The Phillies begin spring training in Clearwater, Florida, on Feb. 14. Leading up to the first workout, we will take a daily look at the important issues and storylines of camp.
Among the issues facing the Phillies as they begin spring training, Pete Mackanin’s job status is a low-priority item.
He’s under contract for 2017.
The rebuilding Phillies improved by eight wins under his skippership in 2016.
But what about 2018?
In some regards, it might be premature to bring this up, but in others it is not. It’s just that time of year. During spring training last year, upper management re-did Mackanin’s contract, made it a two-year deal covering 2016 and 2017 and added a club option for 2018.
So, will the front office address Mackanin’s contract again this spring?
Will it guarantee the option year?
At the winter meetings, general manager Matt Klentak deftly sidestepped questions on the matter by citing NBCSports.com writer Craig Calcaterra’s annual (and hilarious) ranking of baseball’s most handsome managers. Mackanin ranked a very respectable eighth on the list, which each year draws more and more cackles from the baseball establishment.
“If Pete had ranked in the top five …” Klentak said with a shrug and a laugh.
Klentak became more serious but remained noncommittal.
“We have time to do that,” he said. “Obviously last year we talked about his status in spring training and I’m sure the time will come when we’ll sit down and talk about it again.”
Mackanin, 65, would love to have the added year of security on his deal.
But he’s not about to obsess over it.
“I hope they pick it up but that's not up to me,” he said. “That's up to them. I feel that when it's time for them to let me know, they’ll let me know.
“But in the meantime, I'm not consumed by it. Hopefully it will happen, but it doesn't help me thinking about it.”
The concept of a lame-duck manager is often debated. Job security beyond the current season in some cases can give a manager authority in the clubhouse. It can be the front office’s way of telling the players this is the guy, we believe in him.
But length of a manager’s contract can be overrated. Hall of Fame Dodgers skipper Walter Alston managed 23 seasons and won seven pennants and four World Series, all on one-year contracts. Charlie Manuel won the first of five straight NL East titles as a lame duck in 2007. There aren’t many players who look at the term of a manager’s contract when deciding whether they will respond to him or not. It’s completely organic and it all comes down to trust. That is a manager’s greatest currency. The player has to trust that the manager knows what he’s doing. The player has to trust that the manager has his back. If this happens, respect grows and an environment conducive to success can develop.
The Phillies’ measurement of success these days isn’t what it was from 2007 to 2014, back when they were gunning for World Series titles with proven talent and big payrolls. The team’s current measurement of success is the growth and improvement of its young players, the energy, focus and commitment that those players show and the environment that they do it in. Mackanin has succeeded on all these fronts.
It won’t be a surprise if his option for 2018 is exercised sometime before opening day. But it’s not imperative. There’s plenty of time for this to play out.
And if it doesn’t play out the way Mackanin wants, well, he always has his good looks to fall back on.
Next: Day 10 – In the final installment of the series, we look at what would be a successful season for the Phillies