The Phillies continued their off-the-field downsizing this week by notifying front office staffers on both the business and baseball sides of the organization that more than 80 positions have been eliminated through buyouts and layoffs, according to a report Friday by The Athletic.
The severe reduction in staff is not a surprise. Like many teams in baseball, the Phillies projected losses of “substantially more than $100 million this year,” according to an email that managing partner John Middleton sent to employees in June. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Major League Baseball season wound up being just 60 games, from July 23 to Oct. 28, with no fans in the ballpark.
It was in June when Middleton announced salary cuts for anyone on the business or baseball side who was due to make at least $90,000 this year. Middleton also said that he would forgo his salary for the remainder of the year, and avoid staff layoffs until the end of October.
In mid-October, Jim Jackson, host of the pregame and postgame shows on the Phillies’ radio network, put out a seven-paragraph statement on Twitter in which he said the team informed him that he’s a “luxury the organization can no longer afford in such uncertain times.”
Then, a few weeks later, the Phillies informed five talent evaluators – four pro scouts and one special assistant – that their contracts were not renewed, according to multiple sources. Among those cut were former manager Pete Mackanin and Dave Hollins, the popular third baseman on the Phillies’ pennant-winning 1993 team.
Like many teams, the Phillies had beefed up their analytics department in recent years and placed less emphasis on traditional scouting. That shift, combined with financial disruptions brought on by the pandemic, has made for tough times for scouts, whose knowledge of the game had been the lifeblood of successful organizations for years.
In his email to staff in June, Middleton said the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic was crushing to all aspects of the business.
“This salary reduction plan does not come close to eliminating our 2020 losses,” Middleton wrote in the email, which was obtained by The Inquirer. “As a result of the financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Buck and Middleton families must now invest an additional $100 million in the Phillies over the next year to ensure the continued stability of the club.
“During these uncertain and distressing times, our decision-making must address both short-term and long-term financial ramifications, especially since none of us knows when and how this pandemic will end.”
In its report, The Athletic wrote that team president Andy MacPhail and executive vice president Dave Buck signed the latest email, which was sent Wednesday; that most of the departures were buyouts; and that they would take effect by the end of the year.