Mixed feel­ings as Mack­anin ‘tran­si­tions’ out of dugout

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Rob Par­ent rpar­ent@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @Reluc­tan­tSE on Twit­ter

PHILADEL­PHIA » Away from the cam­eras, the press con­fer­ence for­mal­ity and — at least mo­men­tar­ily — away from his young boss, Pete Mack­anin vented a lit­tle pent-up emotion Fri­day.

On the day he was ef­fec­tively fired, he said he felt bad for friends who would also soon lose their jobs.

“I feel bad for the coach­ing staff,” Mack­anin said of close col­leagues he’ll no longer share a dugout with after this week­end. “I’m get­ting paid next year, so that’s some­thing. But I feel bad for them be­cause they’ve been great.

“They’ve all worked and done ev­ery­thing they can and they have a great rap­port with the play­ers.”

It seems clear not ev­ery­one had that opin­ion, since gen­eral man­ager Matt Klen­tak an­nounced ear­lier in the day that he’d re­lieved Mack­anin of man­age­rial du­ties after the season, “pro­mot­ing” him to spe­cial ad­vi­sor to ... Klen­tak.

“We’re not fir­ing him,” the 37-year-old GM said. “We’re tran­si­tion­ing him into a new role.” Oh. OK then... “When I ar­rived here two years ago, I didn’t know Pete at all. I never met him be­fore,” Klen­tak said. “In the two years that fol­lowed, Pete has re­ally grown into a trusted ally and a part­ner dur­ing this re­build. Maybe more than any­thing, Pete has turned into a very good friend. I have a tremen­dous amount of re­spect for what he has ac­com­plished in his ca­reer as a player, as a coach and as a man­ager, and I’m very proud of the way he has rep­re­sented the Phillies in the last two years I’ve been here as the (gen­eral) man­ager.”

“It is for all these rea­sons that I’m very happy that Pete has agreed to stay with us in the fu­ture.”

So Mack­anin, a part of pro­fes­sional baseball for 49 sea­sons run­ning, will be around next season to ring in No. 50. But there are no prom­ises that any of his coaches will be here, in­clud­ing such former pop­u­lar play­ers as fran­chise icon Larry Bowa, Mickey Mo­ran­dini, Juan Sa­muel and Matt Stairs.

For that rea­son, Mack­anin felt some guilt mixed in with what he ad­mit­ted was “dis­ap­point­ment” that Klen­tak and team pres­i­dent Andy MacPhail weren’t going to al­low him to see this re­build through.

Not from the top step of the dugout, any­way.

“I swear to God, I’ve had to fire coaches, I’ve had to re­lease play­ers, and I don’t want them to ask me why, be­cause it’s tough to an­swer why,” Mack­anin said. “To be per­fectly hon­est, if you wanted to make the change and not bring me back, I don’t care why. I don’t care. I re­ally don’t.”

He did, however, sense it. De­spite re­ceiv­ing a one-year ex­ten­sion May 11 (which was im­me­di­ately fol­lowed by 10 losses in the next 12 Phillies games), and de­spite a 2118 record since Aug. 19 and a 35-37 mark since the All-Star break, Mack­anin gave off a ner­vous vibe ear­lier in the week when asked about job se­cu­rity.

Sit­ting in his of­fice Fri­day, he ad­mit­ted his baseball an­ten­nae had been raised.

“Hav­ing been in the game a long time, even though I had a con­tract, un­til some­body tells me, ‘You’re def­i­nitely com­ing back,’ I don’t know,” Mack­anin said.

Mack­anin has been a part of the Phillies’ coach­ing ef­forts dat­ing back 10 years. He played briefly for the club as a utility in­fielder in the late 1970s.

He re­placed Ryne Sand­berg as man­ager in June 2015, after the Cubs Hall of Famer quit on a team clearly headed nowhere. Amid months of trad­ing off the rem­nants of a once-proud World Se­ries club, then toil­ing through last season with many play­ers serv­ing in­terim roles while prospects devel­oped, Mack­anin’s teams went 172-237, with three games against the Mets still to be tacked on.

“As I said at the be­gin­ning, I’m not happy that it hap­pened,” Mack­anin said. “I’m dis­ap­pointed. But I don’t care to know any more than that. That’s just the way it is. I think that’s helped me sur­vive al­most 50 years (in the game) now . ... I don’t care any­more. You want me or you don’t, and you have your rea­sons and I re­spect that.”

Mack­anin is re­lieved to be stay­ing in­volved in the game, just as Char­lie Manuel, now 73, was even­tu­ally kept as a pro scout and in­struc­tor after he was canned in Aug. 2013. Manuel was told he wouldn’t be re­tained for the fol­low­ing season and walked right out the door that day. He was even­tu­ally coaxed back, and his pop­u­lar­ity with Phillies fans grew from there. Mack­anin, 66, could de­velop that same type of or­ga­ni­za­tional iden­tity.

Mean­while, the young play­ers that he and his coaches worked to bring along this season could thrive un­der an­other (cer­tainly younger) man­age­rial team.

Both Klen­tak and Mack­anin stressed there was never an un­der­stand­ing that Mack­anin — who had only managed on in­terim terms in the ma­jors be­fore— had been cho­sen as es­sen­tially a baseball babysit­ter while prospects devel­oped. However, Rhys Hoskins, Nick Wil­liams, Jorge Al­faro and J.P. Craw­ford all came up this season and are likely here to stay. And now Mack­anin is be­ing shut­tled to the side for a suc­ces­sor yet to be named.

All those afore­men­tioned mi­nor league grad­u­ates prepped un­der IronPigs man­ager Dusty Wathan, 44, at both Dou­ble-A and Triple-A. It’s easy to see who’s an early top con­tender for the job. Other guys that may war­rant con­sid­er­a­tion are just-fired Tigers man­ager Brad Aus­mus, 48, up-and-comer can­di­dates Gabe Kapler and Alex Cora, both 41, and maybe vet­eran Manny Acta, 48.

Klen­tak will head the search team and says he’s going into the process with an open mind.

“There are a lot of char­ac­ter­is­tics in our next man­ager that they will pos­sess that Pete does as well,” Klen­tak said. “Again, I think it’s about find­ing a connection with the team and with the play­ers and lead­ing us on into the fu­ture. I think that is what this is about. It’s about look­ing for­ward.

“As for the number of can­di­dates and the number of peo­ple we may in­ter­view, we’re not sure yet. After this press con­fer­ence, we will be­gin reach­ing out and talk­ing to peo­ple we know in the in­dus­try and putting to­gether a list. From there, I’m sure we’ll whit­tle the list down to a more man­age­able number and it will take as long as it takes.”

Mean­while, Mack­anin will sim­ply fin­ish out one job, then start an­other. Maybe with a lit­tle vacation in be­tween.

“I’m good with it. Let’s put it that way,” Mack­anin said. “I’m dis­ap­pointed, surely. I’m not going to sit here and say that I’m all tick­led pink about it. But I un­der­stand it and I’m happy to be a part of it down the road.”

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Phillies gen­eral man­ager Matt Klen­tak, left, an­nounced Fri­day that Pete Mack­anin won’t re­turn as the club’s man­ager next year, instead ‘pro­moted’ to Klen­tak’s spe­cial as­sis­tant.

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