Pat Gillick

Phillies Phodder: Next hitting coach? Why the sudden push for experience? What about Maikel Franco?

Phillies Phodder: Next hitting coach? Why the sudden push for experience? What about Maikel Franco?

At a news conference announcing his appointment earlier this week, new Phillies manager Joe Girardi talked about the importance of filling the open pitching and hitting coach roles with the right people.

The Phillies locked down Bryan Price as pitching coach. He’s been pitching coach with Seattle, Arizona and Cincinnati — he also managed the Reds — and is about as highly regarded in baseball circles as they come

It’s not known who the Phillies are targeting for hitting coach, but here’s a thought:

Kevin Long was hitting coach for much of Girardi’s time as manager of the New York Yankees from 2008 to 2017. Girardi has admitted publicly that he is a fan of Long’s work.

It’s doubtful that the Phillies could orchestrate a Girardi-Long reunion in Philadelphia. Long just completed his second season as Washington Nationals hitting coach by raising the World Series championship trophy over his head. No way the Nats let him go.

But how about his assistant?

Joe Dillon is the Nats’ assistant hitting coach and he’s gaining recognition around the game for marrying new-age science with old-school principles in coaching hitters. Long, in fact, has called Dillon “the best assistant hitting coach in the baseball.” Anyone of that distinction, coming off a World Series title, would seem to be in line for advancement in the game.

Would Long talk up his trusted assistant to his old pal Girardi for an opportunity in Philadelphia?

You never know. Maybe something to watch.

• It’s remarkable that just two years after hiring first-time manager Gabe Kapler and one year after hiring first-time pitching coach Chris Young, the Phillies have done a complete about-face and hired a manager and pitching coach who are both loaded with big-league experience.

General manager Matt Klentak said experience was prioritized in hiring Girardi because, “We’ve reached a place where it is time to win … and that lends itself to a guy who has done that … and that’s by and large why we placed such a premium on prior experience.”

The Phillies improved by one game from 2018 to 2019 to finish .500 and in fourth place in the NL East. With their lack of top starting pitching and overall lack of starting pitching depth, it’s difficult to envision them competing for the division title next season — barring a major upgrade in pitching this winter, which we would not rule out given owner John Middleton’s hefty checkbook and desire to improve.

Regardless, the Phillies’ sudden obsession with experience in important field-level leadership roles seems to be tacit acknowledgment that previous hires were viewed as mistakes. 

The firing of Kapler was engineered at the ownership level and Klentak was against it. He admitted that he was a big fan of Kapler at that remarkable press conference announcing the manager’s firing. The mandate to seek experience in the new manager clearly came from above, and it appears two other significant hires this offseason were encouraged from above, as well. Pat Gillick, who owns a small piece of the team and still serves as an adviser in the organization, is a big believer in Price, who was the Mariners’ pitching coach when Gillick was that team’s GM. Sources say Gillick pushed for Price. Girardi and Klentak were very much on board with the hire, but it is notable that Gillick flexed some influence.

Earlier this month, the Phillies hired Brian Barber for the important position of amateur scouting director. Barber, a top scout with the Yankees for many years, beat out in-house candidate Greg Schilz, who had seemed to be in line for the position when he came aboard as the No. 2 man in the department in the fall of 2016. Passing over Schilz was a surprise to many observers, but in this case the Phils went outside the organization and, again, appeared to rely on experience, or at least experienced eyes, in making that call. Word is Barber came very highly recommended from well-regarded Yankees front office man Jim Hendry. Hendry is very close with Phillies president Andy MacPhail. The two were together in Chicago when MacPhail was president of the Cubs and Hendry was GM. In fact, Hendry was mentioned as a candidate for the Phillies’ GM job after MacPhail joined the organization in 2015. Ultimately, the Phillies, at the behest of an ownership group looking to move into baseball’s new world, targeted a GM with more of a background in analytics.

That ended up being Klentak. His job is now on the line and he needs these new hires to help save it.

• Sources have confirmed multiple reports that infield coach Bobby Dickerson is headed to San Diego, where he will become bench coach. It’s not a surprise as Dickerson was a personal mentor to Manny Machado when they were together in Baltimore.

Dickerson’s departure is real loss for the Phillies. He’s an outstanding baseball man and tireless worker.

In other coaching matters, Young had a year left on his deal when the Phillies dismissed him as pitching coach. He was offered a chance to stay in the organization in another role, but sources say he will move on.

