PHILADELPHIA (CBS/AP) — Matt Klentak’s inability to lead the Philadelphia Phillies to the postseason or even a single winning season cost him his job as general manager. Klentak stepped down after a third straight September collapse left the team out of the postseason for the ninth consecutive season.
Klentak, 40, will be reassigned to another position in the organization and Ned Rice will serve as interim general manager until the Phillies hire someone to run baseball operations, the team said Saturday.
“We’ve made progress, but we haven’t made enough progress fast enough,” Phillies managing partner John Middleton said.
Phillies announce Matt Klentak has stepped down as General Manager. pic.twitter.com/YanLLDkhUP
— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) October 3, 2020
Klentak was hired as general manager on Oct. 24, 2015, with a connection to Phillies president Andy MacPhail. Prior to serving four years as the Los Angeles Angels’ assistant GM before being hired by the Phils, Klentak was hired by MacPhail as the director of baseball operations for the Baltimore Orioles.
The Phillies failed to reach the postseason and were 326-382 in Klentak’s five seasons.
In the 60-game COVID-19 shortened 2020 season, the Phillies finished 28-32 and featured one of the worst bullpens (7.06 ERA) in Major League Baseball history. The Phils lost eight of their final nine games and were eliminated from the playoffs for the ninth consecutive season in their season finale.
Beyond that, the organization has struggled to develop talent in the minors leagues. The Phillies had the worst bullpen ERA in the majors this season and it didn’t improve after Klentak acquired four veterans in trades. Each of those relievers pitched poorly after their arrival. In fact, the four relievers Klentak traded for — Brandon Workman, Heath Hembree, David Hale and David Phelps — had a combined 8.56 ERA in 41 innings pitched.
“I think the problem the Phillies have had for 100 years is they don’t evaluate talent,” Middleton said, citing two periods of successful player development around the World Series championship teams in 1980 and 2008. “That’s a problem that’s haunted us. It was the No. 1 mandate I gave Andy and Matt when they came in and we’re better than we were, but we aren’t nearly good enough.”
Klentak’s biggest move was signing Bryce Harper to a $330 million, 13-year deal, though Middleton played a major role in that. Klentak also acquired catcher J.T. Realmuto from the Miami Marlins, trading away top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez to get him.
But Klentak failed to sign Realmuto to a contract extension and he is set to become a free agent after the World Series.
Middleton said he approved dealing Sanchez based on being told by his baseball people the team would give Realmuto the extension. But, he also said he doesn’t hold it against Klentak that he failed to re-sign Realmuto.
Middleton added signing Realmuto remains a priority but financial issues related to COVID-19 are a factor.
“Can you tell me what the governor and the mayor of Philadelphia are going to allow us to have next year in the way of fans because if you do, you know something that I don’t,” Middleton said. “I have no idea what we’re going to be allowed. And obviously, that’s going to determine revenues and revenues determines what you can do and what you can’t do.”
Klentak inherited Pete Mackanin as manager and made a switch after the 2017 season, hiring Gabe Kapler. The Phillies went 161-163 under Kapler before Middleton overruled Klentak and MacPhail and fired him last year. First-year manager Joe Girardi was 28-32 this season.
The Phillies went 1-7 in their final eight games. They would’ve made the postseason with two wins in those eight games.
“While I am disappointed that we failed to reach our ultimate goal, I am nevertheless very proud of the progress that this organization made over the last five years and of the people who worked so hard to make it happen,” Klentak said in. “I am grateful for all of the support that I received along the way from Phillies ownership, friends and colleagues and our loyal Phillies fans.”
When asked if Klentak should return as GM in 2021 shortly after the season ended, Harper said, “I mean, I’m not an owner. I’m glad I don’t have to make those decisions.”
That response came after Harper said how the Phillies need Realmuto going forward.
Realmuto remains unsigned, Klentak has stepped down and now a new GM will be charged with signing the All-Star catcher and ending the Phillies’ playoff drought.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)