Full Q&A with Phillies team president David Montgomery
In a wide-ranging interview with The Inquirer, Phillies president David Montgomery endorsed Ruben Amaro Jr. as the team's general manager and said no further changes are required in the front office.
Full Q&A with Phillies team president David Montgomery
When the Phillies' silent ownership group appointed David Montgomery the public face of the franchise in 1997, they did so because the congenial Philadelphian could diffuse any controversial situation. Montgomery, now 67, allowed Ruben Amaro Jr. to make the announcement last month that Charlie Manuel was fired as manager. That is because the decision was Amaro's, not Montgomery's.
The team president stood behind his general manager and endorsed him as the man to restore a winning team to Citizens Bank Park.
But there was only so much space in the dead-tree edition of The Inquirer for Montgomery's comments. They are presented here, in full, for your perusal.
Inquirer: What are your impressions of Ryne Sandberg?
David Montgomery: I think Ryne's done a nice job. It's obviously Ruben's decision as far as the whole evaluation. I'm not going to relive the whole period leading up to it as much, but part of what made Charlie's decision to accept he would not be back that maybe it would be in our club's best interest to take a look at Ryno. That's because to be around Ryno is to pretty much like him. He is as unassuming a Hall of Famer as you will ever run into.
I always was amazed whenever I would go up to Lehigh Valley and see them play and the reaction from their GM, Kurt Landis. [Sandberg] makes himself more available than other managers and he's a Hall of Famer. Signing autographs, being involved, being in the community. It starts with the fact he's a good person.
So far, we're doing team-oriented things. Some of them are little; being out for the national anthem, involvement in the dugout and on the top rail even during the games that aren't going well.
INQ: Is that something you look for?
DM: I think it's important. This is, to me, truly a team sport. Yes, in basketball there are assists from point guards and you have to switch defensively. In football, someone could take on two blockers and that frees up a linebacker to make a tackle.
But this sport is not just being a teammate in the game, but also the length of time you're together with your teammates. Anytime you can influence these guys to think about 'us' and not just 'me,' it's a good thing. That's the way Ryno was as a player. That's the way he exhibits his leadership. And I'm not saying Charlie didn't. This is talking about Ryno. Because he had so much personal success and because so many people think of the Hall of Famers' last step as entering the Hall of Fame, here is somebody who has gone from that background to go spend six years as a minor-league manager, you get a lot of respect from that. It's the respect from riding the buses.
Ryno has demonstrated he has the personality for it. He is accepting what it takes to get this opportunity.
INQ: Do you regret anything about the timing of Charlie's dismissal or the way it happened?
DM: You know, I don't. Everyone has the vantage point of looking back and saying, 'What if?' The reality is, we clearly owed Charlie an awful lot for the nine years he was our manager. Two years before that gave him that opportunity. There is an analogy there. One of the things that impressed us was the way Charlie interfaced with our minor-league staff when he came over here [as an adviser].
I said this to Charlie on the afternoon it happened. He was the manager during the best period of Philly baseball. You can line up that '76 through '83 period with Charlie's nine years and there a lot of analogies; five times in the postseason, twice to the Series and to win one. I said, 'Charlie, the difference was that period had three managers. You were the manager through this whole period.'
It is important that we have a relationship with Charlie. We're having discussions, obviously, and we'll see where they lead as far as finding the right role to stay with us. But forget working for us, I told him, 'I just don't want you to wait until 2018 and have a 10-year anniversary of the 2008 World Series to come in here. I want what has been your home for 11 years to continue to be a place you want to be and feel welcomed.'
I almost think had anything come earlier, I'm not so sure... some people think when we did it was disrespectful. But to do it much earlier than that would have really been...
We were not the club we envisioned to be in either of the last two years coming out of spring training. I probably would have been very accepting of letting Charlie finish the year. But I think we owed him, when Charlie asked if he was going to be renewed, an honest answer.
INQ: When did you find out?
DM: I remember. I was up in Cooperstown because we were having league meetings there. Ruben called me on Wednesday afternoon and said he had a conversation with Charlie. He had several conversations with him. He gave me a summary of where things were. I said, 'Well I certainly want to be back in Philadelphia when we're doing something like this.' I had one more day in Cooperstown. And it was an off day. So it came Friday; that was the appropriate time.
INQ: Was there any consulting of ownership in a decision like that?
DM: Ruben is pretty good of keeping me informed. We let part of our partnership know. I'm a chain of command person. I believe the clubhouse is the manager's. He should be the presence there. Ruben's responsibility is all of baseball operations, including the decision on the manager. My role as president and CEO is to make the global decisions, including the GM decision and other senior personnel. If you get out of that chain of command, you can have problems.
INQ: Given that chain of command, Ruben is under contract next year, but will he be back?
DM: Oh, Ruben is our general manager.
INQ: What is your confidence level in him being the guy to turn it around?
DM: I guess I have a broader perspective than other people do. I've seen Ruben at work since 1999. I've seen the diligence he's put in as an assistant GM. I think he benefited greatly from the opportunity to work under two very good, but very different general managers in style with Ed [Wade] and Pat [Gillick]. It's good we have both of their services still involved.
One of the things Ruben has done well is, we make decisions. That's a good thing. Where you get in trouble in life is if you start to think you should make decisions and the people working for you should support your decision. We listen to the opinions of others and then we make decisions together, that's a good thing. It's probably one of the best lessons Ruben learned from Pat. One of Pat's strongest attributes as a general manager was he was a good listener. He wanted to make sure everybody expressed their opinion on a potential deal or talent evaluation or projection. Ruben has done well with that.