• Curious to see where Maikel Franco ends up. The Phillies will need spots on the 40-man roster soon and Franco’s time is clearly up in Philadelphia. A team like Texas, Baltimore or Detroit could look to acquire Franco in a deal. The Tigers scouted the Phillies extensively over the final weeks of the season, making you wonder if something possibly bigger could be brewing between the two clubs.

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Pat Gillick and Roy Halladay touched Philadelphia Phillies forever with their greatness

Pat Gillick and Roy Halladay touched Philadelphia Phillies forever with their greatness

Pat Gillick and Roy Halladay have much in common. The two men earned their baseball chops in Toronto then came to Philadelphia to finish off their wonderful careers.

On Saturday night, they will share another common bond when they are honored with a place on the Phillies’ Wall of Fame. It will be an evening where celebration and poignancy intersect. Gillick was the general manager of the 2008 World Series champion Phillies and he goes onto the Wall of Fame during a weekend celebration to honor the 10-year anniversary of that team.

Halladay, who pushed for a trade to Philadelphia because he admired the core and style of play of those great Phillies teams of Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, was not part of the World Series championship team. He came to Philadelphia before the 2010 season and in just four seasons left an indelible mark on the franchise with his greatness, his intensity, his legendary work ethic and, of course, a perfect game, a playoff no-hitter and a Cy Young Award.

Halladay goes onto the Wall of Fame nine months after he died in a plane crash, way too young at the age of 40. His wife and two ball-playing sons will be on hand for the celebration.

Gillick was the architect of a Blue Jays franchise that Halladay eventually became part of and for which he won a Cy Young Award in 2003. Gillick arrived on the ground floor and took the Jays from expansion status to back-to-back World Series championships in 1992 and 1993. He is honored on that team’s Level of Excellence. He is also a member of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and the big one, the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

After his time as Blue Jays general manager, Gillick stayed on and did some scouting for the club.

He remembers peeking in on a high school pitcher from Denver in the spring of 1995. He reported back to the organization that the kid was special, worth keeping an eye on.

That kid was Roy Halladay.

“It’s really an honor to go on the Wall of Fame,” Gillick said.

He mentioned how much it meant to him to be just the second Phillies executive to earn the honor, joining the legendary Paul Owens. Gillick recalled that the first trade he ever made as a GM was with Owens. He acquired Tommy Hutton in a cash deal.

“But to go on the Wall with Roy is really special,” Gillick continued. “He is someone who is legendary for the way he prepared for games, physically and mentally.”

Gillick had already had a marvelous career when he arrived in Philadelphia in the fall of 2005. He’d been GM in Toronto, Baltimore and Seattle, taking all of those teams to the postseason. Gillick was between jobs and not ready to retire when club president David Montgomery asked him to fly to Philadelphia to meet in the fall of 2005. Montgomery and Gillick chatted for five hours at a hotel near the airport. The next day, Montgomery offered Gillick the job. Gillick was also being pursued by the Dodgers. He chose the Phillies.

Gillick’s decision was a difference-maker in the rise of the Phillies and his own career. He made some tweaks around the edges of a promising and improving roster, brought in Jayson Werth and Brad Lidge, two players who had run out of time in other organizations, and the Phillies won the World Series in 2008. Gillick, class man that he is, has never failed to share credit for the team’s success. To this day, he praises the work of his predecessor, Ed Wade, and his lieutenants, Ruben Amaro Jr., and Mike Arbuckle, for the role they had in constructing the club. He credits his go-to scout, Charley Kerfeld, for convincing him to bring in Lidge, the closer who went 48 for 48 in save chances that season. Gillick still raves about the managing job that Charlie Manuel did. Funny thing, Gillick could have made a managerial change after the 2006 season. He stuck with Manuel and says it was the best move he made in Philadelphia.

Gillick received baseball’s highest honor when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in the summer of 2011.

It never would have happened if he didn’t come to Philadelphia.

Coming to Philadelphia and winning that third World Series ring put him over the top.

“Winning the World Series in 2008 gave me the opportunity to be elected,” he said Friday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park.

Beyond their common Toronto roots and baseball greatness, Gillick and Halladay have something else in common. If the Philadelphia experience put Gillick over the top for election to Cooperstown, it will probably do the same for Halladay. He was on a Hall of Fame track when he arrived in Philadelphia and his time with the Phillies — the Cy Young Award in 2010, the second-place finish in 2011, the perfect game, the no-hitter, the two postseasons — only enhanced his candidacy.

