When you win 102 games one year and 81 the next, there has to be accountability. Heads will roll. People will have to answer for it. For the Philadelphia Phillies, it will be a few months before we learn what players the organization thought had earned the right at another shot with the remaining nucleus of the 2008 World Series team. Cole Hamels, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz and Jimmy Rollins are that nucleus, and they aren't going anywhere.
In the front office, general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. will be given a stay of execution because no one can predict injuries. And let's face it, this Phillies' offering saw more casualties than a full card of Ultimate Fighting. Amaro did make mistakes, and there is no doubt there are birds in his ear whispering that those mistakes can't be made again. He's got a stable of young arms in the bullpen. He'll have to pick three or four of those arms to stabilize the bullpen next season, and they need to be the correct three or four arms. He also will have to go out and get a veteran reliever that can consistently fill an eighth inning role until one of those young arms is consistent enough to earn it. Another Chad Qualls move without major developments from the Kindergarten Kids could spell big trouble next offseason for Amaro.
There are, of course, other problems for Amaro to solve (third base, centerfield), but we'll attack those with more depth in future articles. The point here is, Amaro stays.
Charlie Manuel is a player's manager with one more year on his contract and an hourglass on his coaching career running low on sand. I have to believe no matter what the outcome next year, the Phillies will part ways with Uncle Charlie, or offer him some sort of emeritus position within the organization, much like Pat Gillick. This likely development is the main "baseball" reason for the moves made Wednesday on the Phillies' coaching staff.
Where do you start showing the fans that you understand that this season wasn't acceptable given the money you laid out for this team and the support you garnered in the ball yard? The Phillies once again led all of baseball in home attendance. That will not continue if the fans aren't shown that the organization recognizes problems and will be doing their best to remedy them. Firing coaches is just a small step in that direction. I believe that firing them, or announcing their firings, as quickly as they did (just moments after the season finale in Washington) was a more telling statement than the actual moves that were made.
The firing of first base coach Sam Perlozzo, bench coach Pete Mackanin and hitting coach Greg Gross at the very least shows the fans that the organization is serious about avoiding the repetition of mediocrity. Getting a big name centerfielder or pulling off a coup to find a third baseman will ensure they return to pack 3-plus million into Citizen's Bank Park next season.
The Phillies announced that AAA manager and Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg will take on the role of third base coach and infield instructor with the big club in 2013. It was imperative for Sandberg to be moved to the major league level because it should be no shock to anyone following the Phillies that he is the heir apparent to Manuel's job. No matter what Ruben Amaro, Jr. just said in the press conference to announce these changes. There still may be interest in Sandberg by other major league clubs and he'll be allowed to follow up on that interest. Bobby Valentine was canned justly in Boston this morning. Sandberg might end up on that list along with John Farrell. If the Phillies had not shown in good faith that they continue to be interested in moving him up the ladder, they risk losing him -- AGAIN.
With Sandberg on third, the Phillies offered former third base coach Juan Samuel the first base coaching job, which would include the responsibility of base running instructor. Perlozzo was in the last year of his contract, and the Phillies have seen a slight decline in base running discipline since the departure of Davey Lopes. The Phillies hope Samuel takes the job at first, but if he chooses another road, Perlozzo shouldn't be difficult to replace.
The Phillies entered the season with a new philosophy on hitting, preaching plate discipline. Well, that's what we were told. It didn't turn out that way. They got rid of the two most undisciplined hitters in Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence, but the fact is that Gross' advice as hitting instructor did not produce the desired results. Steve Henderson was the hitting coach of the Tampa Rays from 2006-09 and has been a roving hitting instructor in the Phillies minor leagues since. He'll take over the hitting chores.
Triple A pitching coach Rod Nichols will take on the role of bullpen coach, taking the place of Mick Billmeyer, who was "promoted" to catching coach. Billmeyer will take the spot on the bench next season vacated by Mackanin, who was also a victim of an expiring contract. Billmeyer has been with Manuel from the beginning and is a player favorite. The Phillies will go without a technical "bench coach" but Billmeyer may fill many of those roles depending on how the Phillies structure that position. Nichols groomed many of the Phillies' young bullpen arms at AAA Lehigh Valley. This is a savvy move considering the Phillies will be relying on multiple arms from that group, and any kind of comfort level you can give young pitchers being asked to contribute significantly to a team expected to contend can only help.
Rich Dubee will continue to fill the role of pitching coach, but it shouldn't surprise anyone if he heads for the hills with Manuel next season, and Nichols is promoted along with Sandberg.
There's lots to be done before 2013. We should be glad the Phillies aren't wasting any time.
Pete Lieber is a freelance writer and a Philadelphia sports enthusiast. Follow him on Twitter at @Lieber14.
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