CINCINNATI — Ask Bill Giles how he’s doing and you get a one-word answer.
“Suffering,” the former Phillies leader turned Phillies fan said at All-Star festivities Monday.
“I watch every game in person or on TV. It’s been tough.”
Giles, at the All-Star Game to fill his annual role as honorary National League president, finds himself in the city where his long and distinguished baseball career began. His father, Warren, was general manager of the Cincinnati Reds from 1946 to 1951 before becoming NL president, and Bill began working for the Reds as a teen.
Bill Giles’ career path took him through Nashville and Houston and eventually on to Philadelphia before the 1970 season. Giles brought Harry Kalas to the town where he grew into a legend, and a decade later formed and led the group that bought the Phillies from the Carpenter Family.
At one point, Giles said Monday, he owned 20 percent of the club and called all the shots. He was pushed out by ownership partners in 1997 and in 1998 began selling off pieces of the team, “mainly because my salary went away,” he said.
Giles on Monday confirmed longstanding rumblings that he no longer owned a piece of the team.
“Two or three years ago, I sold my last piece,” he said with a tinge of sadness in his voice. “I’d still like to be part of it.”
Phillies ownership now consists of four groups. The Middleton family, led by John Middleton, and the Buck family, led by cousins Jim and Pete, own the two largest pieces of the team. David Montgomery and Pat Gillick own small pieces. Montgomery succeeded Giles as club president from 1997 until last summer when Gillick stepped in. Gillick plans to retire after this season. Longtime executive Andy MacPhail has already been hired as a special assistant and will succeed Gillick at season’s end.
Giles said he was not permitted to discuss who owns what percentage.
Giles’ title with the organization was changed from chairman to chairman emeritus in January when Montgomery became chairman. The man who was influential in everything from getting Citizens Bank Park built to establishing interleague play, now has a largely ceremonial role with the club he loves.
“I work on charities and give a few speeches,” he said. “I recommend things but they don’t have to listen to me.”
There have been many changes in the Phillies’ leadership recently and more are coming as baseball’s worst team chugs toward 100-plus losses.
Giles likes the hiring of MacPhail, a former executive with the Twins, Cubs and Orioles. MacPhail will be club president, but Middleton, the most powerful voice in the organization, says MacPhail’s focus will be baseball and his mandate is to win.
“I’ve known Andy for a long time,” Giles said. “I've been on many committees with him. I know him very well. I think that was a great move. He’s smart and hard-working, knows his stuff about most facets of the game, not just players. So I think that was a very good move.”
Middleton, whose family bought into the Phillies in 1994, made a very positive impression at the news conference to announce MacPhail’s hiring late last month. After two decades spent shunning the spotlight, he came across as a laser-eyed, no-nonsense leader committed to doing whatever it takes to win.
“I think it’s good he stepped up,” Giles said. “Ownership has been very quiet ever since I bought the team in '81, so I think it was a good thing.”
Middleton is a billionaire with a little fire in his belly. He has been compared to legendary Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, another guy with deep pockets and said fire in belly.
What does Giles think of the comparison?
“I don’t think he’s that way,” Giles said of Middleton. “But he’s a good leader. He’s got a lot of passion, a lot of passion to win.”
Giles believes it's important that Middleton let his baseball people run the baseball operations.
“If he stays on the big picture, he’ll have a great impact,” Giles said. “He really wants to win.
“But I don’t want him telling us to trade people and things like that. The macro stuff about how much we can spend on players and whether we have a Dominican academy — those big-expense items — I think he should get involved.”
Giles said he was “shocked” by Ryne Sandberg’s decision to step down as manager last month.
“I like him a lot as a human being,” Giles said. “Class man. I talked to him the day after. I don’t think he really wants to manage again.”
Giles said he has no inside knowledge on who the next permanent manager will be, nor does he know what the future holds for GM Ruben Amaro Jr.
Giles did offer a promising long-range forecast for the Phillies, even though there will be more gloom — more suffering, if you will — for the Phillies in 2016.
“I think the fans will be back as soon as we start winning,” he said. “The good news is I read the minor-league report religiously and the minor leagues are definitely doing better. Not only as teams, but as individual players. I see more talent in the minors than I have in 20 years, people that look like they’re going to be major league players. So that’s encouraging.
“Now what we’re going to do for '16, I don’t know. That’s going to be a problem unless they sign some free agents.”