MIAMI - Pete Mackanin has the unique distinction of having served as an interim manager for three teams. In each of the first two instances, with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds, he was passed over for the permanent gig.
But as of Tuesday morning, Mackanin could finally say he held the title he had sought for years. Incoming Phillies president Andy MacPhail tabbed Mackanin, a 64-year-old baseball lifer, to guide the team's youthful roster through at least the next season of the organization's rebuild. Mackanin's contract extension includes a club option for 2017.
"At some point I had given up the thought that I would one day do this, and now I've got an opportunity," said Mackanin, who took over as the Phillies' interim manager when Ryne Sandberg resigned June 26.
"I'm just going to do the best I can, manage the way I know how to manage. That's the only thing I can do, do things the way I know how to do them and let the chips fall where they may."
With MacPhail lifting the interim tag, Mackanin officially became the 53d manager in Phillies history. He was former manager Charlie Manuel's bench coach from 2009 to 2012 and the third-base coach under Sandberg from the beginning of last season to June.
MacPhail and interim general manager Scott Proefrock interviewed Mackanin on Saturday in Atlanta, where the Phillies played a three-game series. They also met with first-base coach Juan Samuel on Friday. Samuel, 54, served as interim manager for MacPhail with the Baltimore Orioles in 2010. Mackanin had the advantage that MacPhail had witnessed the increased energy level of the players under the skipper's watch.
After a 6-2 over the Marlins in Tuesday's series opener the Phillies have a 31-46 record under Mackanin. They opened the second half of the season with a 21-12 stretch. When Sandberg quit, the team was 26-48.
Good-humored and often sarcastic, Mackanin relates well to his players. His ability to speak Spanish helps him communicate with the Phillies' many Latin American players.
The unanimous reaction around the clubhouse to Tuesday's news was one of excitement.
"I think Pete does a good job of keeping things loose," veteran Jeff Francoeur said. "But at the same time, we know when we need to pick it up or need a kick in the butt."
"It's about effort and energy. It's about enthusiasm," said MacPhail, who is set to officially succeed Pat Gillick next month. "You never want to cede a game. We're always competitive. You want to win every game you play. But at the same time this franchise finds itself in a position where a lot of young players are going to get opportunities. We need to nurture them in such a way where they grow to be as good as they possibly can be, and we have to make sure we have the right people around them to achieve that goal."
It is rare for a team to hire a manager before a general manager, but MacPhail did not want a managerial search on the heels of a GM search, which would cost the front office a big chunk of the offseason. In the end, the former boss of the Minnesota Twins, Chicago Cubs, and Baltimore Orioles will have final say on decisions anyway.
MacPhail said Tuesday that his GM search, which began Sept. 10 when Ruben Amaro Jr. was fired, is still in its "early stages" but that his goal remains to make a hire before the team's annual organizational meetings begin Oct. 26. MacPhail revealed he has interviewed one candidate but declined to identify him.
"I thought in earnest that process would start probably first week after the season," he said. "I know there are some teams out there have openings and they're actively interviewing. But I'm pretty confident that there is a lot of talent out there that would make any organization better if we decide to go externally. I would think the first week of October after the season would be when it would get to be more heavy."
It's likely no announcements will be made on the current coaches until after the season. Mackanin will have input on his staff.
"I've never had the opportunity to run a spring training camp and insert the type of things that I want done," Mackanin said. "Every manager has a certain way of doing things. Certain things are more important to one guy than they are to another. I'm looking forward to instituting my way of doing things starting from spring training on to set the tone."