While the players may be the names that everyone knows, there are a lot of other people in an organization that play important roles. Some are seen and known, while others are rarely, if ever, in front of the press or even mentioned.
Our first annual list of the VIPs - Very Important Phillies - is not a list of greatness or a list of power. It's a list of importance, based on the jobs that need to be done and the people who are in charge of doing those jobs.
1. Ruben Amaro, Jr. - Vice President and General Manager
Certainly, the job that a GM does for a club is important and some would suggest that in all organizations, it's the most important job there is. While that may or may not be the case, it is certainly the case in Philadelphia, because we are at this specific point in time. Not only are the Phillies looking to defend two straight division titles and a World Series title, but they're doing it with a new GM in place. Plus, the departure of Mike Arbuckle, who came in second in the search for a new GM, opened up not one, but two holes in the front office when Amaro moved up the ladder. Amaro was given the task of not only charting the course for the future, but of filling those two key holes - a guy to negotiate contracts and a talent evaluator to lead the Phillies draft process.
2. Benny Looper - Assistant GM, Player Personnell
Probably more people have heard of his nephew, Braden Looper, than have heard of the elder Looper. Benny Looper came to the Phillies from the Seattle Mariners organization when their front office underwent a recent overhaul and he'll assume the duties that Arbuckle held with the organization. Arbuckle presided over the Phillies draft day choices and was one of the best in the business at building a minor league system. It's not an easy record to fill and Looper is going to have a lot of eyes on him as the draft nears. The 60 year old spent 23 years in Seattle, working with former Phillies and Mariners GM Pat Gillick. It's not tough to imagine why Amaro made the hiring and he likely had a lot of input from Gillick on the merits of hiring Looper. By the way, having Looper in town won't hurt if the Phillies were to decide to go after the younger Looper, who is a free agent.
3. Chase Utley - Second baseman
Few players on the Phillies have become more of a marketing piece for the Phillies, let alone a key piece of their World Championship club. Utley has the potential to win a batting title, home run title and certainly an MVP Award during his tenure with the Phillies, which will be long, thanks to his long-term contract. Of the position players, he is possibly the only one who is completely untouchable. Utley's presence in the clubhouse was a major issue this season as he led both by example and with quiet, behind-the-scenes leadership skills that players responded to and respected. The Phillies will be without him at the start of the 2009 season, but hopefully, his return will come before too much of the season has gone by and he'll return punch to the lineup.
4. Cole Hamels - Pitcher
When you talk about being untouchable, Cole Hamels tops the list. Having put the NLCS MVP Award and the World Series MVP Award on his mantle, Hamels is truly in a position to wield more power and persuasion around the organization. He's likely also next in line for a nice, fat long-term deal to be thrown his way because of his importance to the organization. You don't win a World Series without an ace and Hamels is not only the ace of the Phillies, but is on his way to being the best pitcher in all of baseball, with little debate to go along with the label.
5. Scott Proefrock - Assistant GM
Ruben Amaro went to the Baltimore Orioles organization to find Proefrock, who is a well respected baseball guy. Basically, Proefrock will serve as Amaro's right-hand man and help in coordinating information and lending input and advice to Amaro. Proefrock, who is a protégé of Chuck LaMar and served under him in both Atlanta and Tampa Bay, will take over Amaro's role in negotiating contracts, keeping an eye on the budget and finding ways to fit key players in and make the numbers work. He'll also play a huge role in shaping the roster for the Phillies. Proefrock beat out former GMs Jim Duquette and Wayne Krivsky for the job with the Phillies.
6. Ryan Howard - First Baseman
The big man has already won one MVP Award and finished second this season to Albert Pujols. He has the ability to be a perennial MVP contestant and also has the ability to cut down on his strikeouts as he matures as a hitter. If he can put the bat on the ball a little more often and avoid those early season cold weather slumps that he has, he'll be an even more important player. He's also an interesting case, because throughout his career, he's had issues with Phillies management, from asking to be traded as a minor leaguer to publicly pouting about his arbitration case last winter. His situation is one to watch.
7. Dave Montgomery - Managing General Partner
While the Invisible Owners do their work in somewhat of a Teflon fashion, Montgomery is the out-front guy. He's the one who gets hit with the shrapnel when a move goes wrong. He's also the guy that has the most control of the team wallet, so he deserves to be somewhat in the line of fire. He's also the guy that picked Ruben Amaro over Mike Arbuckle or other qualified GM candidates. Overall, Montgomery has taken a lot of heat that wasn't completely deserved. Yes, the payroll might have gone higher in previous years, but while he controls the wallet, he doesn't have the money that the Yankees or Red Sox do and he's had to be somewhat frugal at times. With a World Series championship, he's back in the good graces of the Phillies fans, but for how long, nobody really knows.
