Pete Mackanin got a contract extension when the Philadelphia Phillies were scuffling and lost his job after they turned it around.
Mackanin is out as manager after 2½ seasons but will remain in the dugout for the final three games this weekend and return as a special assistant to general manager Matt Klentak in 2018.
“I’m disappointed, surely,” Mackanin said Friday. “But I understand it and I’m happy to be part of it down the road. I believe in Matt Klentak and I believe in what he’s doing and the fact that he wants me to continue in this (new) capacity is the most important thing.”
The Phillies are 64-95 this season, last in the NL East and with the second-worst record in the league. Philadelphia has not been to the postseason since 2011.
The 66-year-old Mackanin succeeded Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg on June 26, 2015. His record with Philadelphia is 172-237.
“Pete is a trusted ally, a partner in this rebuild and a friend,” Klentak said. “I’m very happy he’s agreed to stay with us. I trust Pete and his opinion. I want to make sure that when we spill champagne over each other’s head that Pete is proudly wearing the P.”
Mackanin received a contract extension through next season on May 11 after the Phillies had lost nine of 11 games. They went 4-16 in 20 games afterward.
But Philadelphia has improved since the All-Star break, going 35-37. That wasn’t enough to secure Mackanin’s return. Klentak said members of the coaching staff will be determined by the new manager.
“The way the rebuild is evolving, a new voice in the dugout and a new style is necessary,” Klentak said.
The Phillies have a solid group of young players to build around, including several rookie hitters who significantly bolstered the offense. First baseman/left fielder Rhys Hoskins, outfielder Nick Williams and infielder J.P. Crawford have been impressive since their debuts.
“We’ve reached a turning point in this rebuild,” Klentak said. “We see our roster littered with young players who have a very bright future. It’s time to look forward.”
Pitching has been Philadelphia’s biggest problem and Mackanin recently said the team needs to add an ace to join Aaron Nola in the rotation.
Klentak has been Mackanin’s biggest fan since he arrived as GM in October 2015. It’s possible the Phillies will seek a younger, analytics-minded manager and coaching staff to lead the team out of its rebuild.
“Pete was an excellent manager for the time he was here,” Klentak said. “I was a rookie general manager and I learned a ton from Pete and will continue to do so.”
It’s no surprise players were taken aback by the decision. Mackanin was popular in the clubhouse.
“Obviously it’s tough,” outfielder Aaron Altherr said. “Wish we could’ve played better for him to stay. Everybody is shocked. I thought he’d be around for next year after he got the extension.”
Hoskins, who came up in August, thrived under Mackanin.
“I really enjoyed having him around,” Hoskins said. “He’s a great baseball mind. To have that in your corner is something that will stick with me.”
Klentak said he’ll immediately begin identifying candidates to replace Mackanin. He said guys with a variety of backgrounds will be considered and they don’t need to have managerial experience.
Dusty Wathan, who managed several of Philadelphia’s young players in the minor leagues at Double-A and Triple-A, likely will be a top internal candidate. Cubs bench coach Dave Martinez and White Sox bench coach Joe McEwing also could be on the list.