It’s not difficult to envision Halladay joining Gillick in Cooperstown some day. In fact, it seems like a slam dunk.

On Saturday night, we get to see them take their place on the Phillies’ Wall of Fame and that’s pretty special, too.

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From Manny Machado to Jayson Werth, good teams always need a blend

From Manny Machado to Jayson Werth, good teams always need a blend

The next couple of days at Citizens Bank Park will be interesting as the Baltimore Orioles and Manny Machado come to town for a quick, two-game interleague series.

You know all about Machado. The slugging left-side infielder's time with the Orioles is coming to an end. He will likely be traded this month so the O's can get something back before he walks off to free agency.

The Phillies want Machado.

Badly.

They would be interested in trading for him now — provided he would forego free agency and sign a contract extension with them. That seems like a long shot with Machado being six months away from a free-agent mega-deal, but you never know. Either way, the Phillies are deep in the Machado thing and hope to get him this month or in the offseason, so these next two days will be interesting, to say the least, with Machado getting a feel for his possible future home.

But this story isn't about Machado as much as it is about great teams and building great teams. Matt Klentak and his lieutenants are trying to build the next championship Phillies team — halfway through this season, things are moving in a positive direction — and it will take more than just a Machado to do that. It will take a blend. There will need to be some homegrown talent (there already is), a trade pickup or two, a big-time free agent pickup. There will need to be stars, rock-solid regulars and role players. There will need to be someone who seemingly comes out of nowhere and shines.

There will need to be a Jayson Werth.

I got to thinking about Werth today, just a few days after he announced his retirement after a very nice 15-year career that included four seasons and a World Series title with the Phillies.

Werth was one of those contributors who seemingly came out of nowhere and helped put the 2008 Phillies over the top. Shane Victorino was another one of those players. Both players were castoffs by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Ed Wade and his staff took a chance on Victorino as a Rule 5 player and he paid huge dividends. Pat Gillick took a chance on Werth and he, too, paid huge dividends, giving the Phillies a big right-handed bat in the middle of the batting order and a lot of personality.

Werth left Philadelphia for a huge seven-year, $126 million contract with the Washington Nationals after the 2010 season. That type of a deal makes it easy to forget that he was almost done as a player when the Phillies gambled on him.

Werth was selected by Baltimore in the first round of the 1997 draft, when Gillick was the O's general manager. Ten years later, after a serious wrist injury put his career in jeopardy, Werth was released by the Dodgers.

Getting released was traumatic for Werth, who had grown up in a baseball family — his grandfather (Dick Schofield), uncle (Dick Jr.) and stepdad (Dennis Werth) all played in the majors. After getting the news that he had been let go by the Dodgers in December 2006, Werth sat dejectedly on the couch at his home in Illinois all night. He eventually fell asleep. The next morning, at 7 a.m., Central time, 8 a.m., in the East, the phone rang. Werth was in no mood to pick up the phone so he let the answering machine handle it. After the beep, he heard an unmistakable, familiar voice.

"Jayson ... Pat Gillick ... 215 ... give me a call."

Ten years after drafting Werth, Gillick still believed in the talent, still believed Werth had something to offer as a complement to an existing nucleus. Gillick had a great knack for finding those types of players and sprinkling them in much like a great chef knows how to enhance a recipe with just the right seasoning. The rest is history. Werth signed with the Phillies as a fairly nondescript player who was not offered a contract by his old team. He got healthy. He got a chance to play. He helped the Phillies win a division in 2007, a World Series in 2008, an NL pennant in 2009 and another division in 2010.

Werth hit .285 with a .885 OPS, 95 homers and 300 RBIs with the Phillies over four seasons.

He wasn't Chase Utley, though they were the best of pals. He wasn't Jimmy Rollins or Ryan Howard. He was not as big a pickup as Roy Halladay or Cliff Lee in subsequent years.

But that's just the point. It takes a blend. Sometimes it's the marginal pickup that helps put a team over the top. And make no mistake, Werth helped put that 2008 team over the top. Just like Utley, Rollins, Howard, Hamels and Lidge. He had his place and it was significant, just like another role guy, Victorino, and reliever Ryan Madson, who found his fastball and an assassin's mentality in August of that year.

So, a hat tip to Werth as he heads home with a box full of baseball memories, including some great ones that were forged after his career took a fortuitous turn to Philadelphia.

And a reminder that, as great as a big-time difference-maker like Machado would look in red pinstripes, the unheralded pickup can be important, too.

Who's the next Jayson Werth around here?

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