8. Charlie Manuel - Manager
Admit it, many of you wanted to dump this guy not too long ago. There were unending jokes about his accent and the fact that his public speaking style comes up pretty far short of say Barack Obama. Even now, fans are worrying that with bench coach Jimy Williams exiting, Manuel is going to be lost. Don't be fooled. This guy knows his stuff, pure and simple. His contract officially has one more season with a team option for 2010, but there are rumblings that before too long, the Phillies will at least pick up that option and possibly add to it. Don't be surprised if "Uncle Charlie" ends his run in Philly at some point in the future as the most popular and possibly, the greatest manager in team history.
9. Chuck LaMar - Assistant GM Player Development and Scouting
His influence on the Tampa Bay Rays had to be noticed, although some say LaMar was just the figurehead with others pulling the strings on the real moves. Forget that, the Rays were built in great extents by LaMar even though he isn't the most popular man in baseball. He's now got the official assistant GM title and he's going to be very involved in developing the younger players through the system and in scouting both the Phillies prospects and those of other clubs. Speaking of scouting, it was LaMar who led the contingent of scouts who followed the Rays during the post season as the Phillies prepared for their potential World Series opponent.
|The Phillies announced the hiring of Pete Mackanin to serve as bench coach in 2009. Mackanin has served as an interim manager with both the Pirates and Reds and was in the New York Yankees scouting department in 2008.
(Photo: Gene J. Puskar/AP)
10. Pete Mackanin - Bench Coach
This was a good move by the Phillies. Why this guy was let go in Cincinnati after the 2007 season and why he hasn't landed a managing job elsewhere is a surprise. He'll be a huge help to assist Charlie Manuel in handling strategy and serving as somewhat of a bad cop when needed in the clubhouse, although Manuel can fight his own battles pretty well. Like Manuel, Mackanin is a player's type of guy, but also has somewhat of a sharp edge at times. He'll be a good balance to Manuel, although he might not be around too long, since he is on the short-list of top managerial candidates in the majors. If he does stick around for a while, he would be positioned to be the heir-apparent to Manuel when his run ends, which may not be for some time if the winning continues and if Manuel wants to stay. Besides guiding the for 80 games in 2007, Mackanin also took over as Pittsburgh's interim manager in 2005 after Lloyd McClendon was dismissed. Mackanin's hiring puts Sam Perlozzo in the third base coaching box.
11. Jimmy Rollins - Shortstop
It's not hard to chart the Phillies success with the success of Jimmy Rollins. Generally, as J-Roll goes, so go the Phillies. He's added another Gold Glove to his trophy case and as leadoff man has given the Phillies a go-to guy at the top of the order. Growing up, Rickey Henderson was Rollins' hero and at many times, it's not too difficult to see a little of Henderson in Rollins. It's great to note that Rollins is signed very cheaply through 2010 with a team option for 2011. It's also nice to note that Rollins has never hinted of wanting to renegotiate his deal, which he signed back in 2005 at a very reduced rate.
12. Marti Wolever - Scouting Director
Ruben Amaro is going to be leaning on Marti Wolever more than ever. Amaro believes strongly in assembling a great staff of scouts and Wolever is one of the best in the business at both spotting talent and at spotting scouts that can spot talent. Many of today's younger GMs don't rely as much on scouts as some of the more "mature" GMs, but Amaro does look to his scouting staff for a lot of input. That alone makes Wolever an essential part of the Phillies front office.
13. Gorman Heimueller - Minor League Pitching Coordinator
Heimueller is one of the unsung heroes of the organization. After serving three seasons as a pitching coach in the Phillies minor league system, Heimueller took over as the Pitching Coordinator in 2002 and has been in the role ever since. He's got a way of getting through to young pitchers and is a tireless worker. He's also got a good eye for when to move pitchers along and when to be more patient with them and plays a huge behind-the-scenes role with the Phillies young pitching staff.
14. Gordon Lakey - Major League Scouting Director
Lakey is the guy who the Phillies rely on to get them accurate reports on players from other teams through the network of Phillies scouts. It's the information that Lakey puts together that helps Ruben Amaro evaluate other team's players and whether or not the Phillies should have an interest in pursuing them either as a trade option or a free agent. Many times, it's the information from the scouting department on some of the lesser known players that helps the Phillies decide on whether or not to pull the trigger on a key move.
