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Phillies Nuggets: If Mackanin isn't long-term manager, who is?

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Could Dusty Wathan eventually replace Pete Mackanin? (Frank Klose/Sports Talk Philly)

By Tim Kelly, Sports Talk Philly editor

The Philadelphia Phillies have had manager Pete Mackanin enter Spring Training as a lame duck, rather than picking up his 2018 option. General manager Matt Klentak suggested earlier this spring that the team has time to decide on Mackanin's future, like they did a year ago when they gave him a new contract during Spring Training. 

In all likelihood, the Phillies will eventually at least pick up Mackanin's 2018 option, but it's worth considering what would happen if the team's young players and record don't progress in a manner that would please Klentak and president Andy MacPhail this year.

Until his 2018 option is picked up, we are left to believe there's at least a chance that one way or another Mackanin won't be the team's manager a year from now. If that seemingly unlikely scenario plays out, who could potentially be the next Phillies manager? 

Dusty Wathan, who became Reading's all-time winningest manager last year, would probably be the logical internal fit. Wathan was promoted to manager of the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs over the offseason and was the only minor league coach added to the Major League staff last September.

Wathan has coached Aaron Nola, Maikel Franco, J.P. Crawford, Jorge Alfaro, Dylan Cozens and nearly every young talent in the Phillies organization not named Vince Velasquez or Odubel Herrera. As he moves up to Triple-A, if he's able to continue the progressions of Cozens and Rhys Hoskins, along with helping Crawford and Nick Williams to bounce back in 2017, the Phillies will probably have to promote him to their Major League staff to avoid him leaving the organization. 

Wathan is only 43, so he's well on his way to eventually being a manager at the big league level. Whether Mackanin's 2018 option is eventually picked up or not, he would be the heavy favorite to replace Mackanin if the Phillies decide to go in another direction with the managerial position in the next few years. In the meantime, the front office would be wise to take care of him and make sure that he remains in the organization. 

Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia has been another name some have speculated about, both because of his connections to Mike Trout and Klentak. This fit isn't as good as some might think. First of all, this isn't the NBA, so you wouldn't hire a coach just in an attempt to lure a player to your team. Secondly, when Klentak was the assistant general manager in Los Angeles, his superior, then-Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto, resigned and has since admitted to having a less than ideal relationship with Scioscia. Much of that reportedly had to do with Scioscia's reluctance to incorporate the advanced statistics that Dipoto was giving him. Klentak was hired at least in part because of his analytical background, so it's hard to imagine he walked out of Los Angeles thinking that Scioscia is someone he would be eager to hire if he ever got the chance. 

There are a few other names to consider. Former Pirates manager John Russell has been the Orioles bench coach since 2011, when both MacPhail and Klentak were in the front office, and played five seasons for the Phillies. Brad Mills failed in his stint as Houston Astros manager, but he's coached with Terry Francona at every stop of his managerial career, including with the Phillies, and if the Cleveland Indians compete for the World Series for a second straight year, he could be of interest. Former Minnesota Twins manager and current Arizona Diamondbacks bench coach Ron Gardenhire is currently battling prostate cancer, but he was successful in his 13-year stint with the Twins. Former Colorado Rockies manager Walt Weiss, who elected to walk away from the team after last season, is still just 53 and could be a fit. Perhaps even a name like Boston Red Sox hitting coach Chili Davis could be considered. 

Because Wathan is already in the organization, he would be the most logical replacement to bet on, because if the Phillies make a change during or after this season, he'll be in the organization. If they make one after 2018, he'll probably still be in the organization. So Wathan, who eventually will be a manager somewhere, is pushing Mackanin in the same way that Ryne Sandberg was pushing Charlie Manuel, first as the IronPigs manager and eventually as his third base coach. 

At this moment, there's no reason to think the Phillies won't continue to go with Mackanin. The working relationship between him and Klentak seems strong and the club's record did improve in his first full season as manager. There will, however, need to be more progression from players he's had years to coach now, such as Aaron Nola, Odubel Herrera and Maikel Franco. If that doesn't happen, perhaps the Phillies would consider a change, and with all the young talent in the organization and the ownership's commitment to winning, the Phillies would be a very attractive opening. 

Comments

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Frank Garbe

C'mon Tim... spring training isn't even two weeks old and you are speculating about a year or two in the future. The fact is, Pete is here and that is what matters now. Speculating about his status in the future is a non-story until something plays out that makes it a story. And for that to happen you have to play games that have meaning. If you want to speculate, do it on the players now, the possibilities for THIS season etc. It is too easy to "speculate" on the future. Besides, things can happen that could/would make such speculations irrelevant.

H Douglas Walker

Dusty will replace Pete by mid-season. Pete is nothing more than a fill in manager until the corner outfield positions are filled with youth. Around August first we will see the leadership on the field change.

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