The Phillies named Pat Gillick interim president last Thursday while David Montgomery takes a leave of absence to recover from jaw bone cancer surgery. He joined the team today in Atlanta, and said he plans to follow the team through the rest of the season.
Gillick spoke with reporters this afternoon, when he offered thoughts and opinions on numerous topics. Basically, he said he will be focused on the baseball operations side of the Phillies. Senior vice president of administration and operations Mike Stiles will be in charge of the business side.
Here are a few highlights:
Q: Do you have full power on baseball operations?
A: Right now I guess that, you know, Ruben (Amaro Jr.) and I … let me put it this way, Ruben and I mutually agree on most decisions that we make. Ruben is very inclusive on any decisions that we make for the ballclub. But right now if there’s something I might have a different opinion, I’ll certainly voice that opinion and we’ll talk it through and try to make what we think is the correct decision.
Q: But you have final say?
A: I would say if it comes down to the end, I have part of the final say. At this moment, I think ownership has a part of the say, too.
Q: Are you a caretaker or someone who can come here and affect change?
A: A little bit of both. As I’ve said over and over, we want David back as soon as possible. So that point, I’m an interim care taker. But at the same time, if there are decisions that have to be made from a baseball standpoint, we’re going to make those decisions.
Q: Amaro said emphatically last Friday in New York that he is the GM and that is not going to change. He also said Ryne Sandberg is the manager and that is not going to change. Can you definitely say Ruben will be the GM and Ryne will be the manager?
A: Right. Absolutely. Absolutely.
Q: Why? Fans are incredibly frustrated right now with the GM position.
A: Well, let me say this, one of the more difficult thing to do in professional aports, and not only baseball but all sports, is to be patient. It’s very difficult. It’s very difficult for the fans to be patient. It’s difficult for the media to be patient. It’s difficult for ownership to be patient. But sometimes when you get challenges, and the challenges are we haven’t played well in the last two, three years. These are basically the same people that made the decisions when we won five division championships from 2007 through 2011. These are the same people making the decisions. So, all of a sudden, Ryne wasn’t here, but Ruben was here. All of a sudden he didn’t get dumb overnight. It’s just right now, we’re in a situation where we know where we’re headed and it’s going to take some time to get us where we want to go.
Ruben Amaro Jr. said today there will be more adjustments to the Phillies’ roster in the future, following yesterday’s trade that sent John Mayberry Jr. to Toronto for Minor League third baseman Gustavo Pierre.
“Not that it’s a huge change, but we’re going to have to start churning the roster in a way that it’s going to have to be improved,” Amaro said in the press box at Turner Field.
Does he believe those changes could be significant?
“I do,” he said. “I think we need it. I think we need it because what we have on our roster right now is not working. How much we’ll do will depend on what makes sense for us. We’re still kind of assessing what we have. But I think it would behoove us to make some change because we need to be better.”
Amaro declined to say if those changes could extend to staff and management positions, although he said Friday there will be no changes at GM or manager while Pat Gillick serves as interim president.
“I’m not going to get into specifics,” he said. “We have to be better.”
There is no question the roster does not have enough talent to win, but there also is a staleness in the clubhouse. It might be a good idea to move some players simply to get fresh faces and perspectives in there.
Amaro said that could be a factor when shaping next season’s roster.
“There are a lot of factors,” Amaro said. “How a player will fit short term and long term for us. What guys bring to the table on and off the field. All those things. Intangibles. We have to assess all those things. And we’ll look to improve in all those areas.”
But money will make the job difficult. The Phillies are loaded with players with expensive contracts, which they have been unable to move in the past. They could find the same issues in the offseason.
“We have a lot of ideas where we want to go, but to crystallize those we’ll have to see how things go, particularly when we have a chance to see some of the guys called up here,” Amaro said. “We have a lot of decisions to make. I think it’s a good thing. Change is going to be good in certain ways. Consistency is important too. I think we have a lot to assess, but we have a pretty good idea where we want to go. We just have to start thinking about the execution of those things.”
The Phillies made one more trade before tonight’s midnight waiver Trade Deadline.
They shipped outfielder John Mayberry Jr. to the Blue Jays for Double-A third baseman Gustavo Pierre.
Pierre, 22, had just been promoted from Class A Dunedin to Double-A New Hampshire. He hit .263 with 23 doubles, three triples, seven home runs, 40 RBIs and a .675 OPS in 407 plate appearances with Dunedin. He has been assigned to Double-A Reading.
Mayberry hit .213 with six home runs, 21 RBIs and a .722 OPS in 138 plate appearances this season, and .242 with 52 home runs, 169 RBIs and a .733 OPS in parts of six seasons with the Phillies.
The Phillies acquired Mayberry from the Rangers on Nov. 20, 2008, for outfielder Greg Golson. It was the first player transaction Ruben Amaro Jr. made as general manager.
