Tol­er­ance of fail­ure has con­tam­i­nated the Phillies

The Kutztown Area Patriot - - SPORTS - Jack McCaf­fery Colum­nist

When he got it all started with a 2014 yawn and wink, the ini­tial re­ac­tion was that Pat Gil­lick was just be­ing Pat Gil­lick again. Three years later, it has turned out not to be whim­si­cal, pre­scient or wise. Three years later, it’s proven to have been a blast of pa­tience that has cost the Phillies or­ga­ni­za­tion a hunk of its soul.

“I think where we are right now, it’s prob­a­bly a cou­ple years,” Gil­lick was widely quoted as say­ing, just be­fore the Phillies would be­gin to run and hide from cham­pi­onship ex­pec­ta­tions. “I wouldn’t think it would be 2015 or 2016. I don’t think that’s in the cards. I think some­where around 2017 or 2018.”

That was the then-gen­eral-man­ager’s timetable for the Phillies to re­cover from their 2007-2011 party, the one re­sult­ing in five first-place fin­ishes, two World Se­ries and a 2.6-mil­lion-spec­ta­tor pa­rade. In the largest mo­nop­oly mar­ket in base­ball, in a vir­tual no-salary-cap in­dus­try, with fans known to line up in the af­ter­noon to over­pay for stand­in­groom tick­ets that night, the Phillies would need time, but not much of it, to re­sume col­lect­ing flags.

By then, Gil­lick had enough ac­com­plish­ment and sta­tus to be be­lieved. He had un­loaded a sim­i­lar wail around 2006, when he be­gan mak­ing sub­stan­tial Phillies ros­ter changes. And he was proven cor­rect. In a short time, a dy­nasty de­vel­oped. He’d of­fered ful­fill­ment in ex­change for for­bear­ance, and it turned out to be a fair deal for all. So when he tried it again, Gil­lick had cred­i­bil­ity. a Hall of Fame plaque in­cluded. Yet he had too much cred­i­bil­ity. He had so much of it, in fact, that his OK to re­build on a de­layed timetable would be­come some­thing of a new, or­ga­ni­za­tion-wide pol­icy, never to be dis­obeyed. And that has led to a sea­son like the Phillies have in­flicted on their cus­tomers and TV view­ers in, yes, 2017. It has yielded one of the most un­ac­cept­able ex­plo­sions of in­com­pe­tence in the his­tory of a fran­chise that has en­dured more than a few.

Gil­lick has vir­tu­ally dis­ap­peared into a dis­tant, ad­vi­sory role. So it’s no longer his fault that ev­ery time Bob McClure makes a mound visit, the score­board op­er­a­tor starts click­ing up runs. But the at­mos­phere of in­dif­fer­ence he rec­om­mended has proven poi­sonous.

In a mo­ment so bizarre last win­ter that bor­dered on com­edy ge­nius, Pete Mack­anin pub­licly of­fered his deep­est hope that the Phillies could — wait for it — play .500 base­ball. Yes, that was the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s sig­na­ture spring dec­la­ra­tion. And given that it capped an off­sea­son where the club ef­fec­tively spent only on quick-fix-scheme play­ers it had hoped to flip at the next trade dead­line, it was as good a way as any to force Philadel­phia sports fans into re­sum­ing dis­cus­sions of the NFL Draft.

While some at that time ques­tioned the man­ager’s sub­dued bat­tle cry, it was largely ac­cepted. How couldn’t it have been? Wasn’t that the Gil­lick Plan? Wasn’t that the or­der from his essen­tial re­place­ment, Andy MacPhail? Wasn’t that the bab­ble spilling from Matt Klen­tak, the gen­eral man­ager hired to keep MacPhail a sta­dium level away from crit­i­cism?

Wasn’t ev­ery­one in­structed to keep their seats in an upright and locked po­si­tion?

So that’s what they did … and this sea­son has been the re­sult. Not only has there been vir­tual si­lence from the ex­ec­u­tive level as the Phillies have col­lapsed, but some­how dur­ing that tragedy, Mack­anin won a con­tract ex­ten­sion.

Times have changed since the late Dal­las Green would rou­tinely react to fail­ure with an an­nual roar of dis­ap­proval. It would have been too late for that, any­way. The ap­proval of lousy baserun­ning, in­ef­fec­tive re­lief pitch­ing and re­fusal of pitch­ers to work over­time has so con­tam­i­nated the 25-man ros­ter that few in that club­house would lis­ten if three state troop­ers or­dered them to get on the ground. They’re obliv­i­ous to it all, most of them, though Freddy Galvis, for one, has be­gun to protest. “We have to play harder ev­ery sin­gle day,” he was quoted as say­ing, mix­ing in some vul­gar­ity, af­ter a 6-1 loss the other day in Ari­zona. “We need to try to do bet­ter.”

That’s where it would start, if it is ever to ac­tu­ally start at all. It will start with some­body be­ing in­tol­er­ant of the dis­or­der that’s been go­ing on through­out. Essen­tial owner John Mid­dle­ton, the three-bil­lion­aire, be­gan to make noises this sea­son, promis­ing to re­store the Phillies to great­ness. Yet he’s the one who in­tro­duced MacPhail. And MacPhail hired Klen­tak. And Klen­tak ex­tended Mack­anin. And Mack­anin tol­er­ates McClure. And no one at the top is de­mand­ing bet­ter from any­one through­out.

By the way, a spoiler alert: That 2017-2018 timetable? Don’t count on it. To con­tact Jack McCaf­fery, email him at jm­c­caf­fery@21stcen­tu­ry­media.com; fol­low him on Twit­ter @Jack­McCaf­fery

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