Pete Mackanin appears likely to return as Phillies manager in 2018. (Frank Klose/STP)
Philadelphia Phillies general manager Matt Klentak didn't guarantee that manager Pete Mackanin would return in 2018 when he met with the collective media Friday. But, if you had to bet one way or another, Klentak's media appearance left you with the feeling that the 66-year-old will remain the team's skipper for at least another season.
As MLB.com's Todd Zolecki transcribed, Klentak sounds prepared to honor the extension that the Phillies gave Mackanin on May 11:
"When we signed him to the extension, the intention was to take the drama out of both this year and next year," Klentak said about Mackanin. "Beyond that we'll have to see, but I think when we signed Pete, that was right in the beginning stages of our struggles. The fact that he and his staff were able to weather the storm and get us going on the right track was really important for us this season."
In theory, it seems obvious that Mackanin, who signed an extension earlier this season that guaranteed him 2018 and left the club with an option for the 2019 season, would return for 2018.
It didn't seem obvious a few months ago.
In the same month that Mackanin was extended, the Phillies went 6-22. Aaron Nola had a 5.63 ERA in three starts. Vince Velasquez had a 5.02 ERA in six starts. Maikel Franco batted .218. And Odubel Herrera batted .183, while striking out 30 times. As one anonymous rival told Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports at the time, the Phillies looked and sounded dead.
I wrote towards the end of June that it felt like something would have to give after 2017, and that wasn't going to be Klentak or president Andy MacPhail. Heyman did note earlier this month that there may be some growing impatience in the organization - my guess is that it's from John Middleton - so perhaps something could change, but that feeling seems to have disappeared.
With 15 games left in the 2017 season, the Phillies are 10 losses away from their first 100-loss season since 1961. But the Phillies feel like a different team than the one that went 6-22 in May. Rhys Hoskins is hitting home runs at an other-wordly clip, while Jorge Alfaro and Nick Williams have impressed at the plate. Odubel Herrera is now hitting .289. And Aaron Nola had a dominant front-half of the summer. The Phillies aren't going to compete for the playoffs in 2018, but there's a feeling that the team is headed in the right direction, something that didn't exist earlier this season.
Klentak did mention later in his discussion with the collective media that a discussion will take place with Mackanin about the future of his staff, something that happens near the end of every season. That discussion took place at the end of the 2016 season, with it leading to the club parting ways with former hitting coach Steve Henderson. His successor Matt Stairs seems to be safe, but perhaps the team will take a hard look at the future of pitching coach Bob McClure.
What's becoming increasingly clear is that there probably won't be a very extended conversation about whether Mackanin returns for the 2018 season. He'll probably enter the 2018 season with non-existent long-term security, but he'll enter it with a chance to guide the most talented offensive group that he's had since taking over as the club's manager.