It’s that time of year again.
The Phillies are puttering around the .500 mark with just a handful of days to go in the season and people are wondering if there will be changes to the club’s leadership.
Last year, it was manager Gabe Kapler.
Might it be general manager Matt Klentak this year?
Klentak declined to discuss his performance or his future during a video conference with reporters on Monday afternoon.
“I think right now our focus is on the next seven games and if we take care of business in the next seven games, I think then we can start looking forward to what will hopefully be an exciting October,” he said. “After the season is over, we can look back and go through the postmortem.”
During Joe Girardi’s unveiling as manager 11 months ago, Klentak warmed his own seat by uttering the words, “No questions asked, it’s time to win right now.”
The definition of winning can be debated in this unprecedented, COVID-19-shaped 2020 season.
Some might view finishing a game or two over .500 and squeaking into an expanded, eight-team (that’s more than half of the teams in each league) playoff field in a 60-game season as winning. Others might see it as a mediocre couple of months.
Ultimately, managing partner John Middleton’s definition of winning is what matters most.
He is on record as saying that it’s fair to evaluate the front office’s performance in a short, 60-game season.
“We're all under pressure, we're all on the clock, myself included,” Middleton told NBC Sports Philadelphia before the July 24 season opener. “Nobody gets a free pass, it doesn't matter whether you're playing 60 games or 162. We all need to be responding to the present conditions in an appropriate way and you can evaluate that even in a short season. Things can happen in a 60-game season, in a shortened span. Bad teams can play really well and really good teams can play poorly. You have to understand that going in, but there's no reason you still can't evaluate people. I'm not free of that evaluation so nobody else is.”
Klentak is in his fifth season on the job and he has two more years left on his contract. Club president Andy MacPhail, who hired Klentak, has one more year left on his contract. The tandem arrived in 2015 and has yet to have a winning season. It’s difficult to imagine a change being made at general manager if the Phils, even in this unusual season, make the postseason for the first time since 2011.
But if the Phils stumble and fall out of the race over this final week of the season, all bets will be off and that comment about it being time to win right now could come back to haunt Klentak.
So Klentak is understandably focused on his team’s play this final week in Washington and Tampa Bay.
“It has been a very unusual season for a lot of reasons around baseball,” he said. “I’m really proud of this team and the way they have overcome not only the COVID issues early in the year, but more recently the way that guys have stepped up to overcome some of the injuries that we’ve had and put themselves in a position this week to control their own destiny and make a push for October. That’s probably the biggest thing for me is that I’m proud of the way this group has handled it.”