By Joseph Santoliquito
PHILADELPHIA, PA (CBS) — The Phillies announced on Monday that Andy MacPhail will be the new president of the team, starting at the conclusion of the 2015 season. The announcement comes three days after Ryne Sandberg had announced his resignation as Phils’ manager on Friday after two-plus years.
MacPhail, 62, replaces 77-year-old Hall of Famer Pat Gillick as the team’s president.
John Middleton, part of the Phillies’ ownership group, said changes were discussed with ownership partners, Jim and Pete Buck, last December about looking for a successor to Gillick. MacPhail will work for the remainder of the season as a special assistant to Gillick, Middleton said.
“Last December, when Jim Buck, Pete Buck and I began discussing Pat’s successor, our primary, in fact our paramount concern was the team’s on-field performance and the need to improve it and get us back to the winning ways we enjoyed from 2007 to 2011,” Middleton said. “In fact, it wasn’t just our primary objective. It was our first, second and third priority. I say that because when we were interviewing Andy, we made it clear to him that we expect him to devote the vast majority of his time to improving the baseball side of the business, to improving the farm system and ultimately the major league team. Every other consideration in this hiring decision was secondary to that goal. There was no one that was No. 1 on other person’s list.”
MacPhail seems like a younger version of Gillick. They both won two World Series titles with their first teams, and rebuild two other teams. MacPhail arrives with a great resume, as general manager of the Minnesota Twins when they won World Series championships in 1987 and 1991. He served as president and CEO of the Chicago Cubs from 1994 through 2006 (when he opted not to hire Sandberg as manager of the Cubs) before he took and revamped the Baltimore Orioles as president of baseball operations from 2007 through 2011.
The Phillies have the worst record in baseball at 27-50. Sandberg has been replaced by interim manager Pete Mackanin. Both MacPhail and Middleton expressed disappointment over his decision. But their plan is to move forward.
“I know this franchise has been around a very long time and I understand it’s the first time (the Phillies) have ever gone outside their organization to put someone in a position like this,” MacPhail said. “I’ve been away for three years and I have to assume this game has probably evolved two times over since I’ve been gone. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to work with Pat these next three months.
“My three main functions are going to be to read, to watch and to listen. I’ve had some experience with this in Baltimore, taking over in late June and I can tell you I wound up doing things that I never dreamed I would when I was at the podium. I know we all tend to look at things through the snapshot of time, it’s only natural. Right now, the Phillies’ snapshot is not all that great. I think this is the right path and any team that devotes itself to rebuilding is ultimately rewarded.”
MacPhail said he would introduce analytics to the Phillies’ way of scouting players in the future. He said he would look at every single facet that is possible when looking at player evaluations.
“I think ownership was very diligent in selecting the right person for this job,” Gillick said. “I’ve known Andy for over 30 years. And as he said, he’s an information gatherer. Any information is very crucial in making the proper decision to make the right deal. I think it’s the right step for this organization at this time. We have to give him patience and I think we’ll be rewarded in the long run.”
MacPhail wouldn’t pinpoint a timetable as to the Phillies’ turnaround, but did say it was a manner of when.
MacPhail was out of baseball for three years. He explained is absence on spending time with his ailing father and he wasn’t completely invested in coming back to Baltimore. MacPhail said he traveled the world and saw things he wouldn’t have otherwise seen if not for the time off from baseball.
“You only go through life once and you have to do those things that you want to do, and I’m happy that I did it,” MacPhail said. “It defies timetables (the Phillies turnaround). It’s like planting a garden. First, it’s leaps, then it creeps, then it leaps. Timetables aren’t just the way this game operates any longer.”
General manager Ruben Amaro will remain with the Phillies’ organization while MacPhail assesses the Phillies, Gillick said.
Middleton said Gillick stated that MacPhail will have input in future deals.
“I think it’s really critical that Andy participate in those conversations, whether or not he’s actually making them, he needs to see the dynamics with how people within the organization interact with each other,” Middleton said. “It’s really critical that he is part of those decisions and learn the most he can in the time before this is turned over to him.”
Middleton said the ownership “owns” the decision to bring in MacPhail. Middleton also dispelled that he has any notion of taking over as the majority owner of the Phillies.