Phillies

Phillies seek new voice, style in manager to replace Pete Mackanin

Phillies seek new voice, style in manager to replace Pete Mackanin

Matt Klentak could not spell out a hard and fast reason for firing Pete Mackanin as Phillies manager on Friday, but a theme did emerge in his comments during a news conference to announce the move.
 
Klentak, 37, mentioned several times the youth that the team had injected into its roster in recent months.

By the time the news conference was over, it was difficult not to draw the conclusion that he'd like to have a youthful presence in the manager's office.

"In my mind, we have reached a turning point in this rebuild," Klentak said as Mackanin sat stoically by his side at a dais in the same Citizens Bank Park interview room that has been the site of many notable comings and goings the last decade.

"As you all know, we have turned over this roster considerably over the last two years and especially in the last few months. We see our roster right now is littered with young players who look to have a very, very bright future. It’s time to look forward."

The Phillies won’t completely move on without Mackanin. He was still under contract for next season, thanks to an extension he received in May. He will manage the final weekend of the season then move into a front-office advisory role. He will be in that job for at least a couple of years as he received a separate contract extension to serve in that role for 2019 (see story).

Klentak said he would begin the search for a new manager immediately.

"Our goal for that search will be to identify a leader that can help lead us into the future and take us to where we want to go," Klentak said. "But I still trust Pete, I still want his opinion and I still want to be able to call him and run thoughts by him. Maybe as importantly as anything, I want to make sure when we’re tipping champagne over each others’ heads celebrating our next championship that Pete is still proudly wearing the ‘P’ because he deserves that."

Mackanin said all the right things during the news conference and afterward. He is 66 years old, secure financially after a long career as a player, coach, scout and manager, and was actually considering retiring a few years ago when he was asked by the previous management regime to lead the team on an interim basis when Ryne Sandberg resigned in June 2015. The team played well under Mackanin and he was hired on a permanent basis in September of that year, a month before Klentak was hired as general manager.

From the time he was hired, Mackanin was seen as an on-field caretaker of the rebuild while Klentak and club president Andy MacPhail oversaw the grand plan.

Klentak has been reluctant to put a timetable on the rebuild, to say when he believed the team could contend again. But his decision to fire Mackanin was an indication that expectations are changing.

"I don’t think we’ve reached the end of our rebuild, but I do think the worst part, the hardest part of our rebuild, is in the rearview," he said. "I think as we look forward, as we continue to balance the present and the future, that we are getting closer to the point where the present is going to become more important.

"I think now with the way the rebuild is unfolding and the way that some of our young players are graduating to the big leagues and the way that the outlook is shaping up, a new voice in the dugout and a new style is necessary," Klentak said. "It has nothing to do with me not liking Pete or being disappointed in him."

The Phillies played poorly in the first half of the season and were 29 games under .500 at the All-Star break. Klentak had brought in a number of veterans in the offseason, but really only reliever Pat Neshek had an impact. Injuries struck down Clay Buchholz for the season and Howie Kendrick for a significant chunk of the first half. Michael Saunders and Joaquin Benoit brought little, if anything.

The Phils have played much better in the second half thanks to the influx of young players that Klentak mentioned. Yes, he made the call to promote Rhys Hoskins and Nick Williams — critics say he should have done it sooner — but Mackanin has guided those players. The Phils entered the final three games of the season Friday night with a 35-37 record after the All-Star break and a chance to finish over .500 in that span.

"There are only 30 of these jobs in the world and I had one of them," Mackanin said. "For that, I’m delighted and I’m just thrilled I had an opportunity to do that. Sure, you’d like to inherit the best team in baseball and just push the buttons. One thing I’m most proud of is I believe a lot of players have improved under my watch. They have played better, they have learned some things and to me that is just as important as winning."

Still, it wasn't enough to keep Mackanin in the manager's seat.

Clearly, Klentak wants a young perspective and a new style, as he said, to lead the team. He is one of a growing number of young, analytically-driven general managers in the game, and he may to want someone of his generation and ideology that he can grow with as the team moves closer to contending.

