Phillies

Matt Klentak says Phillies will remain patient in pursuit of Manny Machado, Bryce Harper

Matt Klentak says Phillies will remain patient in pursuit of Manny Machado, Bryce Harper

Jim Thome signed his big free-agent contract with the Phillies just after Thanksgiving.

Cliff Lee signed his before Christmas.

Now, here we are, in Super Bowl week, two weeks before mitts start popping in Clearwater, and the Phillies still don’t know if their pursuit of mega free agents Manny Machado and Bryce Harper will hit pay dirt.

Fans are getting antsy.

But Phillies general manager Matt Klentak is not.

Even as spring training comes into sight, he is committed to being patient.

“And, by extension, so is our front office and ownership,” Klentak said Wednesday (see story). “We're pretty aligned on that.”

Klentak got a taste of what he called “the new normal” of free agency last winter when he waited out Jake Arrieta and finally signed him to a three-year, $75 million contract on March 11.

Who knows how long it will take for Machado and Harper to make up their minds. The Phillies have had face-to-face meetings with both players. They have had continuing dialogue with the representatives for both players. The Phils would love to land one of these players.

“I tend to keep the information about the status of negotiations pretty guarded,” Klentak said. “I don't think it's in our best interests to disclose much about that.

“The fans are well aware that we're pursuing the top end of free agency. When that's going to resolve itself, we don't really know. To reach a deal, it really takes multiple parties coming together to do that.”

And Klentak is willing to wait for that to happen. Sure, there are circumstances, he said, in which he’d walk away from his pursuit of a free agent. But those circumstances relate to money and term of contract. Timing is not a parameter that will affect his pursuit of top free agents in this market. So the Phillies will multi-task: They will look to sign Machado or Harper even as they prepare for spring training, even as they head south, even as they begin workouts and games, if that’s what it takes.

“Our job as management is to be patient and understand the ebbs and flows of the free agency process and be ready to strike whenever that time is,” Klentak said. “What we try not to do is have the timing push that.

“What we did earlier in the offseason (adding Jean Segura, David Robertson and Andrew McCutchen) has allowed us to be in the position to where we're not letting the time pressure us into doing something. We're still open-minded in contract term and structure and working with the representatives on that, but I don't think the start of spring training, for example, serves as any deadline. We learned that last year with Jake.”

Klentak is well aware of how antsy fans are getting to see the Phillies land Machado or Harper. Though he does not personally engage in the use of social media, he felt some of the shockwaves that overtook Philadelphia on Tuesday when word spread that the team had struck a deal with Harper.

That was news to Klentak.

“I'm definitely amused by it,” he admitted. “I see a lot of it secondhand. I try to stay out of the fray. I woke up yesterday morning to a bunch of congratulations texts. I was like, ‘What are you congratulating me for?’ Then I figured it out. I'm plenty aware of it, whether it's my friends or family or colleagues, everybody's talking about it. It's an exciting time for the Phillies.”

Harper or Machado? Rhys Hoskins recently expressed confidence that the Phillies would land one of them.

Klentak’s level of confidence?

“I have confidence we've put our best foot forward with these guys and in the subsequent dialogue we've had,” he said. “It's impossible to predict where someone's going to land or how much money they're going to make. I don't know the answer to that. But I'm very confident in our approach and in our communication style with these guys.”

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Revelations and takeaways from the Roy Halladay E60 documentary

Revelations and takeaways from the Roy Halladay E60 documentary

There was so much of note in Friday's powerful hourlong E60 documentary of the life and death of Roy Halladay. Heartbreaking recollections from his widow, Brandy, troubling details of his addiction to prescription opioids, and the valuable lesson that hopefully can come from such a painful tragedy.

"I just wanted him to slow down," Brandy said.

"Roy had none," she said of the balance in his life at points.

"He didn't feel he had the luxury of making mistakes, he was truly tormented."

How Halladay's opioid addiction began

Halladay popped his back during the 2011 season and pitched through it. He pitched through pain the night the Phillies' playoff hopes ended in a gut-wrenching 1-0 loss to the Cardinals in Game 5 of the NLDS after a franchise-record 102 regular-season wins.

Brandy told a story of Roy experiencing such back pain that he once fell down sneezing around that time.

Halladay began taking prescription opioids in the spring of 2012, obtaining them by paying cash to a doctor in Florida who was recommended to him by a Phillies teammate.

"He was continuing to hurt himself, and the more he hurt himself, the more dependent he would be on medication," Brandy said. "He was breaking his back. He actually shrunk three inches from compression in his spine. That's insane."

