It was the top of the second inning and there was cheering in the press box.
Pat Gillick, the president of the worst team in baseball, had just watched Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco, second baseman Cesar Hernandez and catcher Cameron Rupp team up for an unconventional double play that cut down a St. Louis Cardinals base runner at home.
"Hell of a play," Gillick said as he stood and clapped during a conversation with a reporter.
When the Phillies used four hits, including a couple of doubles, to score three times in the bottom of the second inning off Cardinals ace Michael Wacha, Gillick's emotions surfaced again.
"Holy crap," he said. "We haven't hit this many bats in a while."
Gillick, a 77-year-old Hall of Fame executive with more than a half century of front-office experience, is way too smart to think this one unexpectedly bright day of baseball was going to erase all the ill will that has been directed at a Phillies team in the midst of a monstrous free fall.
The 9-2 victory over the high-flying Cardinals in the series finale at Citizens Bank Park notwithstanding, we have witnessed a wretched stretch of recent baseball by the Phillies. Even with Sunday's win, the Phillies are only 6-23 in their last 29 games and are lacking in so many different departments that it's difficult to envision the day when they might be good again.
Gillick swears the Phillies are doing all they can to change that reality and he admitted that includes the search for the man who will be his eventual replacement as the team president. He did not deny that Andy MacPhail, a former general manager and team president with the Minnesota Twins, Chicago Cubs and Baltimore Orioles, was at the top of his list. Gillick also implied that a move will be coming soon, but that he may not immediately relinquish his title of team president.
"It's sort of like what they do at private schools," Gillick told the Inquirer. "They hire a headmaster a year ahead of time. I'm working with ownership and we've got some people under consideration. I think probably it's going to happen somewhere in the not-too-distant future."
Gillick said the intent is to give his eventual replacement time to observe the remainder of the season and then make decisions concerning general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., manager Ryne Sandberg and player personnel.
"Yeah, absolutely," Gillick said. "We have some important decisions to make and you don't want to make those decisions on the fly. This way you can get the feel in which direction you want to go because it is an important decision to make."
For his part, Gillick offered positive reviews of what he has seen from Amaro and Sandberg despite the results on the field. Asked if he was happy with what Amaro has done, he said, "Right now, yeah I am."
That response leaves the door open for Amaro's eventual dismissal and that, of course, is the move a majority of Phillies fans want to see.
"We're in step with what's going on," Gillick said of Amaro. "Are we happy we lost 12-3, 19-3 and 10-1? No."
The team president proceeded to reel off a list of injuries.
"Everybody has injuries," he said. "I don't want to make excuses, but we're in a situation where we are thin. We don't have replacements to bring up. You don't have pitching, you can't stay in games. But I think Ruben is doing a good job and right now I think we're headed in the right direction."
He also gave thumbs up to Sandberg, but not without some caveats.
"I think he has done a real good job," Gillick said. "I think the team has played hard. I think they have battled on the field. Look, you can argue with X's and O's and moves on the field, but he is trying to hold them in there and trying to keep a positive attitude."
A scout said he was disappointed in Sandberg when the manager was not more adamant about protecting Maikel Franco after the rookie third baseman was ejected for arguing a called third strike in a game last week at Baltimore. Gillick admitted he'd like to see more emotion from Sandberg at times.
"Once in a while I think that's good," Gillick said. "I think all managers and everybody has to release some frustration. He is a very under control guy. I did see him freak out in spring training a couple years ago. He was managing Lehigh Valley and we were playing Pittsburgh's triple-A team. They hit a couple of our guys and some guys in the Pittsburgh dugout were laughing. He came down from the third-base coaching box and grabbed the manager and was going to slug him. It was a side I never saw of him before. It is there, but I think it takes a lot to get him to that point."
As for the rebuilding process, Gillick said it might even take longer than he initially thought during the offseason when he was targeting 2017 or 2018 as the potential turnaround season.
"It might be longer," Gillick said. "It could be. When I first came here or at some point since I've been here, I said it's hard to be patient, but in this situation you have to be patient. I think you have to keep a positive outlook and you never know when it's going to turn around."
Gillick said the Phillies have some players on the current roster that could still be around when the tide turns back in a winning direction.
"We probably have two or three players going forward . . . who are going to be regular players," Gillick said. "I'm encouraged by that. I would say right now Franco is one, [Freddy] Galvis is another. I think [Odubel] Herrera is going to be somewhere on the field. I don't know if his ultimate position is going to be center field, but I think he is going to be somewhere on the field.
"I think [Cameron] Rupp is probably going to play a part. Probably the jury is still out on Hernandez because he hasn't had a lot of opportunity to play, but Hernandez might be a possibility going forward. I like our bullpen. It's fairly young from the standpoint of [Justin] DeFratus and [Luis] Garcia and [Ken] Giles and [Elvis] Araujo and [Jake] Diekman. We have five younger people down there. Even though we haven't got all the parts, I think there are some pieces that are going to fit into the future."
Gillick is also encouraged by a lot of things he sees at the minor-league level and was impressed with the recent draft. He said Scott Kingery, a second-round pick out of the University of Arizona, could be on the fast track to the big leagues.
Being positive and patient are the two things Gillick is preaching most right now, but he knows the fan base is not filled with choir members.
"What I'm just trying to do – and Ruben and I are on the same page – is keep this thing headed in a straight line as much as possible," Gillick said. "Even though the performance of the major-league club would probably leave some doubt in some people's minds – 'These guys don't know what they're doing and what are they talking about a straight line?' – I'm confident that we do know what we're talking about. The players we have in the minor leagues now and hopefully the ones we're going to acquire, they're going to mature into good ones.
"I think we've identified the right players. We had a good draft. We drafted the right players and it's going to take time for these players to develop."
Gillick's time as president will have expired when that happens, but his soon-to-be-named replacement will likely be around if what he believes is true.