Klentak is not the first general manager to inherit a skipper. And he's not the first to want his own guy. That's more a reflection on him than Mackanin, who is and remains a sharp baseball man.

Klentak would not give a timetable for hiring a new manager. Dusty Wathan, frequently a manager of the year in the Phillies’ minor-league system, is a candidate to move up from the Triple A job, either as manager or a member of the coaching staff. Brad Ausmus, recently fired by the Detroit Tigers, could get a look. Like Klentak, he is a Dartmouth man.

At 61, Buck Showalter does not fit the youthful mold that Klentak seems to be looking for, but he would have to be considered a candidate if the Baltimore Orioles don't bring him back for the final year of his contract. Showalter worked with members of the Phillies' front office staff when they were in Baltimore. MacPhail holds him in high regard (see 10 candidates).

"I think it’s about finding a connection with the team and with the players and leading us on into the future," Klentak said of the team's managerial opening. "I think that is what this is about. It’s about looking forward."

MLB Playoffs: Justin Turner hits walk-off HR to give Dodgers 2-0 lead over Cubs

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MLB Playoffs: Justin Turner hits walk-off HR to give Dodgers 2-0 lead over Cubs

BOX SCORE

LOS ANGELES -- Justin Turner hit a three-run homer with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Chicago Cubs 4-1 on Sunday to take a 2-0 lead in the NL Championship Series.

The red-bearded slugger connected on the 29th anniversary of the Dodgers' last game-ending postseason homer: Kirk Gibson's famous pinch-hit drive to beat Oakland in the 1988 World Series opener.

"One of my earliest baseball memories, I was 4 years old at my grandma's house watching that game in `88 and seeing Gibby hit that homer," a smiling Turner said. "So yeah, it feels pretty cool. I thought about doing the fist pump around the bases, but we'll wait until we get to the World Series for that, hopefully."

Turner drove in every run for Los Angeles, going the other way for a tying single in the fifth before sending a long shot to center field off John Lackey in the ninth. A fan wearing a blue Dodgers jersey reached over a railing to catch the ball on the fly.

Turner's second homer of the postseason ended another dramatic night for the Dodgers, who remained unbeaten in these playoffs and moved within two wins of their first World Series appearance since 1988.

"It's very cool, and J.T., we were talking about it in there after the game," manager Dave Roberts said. "Twenty-nine years to the day. It was special. Our guys feel it."

Game 3 in the best-of-seven series is Tuesday night at Wrigley Field in Chicago. Midseason acquisition Yu Darvish starts for the Dodgers against Kyle Hendricks.

Yasiel Puig drew his third walk of the game leading off the ninth, and Charlie Culberson bunted him to second. After losing pitcher Brian Duensing struck out pinch-hitter Kyle Farmer, Chicago manager Joe Maddon went to the bullpen for the 38-year-old Lackey, who pitched on consecutive days for the first time in his 15-year career.

Lackey got the call over All-Star closer Wade Davis, and the veteran starter walked Chris Taylor on six tense pitches.

Turner stepped up and ended it with his fourth career playoff homer. He's been at his best in October, batting .377 with 22 RBIs in the postseason.

"We've been doing it all year long," Turner said. "We're never out of a game. As long as we have outs left, we're going to keep fighting."

Completing the poetry of the moment, a fan in a Chase Utley jersey in the center-field bleachers caught the ball in his glove.

Addison Russell homered in the fifth for the Cubs, who are down early in this rematch of the 2016 NLCS. Chicago won that series in six games and went on to its first World Series championship since 1908, while the Dodgers have been absent from the Fall Classic since 1988.

Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen got the victory with a hitless ninth despite hitting Anthony Rizzo on the hand with a one-out pitch. That ended the Los Angeles bullpen's impressive streak of 22 straight Cubs retired to begin the NLCS, but the Dodgers have thrown eight hitless and scoreless innings of relief in the NLCS.

After a collective offensive effort drove the Dodgers to a 5-2 win in Game 1, Turner did it all in Game 2. He has 10 RBIs in the Dodgers' five postseason games, getting five in the playoff opener against Arizona.

