – every year!
MacPhail was then hired by the Phillies in June 2015 and succeeded Pat Gillick as the club president at the end of that season. Five seasons under his guidance. Five non-winning campaigns. Four losers. Never a finish above third place.
With the Phillies it has not just been about the failures in the National League East Division standings. The minor league prospect group has dropped into the mid-20’s among the 30 MLB organizations in rankings provided by every reputable service during his tenure.
Basically, Andy MacPhail has done with the Philadelphia Phillies what he did with both the Cubs and Orioles – lost.
Speaking of lost, it is time for John Middleton to admit his own mistake in this hiring and tell MacPhail to get lost.