Pete Mackanin may have received a contract extension in May, but the Phillies' manager has yet to receive assurances from general manager Matt Klentak that he’ll return in 2018.
“I still don’t know if I’ll be here next year,” Mackanin said before Monday’s game against the Washington Nationals.
Mackanin took over midway through the 2015 season and has presided over the Phillies’ rebuilding project. He went 37-51 to finish 2015, 71-91 last year and was 62-94 heading into the final week of the season.
Does Mackanin hope Klentak tells him his fate soon?
“Of course,” Mackanin said. “I’m signed through next year and I assume I’ll be here. But you never know what they’re going to do.”
Mackanin said he’s set to meet with Klentak on Saturday to evaluate players. The season ends the next day, with the Phillies needing one victory over their final six games to avoid their first 100-loss season since 1961.
“Do you need better coaches? Do you need a better manager? The answer to all these questions is you need better players,” Mackanin said as he quizzed about his future.
Despite the dismal record, the Phillies have made progress in many areas. They may have found their future star power hitter in Rhys Hoskins. Fellow rookie Nick Williams has shown flashes. Cesar Hernandez is hitting .296. Freddy Galvis is a Gold Glove-caliber shortstop. Adam Morgan has pitched like a permanent setup man (see story). Mackanin believes Aaron Nola has established himself as a “solid No. 3 starter.”
But the rest of the rotation is uncertain. They still need more offense. And while the Phillies have played well down the stretch, it’s come with no pressure in a sea of meaningless games.
Mackanin was asked if the team made a step forward this season.
“I think individual players have made a step forward. As a team, of course not. We’re down at the bottom,” Mackanin said. “On the other hand, there are teams with similar records with much higher payrolls that were expected to do much better and haven’t. And when you look at the makeup of the team with all the pitchers that we’ve used and injuries, we’ve had a lot of unproven players.”
Mackanin revealed the angriest he’s been was back in May, when the Phillies went 6-22. He said while he's trying to keep an “even keel,” he gave his team a tongue-lashing after a home loss during that stretch.
“I just went down the list of players,” Mackanin said. “Every one of them, I pointed out all the good things they’ve done to get here. And I asked after I got done naming every player how good they’ve been and what they’ve accomplished to get here, I asked, ‘How come we’re so bad?’”
Despite injuries and having to rush players to the majors, the Phillies were 33-36 since the All-Star break before Monday’s game.
Mackanin acknowledged 2018 will be different, when the record will matter much more. He believes it’s time for the franchise to start winning in order to lure the potential free agents needed to become a contender again.
“We’ve got a ways to go,” Mackanin said. “We’ve got players who have to prove they’re for real. Next year will tell us an awful lot.”
The 66-year-old Mackanin hopes he’s around to see what happens.
“Blame the managers and coaches. How about if the players perform better?” Mackanin said. “Now, could we get the players to perform better? Everybody tries hard to do that.”