Jon Lester yielded three hits and five walks while failing to get out of the fifth inning in the shortest start of his long postseason career, but the Dodgers couldn't take advantage of a rare shaky night by the Cubs' star left-hander.

Rich Hill struck out eight in five more impressive innings for the Dodgers, but he was pulled for pinch-hitter Curtis Granderson in the fifth in a debatable decision by Roberts.

Russell was off to a 4-for-22 start in the postseason with nine strikeouts before the slugging shortstop put a leadoff homer into the short porch in left field.

Turner evened it moments later by poking a single to right after a leadoff double by Culberson, the Dodgers' improbably successful replacement for injured All-Star shortstop Corey Seager.

The Dodgers chased Lester with two outs in the fifth, but reliever Carl Edwards Jr. came through after several recent postseason struggles, striking out pinch-hitter Chase Utley and then pitching a strong sixth.

Lester was the co-MVP of last season's NLCS, winning Game 5 at Dodger Stadium and yielding two runs over 13 innings in the series. He had nothing near the same success against the Dodgers' revamped lineup in this one, issuing four walks in the first four innings and repeatedly escaping jams.

Dodgers third base coach Chris Woodward held up Turner in the third when it appeared he could have scored from first on Cody Bellinger's double to the gap.

Javier Baez, the other co-MVP of last season's NLCS for Chicago, got to third base in the third with one out but also was stranded.

Up next
Cubs: Hendricks dominated Chicago's playoff opener with seven scoreless innings against the Nationals, but yielded four runs in four innings during the team's wild Game 5 victory in Washington. He is starting on normal rest.

Dodgers: Darvish was outstanding in Game 3 against the Diamondbacks, earning his first career postseason victory with seven strikeouts over five innings of two-hit ball. He was acquired 

MLB Playoffs: Altuve's dash lifts Verlander, Astros over Yanks in Game 2

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MLB Playoffs: Altuve's dash lifts Verlander, Astros over Yanks in Game 2

HOUSTON — Jose Altuve raced home on Carlos Correa's double in the ninth inning, Justin Verlander struck out 13 in a complete game and the Houston Astros beat the New York Yankees 2-1 Saturday for a 2-0 lead in the AL Championship Series.

Correa also homered, but Houston needed a daring dash from Altuve to get Verlander a win. The 5-foot-6 AL MVP front-runner reached with a one-out single against closer Aroldis Chapman , then sprinted around from first base on Correa's shot to right-center field, sliding past catcher Gary Sanchez as he misplayed a short-hop. Altuve had two more hits and is 13 for 23 (.565) this postseason.

Verlander pitched another gem for the Astros, setting a postseason career best for strikeouts and allowing five hits in his second career complete game in the postseason. He threw a season-high 124 pitches and retired baby Bronx Bombers Aaron Judge, Sanchez and Greg Bird in the top of the ninth.

In the bottom of the inning, Judge picked up Correa's hit in right field and threw toward second base. Shortstop Didi Gregorius fielded there, and his throw beat Altuve to the plate by a few steps. But Sanchez bobbled the one-hop as Altuve slid by, and the Astros mobbed Correa in shallow center field. Altuve pointed toward Correa and his teammates from behind the plate (see full recap).

Puig, Taylor power Dodgers past Cubs in NLCS Game 1
LOS ANGELES -- Chris Taylor hit a tiebreaking homer in the sixth inning, Yasiel Puig added a homer and an RBI double to his dynamite postseason, and the Los Angeles Dodgers overcame a short start by Clayton Kershaw for a 5-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Saturday night in the NL Championship Series opener.

Charlie Culberson doubled, drove in the tying run and scored another while replacing injured All-Star shortstop Corey Seager for the resourceful Dodgers, who improved to 4-0 in this postseason.

With another collective offensive effort and four innings of perfect relief pitching, Los Angeles calmly overcame an early two-run deficit and took the first game of this rematch of the 2016 NLCS, won in six games by Chicago on the way to its first World Series championship in 108 years.

Game 2 is Sunday, with Rich Hill starting at home against Chicago's Jon Lester (see full recap).