15. Jay McLaughlin - Baseball Information Analyst
The Phillies have possibly the best track record when it comes to arbitration cases and one of the reasons is the information that they get from McLaughlin. He's the one that crunches the numbers and gives Amaro the reasons why a player deserves a certain amount and why he shouldn't get more than that. It's that information that the Phillies use to base contract offers not just for arbitration cases, but for potential free agent signings and when putting together a long-term offer to a young player.
16. Brad Lidge - Closer
Mr. Perfection. The Phillies bullpen truly came together this past season after Lidge was acquired from Houston in a winter deal. The move gave the Phillies someone they could rely on to close out games, although at the time of the trade, there were question marks about Lidge's health. Those question marks grew larger when he tweaked his knee in spring training, but in the end, it all worked out very well for Lidge and the Phillies. Lidge is an example of the scouting and medical staffs of the Phillies giving the GM the right information on a player and shows why some of these behind-the-scenes people are as important as they are.
17. Dr. Michael Ciccotti - Director of Medical Services
This is the guy with a keen knowledge of the inner workings of many of the shoulders, elbows and other key body parts of various Phillies players. He's well respected not just around baseball, but in other professional and amateur sports circles and the Phillies and their players can rely on his decisions and skills to keep players on the field. He's perhaps going to be very important with rumors about Chase Utley's ailing hip that he reportedly played on for much of the 2008 season and is possibly still bothering him.
18. Brett Myers - Pitcher
Having Myers in the rotation gives the Phillies a strong one-two start to their rotation. While he struggled early in the season, the Phillies rotation was piecing things together and the bullpen was widely overworked. Once Myers returned from a stint in the minors, the rotation took a big step forward and the bullpen could pretty much plan on at least a little rest when Myers was on the mound. His presence in the rotation is a key and the Phillies need him to stay on track to defend their World Series title.
19. Davey Lopes - First Base Coach
One part of the Phillies attack that has been on the mark the past couple of seasons is their baserunning. In addition to serving as the team's first base coach, Davey Lopes also serves as their baserunning coach and it's a task that he's both enjoyed and excelled at in his time with the Phillies. In 2008 alone, the Phillies finished third in the National League in stolen bases and were successful on 84% of their attempts, compared to a league-wide average of 73%. Lopes has preached smart baserunning and has worked with the speedier of the Phillies to master not just how to steal bases, but when to steal them and, perhaps more importantly, when not to steal them.
20. Rich Dubee - Pitching Coach
It's all about the pitching and with some young guns working their way closer to the majors, Rich Dubee will become more and more important. He might have ranked a little higher, but there is some concern that he was unable to pull Brett Myers and Adam Eaton out of their slumps. Of course, nobody was able to right Eaton and Myers was more of a mental issue than anything else, but a good pitching coach knows how to attack those issues as well. Just ask Leo Mazzone. Among the pitching coaches in the National League, Dubee ranks somewhere from the middle up on the list of the best in the league. He gets the job done, but he's going to have to be even better than he's been with some young arms to contend with down the road.
21. Pat Gillick - Special Advisor to the GM
Yes, Pat Gillick is still around and yes, he still has some influence. The fact that David Montgomery was trying to talk Gillick into staying almost until the moment that Ruben Amaro was introduced as Gillick's successor says something. The fact that Montgomery then talked him into staying on as an advisor says even more. If you want to have importance to an organization, have the ear of the owner, which is exactly what Gillick has working for him. And if you don't believe that he's still an important part of the organization, ask Ruben Amaro who recommended new assistant GM Benny Looper.
22. Charley Kerfeld - Special Advisor to the GM
While he wasn't much of a pitcher, Charley Kerfeld has shown himself to be a very valuable part of the front office. Don't be surprised if in another year or two, somebody swipes him away to be an assistant GM or possibly, even a GM. He knows how to evaluate talent and knows what to look for in putting a team together. Kerfeld has slowly been given more important responsibilities and has increased his influence among Amaro and others in the front office. It was actually a little surprising that he wasn't given a full-fledged assistant GM title, but no matter the title, Kerfeld is going to be a part of key decisions in the Phillies front office.
