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Phillies extend manager Pete Mackanin's contract through 2018

Under his previous contract, he was guaranteed to manage only through this season.

Fifteen minutes before Pete Mackanin stepped into a room underneath the stands at Citizens Bank Park to discuss his latest contract extension, the Phillies manager invited reliever Joaquin Benoit into his office. A frustrated Benoit had said some critical things about how Mackanin had handled the bullpen. So they talked about it.

"When a team is going through a losing streak, I don't expect everybody to be happy," Mackanin said. "In fact, I expect everybody to be frustrated. From the players to the coaches to myself. Nobody's happy. So I don't have an issue with that. I spoke to him. It's done with. It's all over."

Consider it the first solved melodrama of Mackanin's new term.

The Phillies have lost 10 of their last 12 and could be years from contending, but on Thursday they emboldened their manager with more security. Mackanin signed a one-year contract extension that guarantees he will manage the Phillies in 2018. The deal includes a club option for 2019.

The message delivered by the team's leadership was clear: The Phillies have a great deal of faith in Mackanin to be the man who guides them in their next winning season, whenever that is.

"Pete is the manager," Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said. "There's no time frame on that. This is not a temporary thing. Pete is the manager. And I have every hope and every confidence that as we turn this around and the wins start coming, he's going to be right here."

Mackanin, 65, has become more than a steward. The Phillies remain far from contention, but most signs indicate they will accelerate the process with trades and larger free-agent signings in the next two winters.

When he was hired as GM, Klentak inherited Mackanin. But the two have developed a decent relationship. Klentak praised Mackanin for his patience, the atmosphere he has created, and his open-mindedness. That all factored into the decision to extend Mackanin's deal.

It is the second time in two years the Phillies have ripped up Mackanin's contract to sign him to a new one. Mackanin, under his previous contract, was signed only through this season. The Phillies held an option to extend the deal through 2018. Rather than do that, the two sides agreed to a new contract that essentially duplicates the previous one but advances the timeline.

Klentak pointed to Cesar Hernandez, Aaron Altherr, and Tommy Joseph as products of Mackanin's guidance and acumen. Many managers, Klentak said, would not have displayed the patience Mackanin did with Joseph, who endured a dismal April but still played often. He has hit well in May.

The Phillies elevated Mackanin when Ryne Sandberg quit, and they pushed the baseball lifer into a difficult situation. The rebuilding process started in 2015. There were few guarantees that Mackanin would survive it.

He still may not. But his chances are better.

"I can certainly envision it," Mackanin said. "I'd like to be here."

Mackanin is 121-161 as Phillies manager. It is reckless to judge Mackanin by his record, considering that the Phillies stripped their roster and focused on developing prospects in the minors. His task was to establish the proper vibes for a team in transition.

"I want the players to respect me and like playing for me," Mackanin said. "But, at the same time, when I want them to be accountable, I don't want them to do something they shouldn't be doing. I let them know about it. It's a kind of a funny relationship. But it's one I think I have nurtured. That's my style."

The Phillies were 18-14 at this point last season but were outscored by 27 runs. They were blessed with luck in one-run games. That did not transfer to 2017, with a current 13-19 record but a run differential of minus-4 that suggests things are trending in the right direction.

That played into the team's timing to extend Mackanin's deal.

"The effort level of this team, we can see progress in what's happening right now," Klentak said. "I can see it. Pete can see it. We all see it; it's happening right before our eyes. Obviously it's not reflected in our win-loss record yet, but we can see the progress happening, and that's why we're making this decision because this team is playing very well for this man to my left."

Klentak motioned to Mackanin, and the two men could smile despite a losing record.