We do not know yet how or when the Phillies’ managerial search is going to conclude. We do know that it already ranks among the most exciting pursuits in not only the history of the franchise, but in the entire history of all the city’s teams.
Think about it. When was the last time the Phillies hired a manager who had already won a World Series title? Or even one who had been to a World Series? Never is the answer to those questions.
When was the last time the Eagles went after a head coach who had already won a Super Bowl? Again, the answer is never. Their most high-profile hiring was probably Dick Vermeil shortly after his UCLA team took down Woody Hayes’ top-ranked and unbeaten Ohio State Buckeyes in the 1976 Rose Bowl. Buddy Ryan’s hiring after being lifted on the shoulders of his Chicago Bears’ defenders would rank second on the list.
The 76ers hired one coach with a championship resume and Alex Hannum, as promised by owner Irv Kosloff, delivered on bringing a title to Philadelphia in his first season when the Sixers won a then-NBA record 68 games in 1966-67. Hannum had won an NBA title with the St. Louis Hawks during the 1957-58 season and after leaving the 76ers added an ABA title with the Oakland Oaks during the 1968-69 season. Since then the Sixers’ most hyped hire was Larry Brown, who had won an NCAA title with Kansas a decade before being hired by Pat Croce and the Sixers.
The Flyers are the only team in the city’s history to hire head coaches with a championship already on their resume. Both Ken Hitchcock and Peter Laviolette had their names on the Stanley Cup before being hired by the Flyers. Nobody remembers this, and for good reason, but Bill Dineen had won consecutive WHA titles with the Houston Aeros nearly two decades before taking over as the Flyers’ head coach in 1991. Dineen was a bust with the Flyers, but I do love that his Houston teams were led by a couple of Hall of Fame Howes. Father Gordie was in his mid-40s and son Mark was still a teenager at the time. That had to be cool to watch.
Anyway, back to baseball.
Part of the reason Philadelphia teams have rarely landed the top coaching candidates was because the teams themselves were not that attractive. The Phillies, with John Middleton in charge and Bryce Harper as the focal point, are at least worth looking into for the top candidates.
We know the Phillies’ list of candidates already includes Buck Showalter, Dusty Baker, and Joe Girardi. Mike Scioscia belongs, too. Girardi, 55, and Scioscia, 60, already have won the World Series and they have also been to the postseason a combined 13 times during their 30 years on the job.
Showalter, 63, has made five postseason trips with three franchises during his 20 seasons and watched twice as teams he managed won the World Series the year after he departed. Baker, 70, has taken four franchises to the postseason nine times in 22 years and he won consecutive National League East titles with Washington as recently 2016 and 2017 before being ruthlessly fired.
I think the Phillies should also pursue Joe Maddon, who has reportedly already has interviewed with the Los Angeles Angels. Until he signs a deal, the Phillies can make their pitch to the 65-year-old manager who won the World Series with the Chicago Cubs three years ago. Maddon, of course, has an analytics background mixed with a lot of old-school baseball thoughts.
If the Phillies could land any of the above managers, it would be a reason for raised expectations in 2020. Some might argue that all of the above except Maddon are too old and too set in their ways to succeed in the analytics age, but that’s not true.
Houston and the Yankees, the two teams playing for the American League pennant, are considered among the most analytically driven teams in baseball, but there is debate about how much Washington and St. Louis are impacted by their analytics departments. The Cardinals, in fact, changed their analytics course in the middle of this season.
The Phillies have a potential dilemma should they choose to hire a candidate with extensive experience. Any of the above managers would understandably want to have final say about the decisions they make during a game. They have all earned that right. They also will be less analytically driven than Gabe Kapler was during his two seasons in charge.
Kapler and general manager Matt Klentak saw eye to eye on almost everything, but that combination could not provide an above-.500 record during the last two seasons. It would be idiotic to think that Showalter, Girardi, Baker, and Scioscia did not make managerial adjustments during their careers. You do not last as long as they did without making changes and adapting.