23. Sal Rende - Minor League Hitting Coordinator
The Phillies farm system has produced a number of good players over the past few seasons, but most of the current top prospects are pitchers. Rende is the guy in charge of overseeing all of the young hitting prospects and in some cases, working individually with them to improve their approach at the plate. Just how far some of the younger position players advance will be determined by what Rende can do with them to get them ready for the higher levels of the minors. Because the Phillies have placed their draft emphasis on pitching, it's important that Rende can get the most out of the hitters that the Phillies bring into the organization for him to work with.
24. The Invisible Owners
Invisible doesn't mean silent, unless you mean publicly silent. There are very few people who know the faces or even the names of these folks, but they're there. Almost like a secret government black ops unit that exists, but is never really confirmed or denied by the government when they're asked about their existence. It's possible that you have walked right past one of them and not even known who they were and that's exactly the way these folks want it to be. Think of them as the voice on the speaker phone in Charlie's Angels, but know that they're not always as calm and approving as dear old Charlie. Oh, by the way, their names... Claire S. Betz, Tri-Play Associates (brothers Alexander K. Buck, J. Mahlon Buck, Jr., and William C. Buck), Double Play, Inc. (John S. Middleton) and Giles Limited Partnership (Bill Giles and Family). Now that we've told you, this article will self-destruct in five seconds... maybe.
25. Steve Noworyta - Director of Minor League Operations
Make no mistake about Steve Noworyta. You might not know his name, but he is a key part of the Phillies organization and knows how to shift talent through the minors. Noworyta plays a key behind-the-scenes role in the minor league system and is able to let the other front office brass know where the holes are and why they should be considered holes. While Amaro is likely to look to some of the new faces for fresher opinions, he won't - and shouldn't - ignore Noworyta, who flat out knows his stuff. Keep his name in mind, because while his name may not be known very well by the public, there are a lot of people around baseball who know and respect Noworyta and see him as a potential Major League GM someday relatively soon.
26. Dallas Green - Senior Advisor to the GM
Don't think that Dallas Green doesn't make his voice heard. His most important asset is that he has the backing and the ear of David Montgomery and he's going to be a part of the Phillies front office as long as he wants to if Montgomery stays around. His influence takes a dip with the passing of each GM that comes through town and it suffered a big dip when organization outsider Pat Gillick was hired. With one of his former batboys taking over as GM, Green's influence may be trending upward slightly, but not significantly.
27. Milt Thompson - Hitting Coach
The Phillies offense didn't provide near the potency that most thought that it would in 2008, but it provided enough for the Phillies to call themselves World Champions. Thompson hasn't looked for much recognition, but he has quietly gained the respect of some of the top hitters on the club, who seek out his advice and are open to his input and criticism. He brings a level-headed approach to the job and embraces the "high-tech" approaches to analyzing hitters, while not abandoning his old-school principles of how to hit in the majors.
28. J.A. Happ - Pitching Prospect
Finding his way onto the post-season roster even though he wasn't highly utilized, was somewhat of a coup for young J.A. Happ. The fact that he was there said lots about the respect that Charlie Manuel and the coaching staff have for his potential and his ability to hold his own in a key spot. Happ is also important because he is one of the young guns being counted on to hold down a spot in the Phillies rotation in 2009 and plays the dual role of being potential trade bait should the Phillies decide to package him in a deal for another key piece of the puzzle - most likely a veteran starter for the rotation.
29. Carlos Carrasco - Pitching Prospect
The Phillies are going to need either Happ or Carrasco to step into the rotation either at the start of the 2009 season or at some point during the season. Carrasco has been the long-awaited co-ace that is figured on to give the Phillies a young lefty-righty combo at the top of their rotation as he and Cole Hamels figure to be dominant pitchers for years to come in the majors. Be patient though, because a little more time at Triple-A might be the best medicine for Carrasco, whose arrival will be trumpeted much like Hamels' arrival was when he put injuries behind him and took over a part in the Phillies rotation.
30. Harry Kalas - Hall of Fame Broadcaster
Yes, he's getting older and the cracks are beginning to show. Many times, Harry cranks up his patented "long fly ball..." home run call only to have wasted the sound on a ball that came up perhaps even shy of the warning track. Players names are sometimes confused and his skills simply ain't what they used to be, but he's still Harry Kalas. He's still the man that has lent his voice to the soundtrack of Phillies baseball and is irreplaceable. When there were rumors a couple of years back that Kalas might be left go at the end of his contract, fans flooded the Phillies with phone calls, e-mails and letters demanding that Kalas return for as long as he wanted to, which is basically the deal that he has with the Phillies. It will be a sad day when Kalas calls his last game, but it will eventually come and perhaps we better start to prepare for it now.