PHILADELPHIA – Matt Klentak's inability to lead the Philadelphia Phillies to the postseason or even a single winning season cost him his job as general manager.
Klentak stepped down after a third straight September collapse left the team out of the postseason for the ninth consecutive season. The 40-year-old will be reassigned to another position in the organization and Ned Rice will serve as interim general manager until the Phillies hire someone to run baseball operations.
“We’ve made progress but we haven’t made enough progress fast enough,” Phillies managing partner John Middleton said.
Klentak was hired in October 2015 by team President Andy MacPhail after serving as assistant general manager for the Los Angeles Angels for four seasons. The Phillies were 326-382 in five seasons under Klentak.
Beyond that, the organization has struggled to develop talent in the minors leagues. The Phillies had the worst bullpen ERA in the majors this season and it didn't improve after Klentak acquired four veterans in trades. Each of those relievers pitched poorly after their arrival.
“I think the problem the Phillies have had for 100 years is they don’t evaluate talent,” Middleton said, citing two periods of successful player development around the World Series championship teams in 1980 and 2008. “That’s a problem that’s haunted us. It was the No. 1 mandate I gave Andy and Matt when they came in and we’re better than we were but we aren’t nearly good enough.”
Klentak’s biggest move was signing Bryce Harper to a $330 million, 13-year deal, though Middleton played a major role in that. Klentak also acquired catcher J.T. Realmuto from the Miami Marlins, trading away top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez to get him.
But Klentak failed to sign Realmuto to a contract extension and he is set to become a free agent after the World Series.
Middleton said he approved dealing Sanchez based on being told by his baseball people the team would give Realmuto the extension. But, he also said he doesn't hold it against Klentak that he failed to re-sign Realmuto.
Middleton added signing Realmuto remains a priority but financial issues related to COVID-19 are a factor.
“Can you tell me what the governor and the mayor of Philadelphia are going to allow us to have next year in the way of fans because if you do, you know something that I don’t,” Middleton said. “I have no idea what we’re going to be allowed. And obviously that’s going to determine revenues and revenues determines what you can do and what you can’t do.”
Klentak inherited Pete Mackanin as manager and made a switch after the 2017 season, hiring Gabe Kapler. The Phillies went 161-163 under Kapler before Middleton overruled Klentak and MacPhail and fired him last year. First-year manager Joe Girardi was 28-32 this season.
The Phillies went 1-7 in their final eight games. They would’ve made the postseason with two wins in those eight games.
“While I am disappointed that we failed to reach our ultimate goal, I am nevertheless very proud of the progress that this organization made over the last five years and of the people who worked so hard to make it happen,” Klentak said. “I am grateful for all of the support that I received along the way from Phillies ownership, friends and colleagues, and our loyal Phillies fans.”
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