Every year, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, one of the better, and most knowledgeable, baseball writers you can find, does a ranking of the current major league managers.. Coming into last season, Pete Mackanin was ranked as the 21st best manager in baseball. It kind of made sense. After all, he was coming into his first full season as a major league manager, so better to err on keeping him low on the list. This season, Mackanin stayed at the same 21st overall ranking. This after guiding a pretty weak team to a decent 71-91 season that saw some young players start to blossom under Mackanin and also saw him lose some key pieces - Charlie Morton and Aaron Nola chief among them - to injuries.
This season, Cafardo may have had Mackanin fairly low, but his thoughts on the Phillies skipper are certainly encouraging.
He’s going to be the guy who transitions the Phillies from rebuild to contender. His bosses appear very happy with his work.
Cafardo puts Mackanin ahead of Scott Servais (Seattle), Paul Molitor (Minnesota), Kevin Cash (Tampa Bay), Craig Counsell (Milwaukee), Bryan Price (Cincinnati), Rick Renteria (White Sox), Brian Snitker (Atlanta), Andy Green (San Diego) and last, but not least, Torey Lovullo (Arizona). Admittedly, Mackanin is right behind some pretty good managers, too, with Mike Matheny (St. Louis), John Gibbons (Toronto), Don Mattingly (Miami), Bud Black (Colorado) and Brad Ausmus (Detroit) holding the five spots just ahead of Mackanin. Cafardo lists Terry Francona (Cleveland), Joe Maddon (Cubs) and Bruce Bochy (San Francisco) as the top three managers in baseball.
Mackanin had three pretty successful stints as an interim manager before getting the Phillies job full-time. In 2005, he took over Pittsburgh with the team at a .404 winning percentage with 26 games left to play. While the finish wasn't stellar, the Pirates went 12-14 (.462) under Mackanin. Unfortunately for Mackanin, he was passed over for Jim Tracy, who repeated the Pirates performance of 2005 when he led the team to a 67-95 record. Tracy would manage the Pirates for just one more season and finish with a mark of 135-189 (.417) with Pittsburgh.
Two years later, Mackanin got the nod in Cincinnati when the Reds ditched manager Jerry Narron, who had the team at 31-51 (.378). With just under a half-season to show what he could do, Mackanin managed the Reds to a mark of 41-39 (.513), but was again passed by when the job was filled by veteran Dusty Baker. Baker managed the Reds for six seasons, finishing with a 509-463 record - .524 winning percentage - with Cincinnati before exiting after the 2013 season.
Finally, Mackanin got to lead the Phillies after Ryne Sandberg stepped down unexpectedly in 2015 with the team at a 26-58 (.309) and new front office management coming in that didn't appear to be very friendly to Sandberg's chances of remaining at the helm. Mackanin became the Phillies interim manage and finished with a 37-51 (.420) mark over the rest of the season. While it wasn't spectacular, Mackanin had taken over in a tough situation, calmed down the clubhouse and gotten the team headed back in the right direction. In the last days of the season, the Phillies initially gave Mackanin just a one-year deal with the option of bringing him back in 2017. The Phillies very quickly ripped up that deal with Mackanin and gave him a two-year deal, with a club option on the 2018 season during spring training, 2016.
So why are the Phillies leaving Mackanin, who by all accounts has done a good job with very little to work with in his time with the Phillies, twisting in the wind with a contract that ends after this season? If he truly is the guy who is going to be leading this team out of the doldrums that has been Phillies baseball the past few seasons, why not make that clear and at the very least, pick up the option on 2018.
One reason could be financial. If they pick up that option and then decide after this season that for whatever reason, Mackanin isn't their guy, they've wasted money. In the grand scheme of things though, that money would be chump-change and it would give Mackanin a bit more respect around the clubhouse with his players.
Mackanin is the right man for the job with the Phillies. He has that steady demeanor that managers need and easily straddles the line between being a disciplinarian and a "player's manager" with the players on the roster. There's no reason to believe that the players will quit on Mackanin, no matter what his contract situation. After all, they're all primarily young players who still have a lot to prove and quitting on a manager wouldn't be a good career move for any of them.
The fact that Mackanin is more than just a capable manager could wind up costing the Phillies a little more money. What if the turn around truly does begin this season and the Phillies can reach that magical .500 mark for the first time since they finished the 2012 season at 81-81 under Charlie Manuel. Again, it would be comparatively just chump-change, but is still at least a bit of a factor.
For his part, GM Matt Klentak has said that the Phillies "have time to do that," when asked about making a more long-term decision on Mackanin's status. Klentak likened the situation to the same one that the Phillies had last season with Mackanin, who was signed to an extension in late March. Klentak hinted that the same type of situation could occur this year and that the Phillies and Mackanin will talk about his contract in due time.
One thing complicating the situation is that highly touted minor league manager Dusty Wathan has made it clear that he wants to manage in the majors. The Phillies bumped Wathan up from Double-A Reading to Triple-A Lehigh Valley for the 2017 season.
"The goal in any job is that you want to get to the top," Wathan said back in January. "For us, the top is the major leagues and hopefully, one day, to have the opportunity to get up there as a coach or a manager and this is just part of, as Phillies fans say, the process."
Pete Mackanin's career managerial record