The Phillies didn’t create much suspense when they fell out of playoff contention in September.
Now, however, they’re baseball’s biggest mystery.
The season ended Sunday with the Phillies finishing 81-81, in fourth place in the NL East and 16 games back of the division-winning Atlanta Braves.
The widespread speculation was that the Phillies would fire manager Gabe Kapler at the beginning of this week.
At the very least, it was expected the club would quickly make a statement on his future.
The Pittsburgh Pirates and the Chicago Cubs fired their managers Sunday. The Los Angeles Angels fired theirs Monday, and the New York Mets fired theirs Thursday. Meanwhile, The Phillies haven’t said a word.
The question begs to be asked: What is Philadelphia doing?
Only Phillies managing partner John Middleton knows for sure.
And while no one knows who will stay or who will go when it comes to the Phillies, one thing is for certain. The indecision and silence this week is not reflecting well on the organization or inspiring the confidence of fans, who will soon be solicited for 2020 season tickets.
The silence is even more confounding because it’s not like the Phillies already didn’t face an offseason with numerous issues.
They must rebuild their starting rotation. They must sign catcher J.T Realmuto to a longterm contract. They must find a fix for Rhys Hoskins’ offensive woes.
If they fire Kapler, they must find a replacement.
Time is of the essence. When will the Phillies clarify their future?
Usually, MLB doesn’t like personnel moves to be announced during the postseason. There could be off days at the end of next week if the four division series wrap up quickly.
Meanwhile, Phillies fans were left wondering Thursday: What does the club’s silence mean?
Two answers seem most likely.
The first is a change is coming. It would be unacceptable now for the club to announce the team’s management was returning intact with the exception of just a couple of coaching staff changes. That move could have been announced Monday.
The second is those changes could go beyond Kapler. The longer this silence lasts, the more one has to wonder if team president Andy MacPhail and general manager Matt Klentak might also be gone.
There is a case to be made that it’s time to turn the page.
The Phillies’ rebuild began in 2015. Philadelphia was trying to follow in the foot steps of the World Series-winning 2015 Kansas City Royals, 2016 Chicago Cubs and 2017 Houston Astros.
But those three clubs all produced a core of talented players that made the losing of the rebuild worth it.
The 2016 Cubs featured Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Kyle Schwarber. The 2017 Astros relied on George Springer, Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa. Four years into the Phillies’ process, the club has been unable to produce that type of homegrown, impact talent.
Philadelphia does have outfielder Bryce Harper, but he is supposed to do what pitcher Justin Verlander has done for the Astros — come in and put a young core over the top.
The Phillies ended the season with less talent than the Braves, Washington Nationals and Mets. Most baseball experts say the Miami Marlins, the last-place team in the NL East, has a better farm system.
There’s no reason to currently believe 2020 will be any better than 2019.
Something needs to be done and soon. Phillies, we’re waiting to hear from you.
Michael McGarry’s Must Win column appears Fridays in The Press.