Today was one of those days where you walked through the clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park and felt the effects of a disappointing season settling in. Particularly noteworthy was the door to to Charlie Manuel's office, which was closed for nearly an hour as the manager met with club president David Montgomery to discuss a variety of issues about the team.
The Phillies are well aware that they are fast approaching the point where their focus will need to shift toward 2013 and beyond. I spoke with Montgomery for 20 minutes prior to Sunday's game, during which time he offered his perspective on the team's disappointing first half. You can read his complete comments in Monday's Daily News. Long story short, Montgomery says he feels like the club owes it to injured or recently injured veterans like Ryan Howard and Roy Halladay to give them a chance to get the club turned around during the first couple weeks after the All-Star Break. But he acknowledged that the team needs to plan for the future in an attempt to ensure that 2012 does not repeat itself next season. Shane Victorino, a free agent at the end of the season, could be on the trading block. Young players like Jake Diekman and Domonic Brown could find themselves with extended opportunities. The Phillies could look to make a deal for a third baseman or outfielder who is under contract through next season or beyond.
I asked Montgomery about the potential dichotomy on the baseball operations side of things if the focus does shift so that 2013 is emphasized over 2012. I pointed out that Manuel is a guy who says all the time, "I come to the park to win every day."
The ensuing exchange. . .
Montgomery: But I don't necessarily see them as in conflict as much as you might think. If we are going to prepare for the future, winning every day is a part of that too. We have 39 or 38 opportunities to at least have a winning record at home. We've been pretty good at Citizens Bank Park since we moved here. So let's get back to having that occasion for Phillies fans.
Daily News: I'll give you a for-instance. Completely hypothetical. At some point you are going to get to a point where a guy like Domonic Brown could maybe use a shot at the major leagues, but at this point in time, a guy like Juan Pierre gives you a better chance to win on a nightly basis. He's a guy who's contract is going to be up at the end of the year and obviously isn't a long-term future guy. If you do get to a point where the playoffs are unlikely, at least you would have a half season to find out about Diekman and Brown and guys like that. But if a guy like Manuel is thinking, 'Well, I've got to win to save my job. . .'
Montgomery: I would be surprised if Charlie would think that.
Daily News: You would?
Montgomery: Yeah, I would.
Daily News: Have you told him that?
Montgomery: I'm just saying, I talk to Charlie frequently. His focus isn't about his job, his focus is about winning a game. You may say, well that's the correlation. My point is, if we're all doing our job, that stuff literally takes care of itself. This is a different challenge than Charlie has had, there's no question about that, and we've talked about that. We've been a good second-half club, and it's because we've pretty much been a together clubhouse. So hopefully in addition to providing a little help on the field, some of the key elements of that clubhouse returning are helpful from that standpoint.
Daily News: Is a managerial change something that you can definitively rule out?
Montgomery: That's certainly not anything we're focusing on. Our focus is of much more immediate concerns as to as how do we play better baseball and who are the best components to have on the field.
Montgomery also said he still hopes to keep Cole Hamels in a Phillies uniform. I asked if there would come a point where the Phillies make their best and final offer to the lefthander. Montgomery smiled and said, "As Ruben would say, stay tuned."
For much more, check out our package in the Daily News tomorrow.