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Andy MacPhail: 'I've never been reluctant to share my opinion when asked'

Andy MacPhail, the eventual successor to Pat Gillick as President of the Philadelphia Phillies' organization, spoke with SportsRadio 94WIP's Angelo Cataldi & The Morning Team Tuesday morning. [Download Podcast]


Cataldi: What made you want to get back [into baseball]?

MacPhail:

I think that when my contract expired in Baltimore, I was starting to get resentful with the amount of time I was spending at the park. Never allowed the things I wanted to do in life. My father [Lee MacPhail] had just literally months left to live, and I wanted to spend some time with him as well. If my heart's not in it, then I shouldn't go back [to Baltimore] for their sake, so I would not go back when they asked.

I've had three and a half years now where I've had the opportunity to do a lot of those things that I wanted to do three years ago. So, I've got that out of the system and the opportunity came along [here in Philadelphia] that was too good to pass up.

 

Cataldi: I had the honor many years ago of talking to your dad, and he's one of the great baseball people of all-time. You were brought up on it. You have lived baseball your whole life, right? What [does your family] all love about [baseball]? What is it about this game that has gripped so many generations of your family?

MacPhail:

Yea, ever since I can remember. Obviously baseball has been a part of my life, to not only my dad but my grandfather. Now my two boys are both working in baseball, so the MacPhail's are having a hard time finding honest work outside of the game.

The odd thing in my case is, I really enjoy trying to piece it together and figuring out the best way to make it all work, and how to get better. It's like a puzzle that you are trying to put together and you have "x" amount of positions that you are trying to fill. It's a race to try to find the best 25 players you can, and you are competing with 29 other clubs. I think that part, in addition to the game itself between the lines, is one of the most appealing parts to me.

Cataldi: Not only were we being introduced to you yesterday, but even though John Middleton has been part of the ownership of the Phillies for a long time, he had never come out publically the way he did yesterday. How important is it that you have an owner that will give you what you need to be successful?

MacPhail:

Well, there's nothing more important when you are in a situation like a President of the team or general manager. There's really nothing more fundamentally important than the relationship with ownership and who you work with.

It's not just the question of the race horses that you are provided to try to accomplish what you are trying to accomplish, but it's the relationship you have with them, the trust you have with them, the dialogue back and forth. There have been famous cases of owners that are a little bit erratic in their behavior, and there are expectations.

It is important for somebody in my spot to find the right people to work with. ... I was very comfortable with [the ownership's] level of preparedness, their questions, their attitudes. I think they came out yesterday, because as John [Middleton] said, they felt their responsibility to the fans, to own the decision of who their next team president was going to be.

Cataldi: When you are looking for a GM or a manager, I realize that those things are still way up in the air and you made that clear yesterday, what kind of qualities do you look for in the people you have under you to win the way you are trying to win?

MacPhail:

Preparation, openness to working together to try to collaborate, and be working towards a single goal and not sort of individually and out for themselves. People that are interested and anxious to work together to accomplish the organization's goals.

There are natural frictions in our game, on the baseball side between scouting and development. You know, there's scouts that always think they provide the greatest players and development is not developing. Development can think, 'oh my goodness, are you guys ever going to send us somebody that can run and hit?'

You have to find people who very much understand the other side. I like the idea that Joe Jordan, the farm director here, is somebody that's been a scout director. He knows how it is. You just need to, as a team president, ensure that everybody is on the same page, heading in the same direction, and working for the same goal.

Cataldi: It was clear yesterday that you have embraced sabermetrics as a part of evaluating players and teams. I'm really curious about that because obviously you come from an old-school family who utilized scouts so much. What do you get from statistical analysis that you are not getting from the eye of a great scout?

 MacPhail:

It's important that you marry the two. I would be less than incanted to make any kind of major or significant transaction just using one opposed to the other, nor would I be swayed to one particular scout or one particular mathematical forming.

What you are trying to do is collect as much different information as you can get. You have statistical analysis, and human intelligence on the players. Look at all of that information and hopefully it is all telling you the same story and pointing you in the same direction of what kind of performance you can expect, how long can you expect if there's a trendline moving up or down, and [whether or not] you going to get the same performance over the next couple of years.

That's what you are really trying to collect. You would be goofy to eliminate an aspect of player evaluation that can be helpful to you, like statistical analysis. One of the things that you are going to try to see is if there are anomalies where this guy might just have had a pretty lucky season where some things fell into him, which you generally could expect is this type of performance.

On the other hand, you need human intelligence because you need bodies changed. Weaknesses get exposed and exploited as you go through this major league clubs a couple of times and advanced scouts see you. Some people make adjustments. 

So, you need all of it together. I am very much a hybrid type of approach. You really need everything you can get to try to push the odds of the deal working out for you, on your side of the equation as best you can.

Cataldi: You have always been known for your thoroughness. We're all struggling a little bit with this transition period. We have a trade deadline coming up in a month, and the current guys that are there have already made it fairly clear that they are looking at deals with some of the bigger names from the recent past. What if their evaluations of one of these deals really vary dramatically from yours?

Ultimately the players that they are going to be getting are going to be your players. How involved are you, if at all, in the decision about whether to make a trade over the next couple of months? 

MacPhail:

Well, they've already made it clear that I will be involved. It's interesting. I've never been reluctant to share my opinion when asked, but I have to have a reason why. If I have an opinion, I have to be able to justify why I feel that is, and it just can't be something that you pull out of thin air.

When I was a general manager, if your information is over a year old, then I really don't want to hear that much about it unless you have particular insight into somebody's character. People's performances change every year. If I was Ruben or Pat, I wouldn't weigh player evaluation on my part very heavily since I have essentially been on the couch for the past three years.

Cataldi: That's funny because the way you were describing all of your travels, it almost sounded like a bucket list. Were doing a bucket list the last couple of years?

MacPhail:

Yea, to a degree and I still have a couple more. I really am a firm believer that you only get one shot going around in this world. Tomorrow is not promised to any of us, so you just have to make the most of it while you can, and while you are young enough to enjoy it and you can get a lot out of it.

I feel very strongly that [leaving the game] was a good thing for me. I think I am much better of a man for it. There's some images that will be in your mind, like an older woman sweeping out the dirt road in the northern part of Vietnam. You don't get so focused on self-absorbed when you see how people in this planet are working and living.

Cataldi: You have experienced a lot of baseball in a lot of places. Do you think that this is the most demanding of the cities that you have worked in, based on reputation?

MacPhail:

Well, its reputation is different. Whether its just or not, I don't know. Sometimes, an error of a reputation or a label gets stuck on a place that really doesn't apply anymore.

The worst thing that can happen to any sports franchise is apathy, and I don't think there's ever any danger to that happening here in Philadelphia.


As announced in yesterday's introductory press conference, MacPhail will finish the remaining three months of the current season under the role of special assistant to Gillick. The 62-year-old, veteran baseball executive was first linked to joining the Phillies in a June 15 report by insider Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com.

He previously served as general manager of the Minnesota Twins, president and CEO of the Chicago Cubs, and president of baseball operations of the Baltimore Orioles. Under MacPhail, the Twins won two World Series championships over the span of five seasons: 1987 and 1991.

Matt Rappa (@mattrappa) is managing editor of Philliedelphia.com.

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