A few years ago, the Phillies were nowhere, without much going for them to get anywhere.
They had hired Matt Klentak to be their GM in 2015. Klentak was a virtual unknown; he had never worked at the GM level for a major-league ballclub.
A few years later, Klentak was charmed by Gabe Kapler – a bronze, muscular, confident man, who had very little in the way of experience managing at the big league level. It showed. He lacked the leadership to shepherd his team through the slog of a 162-game season. Both seasons as Phillies manager, the team spent time in first place. And in both seasons, they completely collapsed in the waning weeks and finished right around .500.
After the 2019 season, still nowhere, and not going anywhere fast.
But it looks as though the Phillies are finally learning, from experience, that if you want quality, find the name brands. Don’t go shopping for the no-names.
Find yourself someone with a resume that shows that you’ve been there, and done that.
After they jettisoned Kapler, they courted Joe Girardi – the biggest name on the block, a guy with three decades of experience as a leader on the field, and in the dugout, and four World Series rings to show for it.
An immediate and serious upgrade.
Last week, after multiple attempts, they nailed down Dave Dombrowski to be their president of baseball operations. Dombrowski was working in a big-league front office before Klentak knew his multiplication tables.
Dombrowski built the Florida Marlins from expansion team to world champions. He brought the Detroit Tigers from laughingstock to the AL pennant. He won it all with the Red Sox just three seasons ago, just in case you think he lost something off his fastball.
Dombrowski does have a reputation of sacrificing prospects for the final one or two pieces to his roster. But he also knows what he has in this organization, and, more importantly, what he doesn’t.
"I don't look at this as a situation as we are one player away from winning,” he explained at his introductory press conference Friday. “I think we need to do a few things with this team. And I really don't want to be sacrificing people that might be part of our future success for short-term gains if it's not the difference-maker in trying to be a championship club."
While it’s true that Dombrowski was Klentak once, many moons ago, a younger man who worked his way up through the ranks to get to where he is today, there’s a time and a place to hire a young up-and-comer, and there’s a time and place to hire established baseball men. Men like Girardi and Dombrowski who know how to do it, because they’ve done it before, multiple times.
When a similar opportunity presented itself two years ago, John Middleton hopped in his jet and headed to Vegas to get his man, one of the biggest names in the game, Bryce Harper.
Now he has grouped Harper with two other big names he hopes will get Middleton his blanking trophy back.