The Phillies traded right-hander Roberto Hernandez earlier this month to the Dodgers for prospects Victor Arano, who is a right-hander, and Jesmuel Valentin, who is a second baseman.
Pat Gillick is in charge while Phillies president David Montgomery takes a leave of absence to recover from jaw bone cancer surgery, but that does not mean changes are coming to the organization. In fact, Amaro said, it will be business as usual.
“Pat Gillick will be in (Montgomery’s) stead on an interim basis,” Amaro said he told players at Citi Field. “I’m the GM. That’s not going to change. Ryno’s the manager. That’s not going to change. And we’ll go about our business status quo. I’ll report to Pat. Ryne (Sandberg) will report to me. And this is merely on an interim basis.”
Amaro was very emphatic that his role as general manager and Sandberg’s role as manager are not going to change. But there is reason for that. Sources said Gillick has spoken to multiple people on the baseball operations staff since he assumed his new role and assured them they can go about their business without fear of change.
Sandberg confirmed he spoke yesterday with Gillick.
“Everything is status quo, yes,” Sandberg said about the conversation.
So no changes to anything regarding baseball operations?
“There’s no change,” Amaro said.
Even given the fact Gillick has such an extensive baseball background? He was elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2010 for his immense success as a general manager. He served as the Phillies’ GM from 2005-08, building the team that won the 2008 World Series.
“There’s no change,” Amaro repeated.
Asked if he expects this to last through the season, Amaro said, “Whenever David’s back and physically able to come back he will be back and he will take his role. … We’re all concerned about David, and that’s really the priority, is David.”
Other than that, the Phillies said little.
“We’re not really at liberty to really discuss much more about it,” Amaro said.
“Just prayers and thoughts are with him for a speedy recovery,” Sandberg said. “I’m supposed to keep this at a minimum. I think it was already addressed. I was advised to keep it at a minimum.”
The Phillies made a surprising announcement this afternoon when they revealed general partner and president David Montgomery is taking an immediate medical leave of absence while he recovers from jaw cancer surgery.
Pat Gillick has assumed Montgomery’s responsibilities.
Gillick, who served as the organization’s general manager form 2005-08 and continued to work as a senior advisor, issued a statement that said, “I have the highest regard for David Montgomery, as does everyone in our industry. I am glad to be of assistance to the Phillies.”
The team added in its statement: “The club looks forward to David returning to his roles as General Partner, President and Chief Executive Officer when he is fully recovered.”
Montgomery, 68, had surgery May 19 to remove cancer form his right jaw bone. He had been undergoing treatment following the surgery. Montgomery has kept a low profile since, although he was first in line Wednesday to shake hands on the field with the Taney Little League team during a pregame ceremony at Citizens Bank Park.
Montgomery had been unavailable to reporters in recent weeks, although he spoke to a fan group last week at the ballpark. He also recently made the team’s road trip to Washington before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
Montgomery has been the public face of the Phillies’ ownership group since 1997, when he became president. He started in the organization in 1971, when he sold season and group tickets. He advanced to marketing director and director of sales before becoming executive vice president following the 1981 season.
He became chief operating officer in 1992. He acquired an ownership interest in the team in 1994.
Montgomery is very popular with his employees. Former players often cite the organization’s “family atmosphere” and it is something that starts with Montgomery, who makes a point to know everybody in the organization, regardless of their stature or importance.
Cole Hamels became the latest player to express his frustrations about Sandberg, when he pulled Hamels from Tuesday’s game in the eighth inning. Hamels looked disgusted as Sandberg approached and handed him the ball as he walked off the mound. Hamels made a point after the game to sidestep questions about Sandberg.
Sandberg recently met with Domonic Brown and David Buchanan following comments they made regarding playing time. A week earlier in San Francisco, he met with Kyle Kendrick after he nearly left the mound before Sandberg could remove him from a game. Sandberg had closed-door meetings with Ryan Howard last month following his announcement he wanted to see others play more at first base, saying he could not care less about Howard’s salary because he wanted to win games. Sandberg benched Jimmy Rollins in Spring Training, but ruffled feathers when he offered a “no comment” when asked about Rollins’ energy and influence in the clubhouse.
“I just deal with it and have conversations,” Sandberg said Wednesday.
Does he feel he has a good handle on the clubhouse?
“Yes,” he said. “Yeah.”
But sources said some players are frustrated, either with how Sandberg handles the game or how he handles players. Of course, much of this has to do with losing. Problems fade on winning teams. They fester and grow on losing ones.
So is there a good or bad relationship between players and manager?
Ryne Sandberg has had his share of closed-door meetings and issues with players this season, but Ruben Amaro Jr. said today he likes the way Sandberg has handled his first full season on the job, although he acknowledged a learning curve.
“I didn’t expect Ryno to come in here and be the greatest manager of all time,” Amaro said. “This is a process. He’s learning. By and large, he’s done a good job. You’re a smart manager when teams win and you’re not so smart when you don’t have success.”