Have we had some bumps in the road the last few years? No question. Sometimes people look back and ask, 'Why did they pick up so-and-so?' Well they are probably missing the predicate as to why we did it. I had a couple people say to me, 'It's a shame you didn't give Ruf at-bats all year.' Well, yeah, it is as it turned out. But we didn't go into spring training thinking both Domonic [Brown] and Darin Ruf could be our corner outfielders. So we wanted to bring a veteran. Domonic won the job in spring training. Then Delmon [Young] came. Darin probably benefited from his time [in the minors] — he certainly needed time in the outfield. Now you look at it and say, 'Why would you have bothered with that other guy?' If you knew in January what you know today, why bother? But you don't know those things.
It's the same thing with Michael Young. To know Michael Young was almost a blessing for me. He's another high-caliber player. I did not see him at the peak of his career, but he is also a quality individual. You need good people to set the example, particularly when you are bringing young people into the clubhouse. You need the Michael Youngs to set the example. You need the Kevin Frandsens to have enthusiasm for the game. That, to me, makes the team experience a positive one and gives you a better chance of getting the most out of your group.
INQ: So if there is a managerial change and Ruben stays in place, do there need to be other front-office changes in the evaluation staff?
DM: You know, Marti Wolever has been picking our amateur talent for a long time. And he picked some pretty good ones. The same group that identified Jayson Werth to be a pretty good rightfielder when nobody else was chasing him is still the game people identifying that talent today. My point is we make decisions and we make them at that moment in time to fill an element of the club that all of a sudden becomes a more important element because someone else is hurt. Look at our bullpen. Someone you expected to have a sixth- or seventh-inning role, all of a sudden in July, he's pitching the eighth inning.
Now, they're performing in the eighth inning. Who knows what the future is? But both [B.J. Rosenberg] and Jake [Diekman] are clearly benefiting from the fact they believe the club has confidence in their ability. You have to grow into those opportunities.
INQ: Do you envision being a player this winter in the free-agent market?
DM: Our decisions will be based on what we see to be needs and best opportunities to fill them. We have, over time, transitioned from the same nucleus. We only saw Ben [Revere] for half a year but the May and June Ben was an interesting person. The Domonic who played through the All-Star Game and shortly thereafter is certainly a big-league player. The fact that Cody [Asche] has joined us and shown on both sides of the ball he can handle being on this level. Then, how do you fill the other openings? The rotation, behind the plate, in the outfield.
We have a lot more evaluation to do before we can say, 'This is the way.' We will be active. We just don't know how. It has become tougher and tougher to depend upon free agency to improve your club. And the reason for that is not economics. The reason for that is the talented young players are now increasingly being locked up by their clubs. Five years ago, maybe Andrew McCutchen is coming out. But those players are not right now. Frankly, I think it's good for the game. If I step back and say forget what we need, it's good for baseball when players make commitments to stay. Chase indicated his desire to be a one-team career player. If the Pirates can hang onto an Andrew McCutchen, that's a good thing.
The teams who have taken gambles on the bigger names, particularly the guys advanced in their careers, it really hasn't panned out for them.
INQ: It comes back to drafting and development, right?
DM: If somehow we can pick up three or four positions with a player in their 20s who can handle that position going forward, that's the type of change [needed]. There was so much discussion about whether we needed to clean house and go totally young. But I think — and I could be wrong — there is a way to do that where you still have the positive veteran influence.
The analogy I draw from is: If you have a college team, it's nice to have all seniors. But then the future doesn't look good. And if you have all freshmen, it's going to take a while to gel. We had some talented players. They all happened to be the same age. They really did. Jayson, Shane [Victorino], Jimmy, Chase, Ryan and the other starting pitchers, they were all within 18 months of each other. Even though we had talent, they were all marching along together. Some would say it's time to totally turn the page. I still enjoy watching Chase Utley play second base.
INQ: Have negotiations begun on a television contract?
DM: We are in a position where we can only talk to our incumbent. We are having some discussions. I don't know how fruitful they will be.
INQ: Why is that?
DM: Contractually, we have a period of time with Comcast where we can only talk to them about a renewal.
INQ: But you can talk to others before the deal expires?
DM: Oh sure.
INQ: Why are the talks not fruitful?
DM: We'll see.
INQ: What sort of moment is that for this organization?
DM: It's an opportunity. The only thing I will cautious is, compared to others, we've had a nice deal. You see some situations where clubs have had a substandard deal. We've enjoyed a very solid relationship with Comcast ever since we were a part of forming Comcast SportsNet in 1996. Yes, we are coming to the end of the current deal. Yes, we are in a period of time to only speak to them. We'll see whether we can take advantage of that.
INQ: It expires after the 2015 season, right?
INQ: Is there a possibility of an ownership stake in the network?
DM: Possibility. But we'll see where it really leads.
INQ: You've talked about brand and name recognition with fans. Does Carlos Ruiz hold the same status as Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley?
DM: I think Chooch has been a very popular player, no question about that. We've watched him the last four years. The season he had a year ago, he carried us. There is no question about that. It was tough being without him to start this year. As a result of that, there was more pressure he put on himself when he returned. It didn't happen for him when he first came back. But he has sure played well for us in the last couple of months. We'll have to see where that road leads to.
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