Former teammate and pupil Kyle Kendrick, who looked up to Halladay as a role model and mentor, noticed that something wasn't right. 

"At his locker, I was right next to him. You'd try to talk to him and you'd feel like he wasn't there," Kendrick said. "As a friend, I felt like I should say something. I felt like he might need help. A teammate and I said something to someone who worked for the team."

The teammate confronted Halladay about his drug use during the 2013 season but nothing changed.

Fear of public scrutiny

Halladay's body became dependent on the medications to function. All the while, he privately dealt with the fear of others finding out. He was tormented by the potential public scrutiny.

"Everybody should be able to ask for help and they shouldn't be looked down on and judged for that," Brandy said several times throughout the documentary. If there is one lesson to be learned from this tragedy, it is that.

Roy Halladay went to rehab for his painkiller addiction during the 2013 season, his final year in the majors. Many Phillies fans will remember the stress-filled, sweat-soaked 13 starts Halladay made that final year. At times, that was a reaction to the medication in his system.

He left rehab early, Brandy said, because he had been recognized and someone had snuck a phone into the facility. Roy was nervous about word of his stint in rehab leaking out.

The struggle to find a purpose

After retirement, in the years before Halladay recaptured some of his joy and passion by coaching his sons' baseball teams, Roy "stopped taking care of himself, inside and out," according to Brandy. His weight rose to over 300 pounds at one point in retirement, then down to 205 at another.

He reentered rehab in January 2015 for the painkiller addiction and was there three months. When he returned home, he began seeing a psychiatrist and was formally diagnosed with ADD, depression and anxiety. 

In retirement, Halladay struggled to find a purpose. 

"He was lost, he didn't know what to do with himself," Brandy said. "Flying was therapeutic."

Doc's days in the air

The circumstances of Halladay's death were documented in a 2018 toxicology report and in a report from the National Transportation Safety Board last month. He had Zolpidem, amphetamine and morphine in his system at the time he crashed his Icon A5 plane into the Gulf of Mexico. According to the NTSB report, Halladay was doing extreme acrobatics when he lost control.

Halladay received his pilot's license in 2013. He had spent much time in the air with his father, Roy II, a pilot, from a young age, and had accrued more than 700 flying hours himself before the crash.

"He was an excellent pilot," Roy II said of his son. "Mechanically, his skills were very good. He kept working for additional ratings."

Yet still, Brandy didn't feel it was totally safe. 

"He was trying to fill this void by buying boats and planes and cars and shoes," she said. "Roy was an adrenaline guy, he was always looking for that rush."

When Roy got his Icon A5, a plane that made him feel like he was flying a fighter jet, "he was so excited, he couldn't control himself," Brandy said.

"My concern was after he got the (Icon A5), he kept talking about how sporty it was, how much of a sports car it was," his father said. "I said be careful with it."

The tragedy

Halladay died 35 days after getting the Icon A5. According to the NTSB report, he frequently flew at low altitudes in shallow water and flew underneath a bridge in Tampa with Brandy on board 12 days before the fatal crash.

On the day of the crash, he and Brandy were supposed to see one of their sons' band perform at a school concert. Roy told Brandy he'd return the Icon A5 to the airport and meet her there. He texted her while she was driving, "I'm so sorry, I should have just gone with you, another wasted day." Instead of flying north to the airport, he had flown west to the Gulf of Mexico where the crash occurred.

"I had so much more in the future I wanted for us and it was hard to know that it was just done," Brandy Halladay said.

"I know in my heart it was an accident. I want to make sure that people understand that he was just a man. Perfect, I hate that word, perfect. I just want him to be Roy. I hope somebody hears our story and says, 'Wow, I'm going to ask for help.'"

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Phillies Talk podcast: Still optimistic about July 4? Thoughts on Roy Halladay

Phillies Talk podcast: Still optimistic about July 4? Thoughts on Roy Halladay

On the latest Phillies Talk podcast, the guys explored whether an early-July start date could still be achievable for MLB, and their Roy Halladay memories on the 10-year anniversary of his perfect game.

• Is a July 4 start date possible at this point with no resolution in sight?

• Deadlines help, but would a deadline be artificial?

• Challenging the idea that fans would never come back if baseball went away in 2020.

• Benefits and hindrances of extending the season from 82 games to 100-110.

• The opposing perspective from the night Halladay threw his perfect game.

• Doc's legendary 2010 season even aside from that perfecto.

• A preview of the exciting 2008 Phillies playoff re-airs and specials on tap.

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