Sandberg recently met with Domonic Brown and David Buchanan following comments they made regarding playing time. A week earlier in San Francisco he met with Kyle Kendrick after he nearly left the mound before Sandberg could remove him from a game. He had closed-door meetings with Ryan Howard last month following his announcement he wanted to see others play more at first base, which he backed off a few days later. He benched Jimmy Rollins in Spring Training, but ruffled feathers when he offered a “no comment” when asked about Rollins’ energy and influence in the clubhouse.
“He’s addressing these things,” Amaro said. “That’s all I can ask of the manager. Some unfortunate comments, I think. In some case, some inappropriate comments on the player’s part. But I think that’s been handled.”
Sandberg has been criticized for some of his in-game decisions and how he handles the lineup, but a big part of a manager’s job is communicating and motivating players. Amaro said he believes Sandberg is improving in those areas.
“He was given a tough task right out of the chute,” he said. “There was an expectation for us to win. We have a lot of veterans who were, in some cases, underperforming. We had some young guys we were giving opportunities who we expected more from. It’s been challenging for him. It’s a great learning experience for him. He’s still learning and learning different ways to motivate and move the club forward. He’s addressing things. He’s learning how to handle the players on a daily basis. He’s utilizing the staff well. We still have over a month to go. I’ll know more about how he’s done. So far I’m pleased with how he’s handled things.”
Amaro touched on other topics today:
Ruben Amaro Jr. said last week the Phillies need to make serious upgrades to their offense.
He could start in the outfield.
Despite the fact Marlon Byrd is fourth in the National League in home runs and sixth in RBIs and Ben Revere has the highest batting average in baseball since June 25, Phillies outfielders entered yesterday’s series finale against the Mariners at Citizens Bank Park with a combined .706 OPS, which ranked 19th in baseball. Domonic Brown‘s .622 OPS ranked 56th out of 60 qualifying outfielders. Brown is on pace to have the lowest OPS of any left fielder since Chuck Knoblauch (.582) in 2002.
Multiple sources said recently the Phillies will take a shot at Cuban free agent Rusney Castillo, but they are not expected to sign him. Castillo established residency in Haiti and was cleared by the U.S. government to sign with a team in July.
The Phillies could be more aggressive with other international free agents in the coming months. Cuban outfielder Yasmani Tomas has big-time power, and is somebody to watch closely. Tomas could hit the market in the next couple of months.
Yozzen Cuesta is a corner infielder, which would require the Phillies to shuffle several pieces if they plan to pursue him.
Tomas and Cuesta have established residency outside the United States and Cuba. They need to be cleared by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), then declared free agents by Major League Baseball before they sign. But action on those players could pick up once Castillo signs with a team.
But Phillies president David Montgomery‘s support for general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has not wavered publicly, including yesterday at the organization’s Baseball 101 Clinic and Luncheon for Women at Citizens Bank Park.
“Ruben is not on the hot seat,” he told a large group of Phillies fans during a question-and-answer session.
The comment hit Twitter shortly thereafter. Montgomery could not be reached later for further comment.
Montgomery has continually supported Amaro, despite nearly constant criticism from outside the organization. He told MLB.com in February, “I think we have somebody whose experience working under two general managers served him well and positioned him to be very effective at his job. We — we — need to do better.”
He told The Philadelphia Inquirer in June, “I think we have pretty good people doing these jobs. We saw, over a long period, pretty good success with this group of people. Obviously, Ruben is part of that group.”
Kendrick stormed off the field and immediately into the Phillies clubhouse.
“I didn’t want to come out of the game,” Kendrick said. “I wasn’t trying to show up Ryno or nothing. I didn’t try to. That wasn’t my intention. I was just upset. I wanted to get where nobody could see me as quickly as possible.”
He also said he wasn’t upset at teammates Chase Utley and Ryan Howard for letting a routine pop up fall between them, which sparked an ugly inning in which the Phillies blew a four-run lead in a 6-5 loss.
“I didn’t handle it right,” Kendrick said. “That wasn’t very professional of me.”
Kendrick is 5-11 with a 4.90 ERA, which is the third-highest ERA out of 94 qualifying pitchers in baseball. He is a free agent after the season.
“Everything has just kind of been building up,” Kendrick said. “It’s been a tough year for us as a team and me personally. You’ve still got to keep fighting. But little stuff irritates you. … When I’m pitching I don’t really think about (free agency). When I’m out there I’m just focused on one pitch at a time. When I’m out there, no. It’s definitely not on my mind. Maybe in between starts I think about it because – shoot, I’m human. I have a family to provide for. I have two kids. So I think, where am I going to be? All that stuff.”
Asked if he thinks he will be back with the Phillies, Kendrick said, “I don’t know. I want to go where whoever wants me. That’s where I want to go. If it’s here, great. If they want me. You want to go somewhere where you’re wanted. We’ll see. I don’t know.”