BY PAUL MANCANO—For a while now, Phillies fans have been clamoring for a change in team management. Many have been calling for the temporary installment of Pat Gillick as general manager. As the organization experienced failure at virtually every level, fans looked to the Hall of Famer to restore the team to its former glory. Or at least right the ship and step aside to leave behind a manageable task for a long-term replacement. This is not what they expected.
About three weeks ago, Phillies president and CEO David Montgomery, in the midst of a battle with jaw cancer, took a leave of absence. Gillick, who had been working as a senior advisor to Amaro, was tapped as his temporary replacement.
Obviously, no one was happy to hear Montgomery’s health has declined. Montgomery’s been a staple in the organization since 1981, and his dedication to the team and fanbase has been unwavering. And as we know, cancer sucks. First and foremost, thoughts and prayers are with Montgomery right now.
Now, his temporary replacement is placed in an awkward position. There’s no saying how long he’ll be in control of the team. Any long-term changes he might want to make—firing Ruben Amaro Jr., clearing out the scouting team—he can’t—at least not in good conscious. It’s not his job. He’s a seat warmer.
And yet, he’s in a better position to change the team than anyone else. He’s been handed the keys to a floundering franchise. Can he really leave the team the same way he found it in good conscious?
So far, he’s taken the more conservative route. After throwing his full support behind Amaro, Gillick echoed the frustrating sentiment that’s been so common in this organization over the past couple years: this team is a few “tweaks” away from being competitive again. Whether he actually believes it or not is impossible to tell.
While Gillick’s words are not particularly encouraging, they raise a good point. Often times, what separate a good team from a bad team are the details, not necessarily the big things. Huge signings go awry. Monster trades are lopsided. Every winning team (minus the Yankees) wins by making the small deals. They don’t have to get Tim Kurkjian talking on ESPN, but if executed well, they help the team immensely.
Hopefully, Gillick can exert his influence to make this team better in small ways. Every little bit helps, but the Phillies need nothing short of a miracle to pull them out of this disastrous whirlpool.