John Middleton looks to fix the Phillies' 100-year-old problem


The next Phillies general manager will be someone who can acquire and develop talent.

These have been longstanding organizational flaws, according to owner John Middleton.

"I think the problem the Phillies have had for a hundred years is they don't evaluate talent well," Middleton said in a video conference announcing Matt Klentak's exit from the general manager's position Saturday.

"I think it was the problem a hundred years ago. It was the problem 50 years ago.

"There have been two periods in the Phillies history where we had bursts — kind of the late-60s, early-70s — where we had a bunch of good evaluations that resulted in good drafts, and we had a burst in the late-90s into the early-2000s that resulted in two World Series teams.

"Other than that, we've been hit and miss. 

"You look at our draft picks since Cole Hamels was drafted in 2002. It's a pretty limited success rate there. We've only had two guys, I think, Aaron (Nola) and Alec (Bohm), where you could point to, of our first-round draft picks, and say they really have kind of produced. And Alec is a young guy, but it looks like he will.

"We just haven't produced the guys. We haven't produced the talent yet and that's a problem that has haunted us. It was the No. 1 mandate I gave Andy (MacPhail, the club president) and Matt when they came in (in 2015).

"We've improved. We're better than we were. But we aren't nearly good enough and I think that's what hit us. Matt's had a pretty good success track record with free agents. We just haven't been able to bring up the people internally to support them. And if you look at those teams that we had, they had core guys who were very, very good, but they were all draft picks, internal guys who had come up through the system, and we supplemented them with great players, whether it was Pete Rose in the 80s and other people later. 

"But you can't build a championship team around free agents and we just didn't have the internal players coming up to really field the competitive team that we needed."

The Phillies have not had a winning season since MacPhail and Klentak arrived. Klentak, with two years remaining on his contract, will be re-assigned within the organization. MacPhail, with a year left on his deal, remains in his role and will be part of an advisory panel, along with Hall of Famer Pat Gillick and veteran executive Terry Ryan, as Middleton looks for a new general manager. Ned Rice, who had been Klentak's right-hand man, will fill the role on an interim basis. Rice has longstanding ties to MacPhail, dating to their time together in Baltimore.

Judging by Middleton's damning assessment of the Phillies' drafting and player development performance, it was not a surprise to hear that he'd prefer his next GM have a background in those areas.

"I think successful GMs have that," Middleton said. "I think you look at Pat Gillick's track record. He tends to be more on the scouting side than player development. It's the acquisition and the development of talent that is critical so I'll be looking for people who have proven that they can do that. That's where my target is."

This mindset represents a change from when the Phillies hired Klentak to replace Ruben Amaro Jr. in the fall of 2015. At that time, Middleton was eager to see the Phillies join baseball's analytics movement and that science was prioritized in the review of candidates.

Now, the pendulum may swing more toward the middle, more toward a blend of old- and new-school baseball.

It is not known who Middleton will interview for the job, but we came up with a list of possible candidates. Several do have a background in talent acquisition and development.


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