There is only one way to work in professional baseball for 50 years, as Phillies manager Pete Mackanin will have done next season, and that is to show up every day and hope the days can pile that high.
This is the best job he's ever had, and Mackanin has plenty of handy comparisons. After his playing career ended, he had been up and down the ranks of a half dozen organizations. He's been a scout, a minor league coordinator, a minor league manager at every level, a major-league coach, an interim major-league manager twice (three times counting the Phils), and, now, at 65, time and place has finally conspired to find him what looks to be a home.
Show up every day, keep moving, and years become decades, and decades can become 50 years. A man can form a philosophy out of that, and Mackanin certainly has.
"As a manager, what I like to do is I like to think about the game, and I don't like to look toward the future. I don't want to worry about the past because all you can do as a manager is win a game on a daily basis," he said. "I try to remind players of the same thing. You have to have a short memory, and have you to play in the moment."
Mackanin had a short memory every time he needed to change organizations. He also had a realistic view of the future, particularly that it could only arrive after today was finished.
The Phillies like the way Mackanin thinks, even as their todays are overshadowed, hopefully, by their tomorrows. General manager Matt Klentak announced Thursday that the team had extended Mackanin's contract through the 2018 season with a club option for the following year. For a guy who waited a long time for security and an organization to take a chance on him with its biggest field job, that sounds like a lot.
There is no guarantee Mackanin will still be around when the Phillies are contenders again, just as there is no guarantee that the current building program will bear fruit. Klentak did put the players on notice with this move, however. You better play for this guy, because he's not going anywhere soon.
"I can certainly envision it. I'd like to be here," Mackanin said, asked about being around for the long ride to the top. "I've got that National League championship ring from 2009 in my first year as a coach here, and I'd like to get another one. Let's wait and see. The way to get there is to win games on a daily basis. So right now, I'm concerned about tomorrow's game, and we'll go from there."
Klentak says Mackanin has "grown into the job," which seems a little strange, given that Mackanin had managed an awful lot of games already when he replaced Ryne Sandberg in June, 2015. But nothing can really prepare a man for sitting in that office every day, with every result reflecting on your ability. If he worried that this was just another placeholder assignment - which happened to him in both Cincinnati and Pittsburgh - it never showed.
"If I were 50 years old when it all first happened, I would have been a little bit of a nervous wreck," Mackanin said. "I probably would have been a little more concerned about my future. However, because I got this later in life, I just chose to take it for what it's worth and enjoy every minute of it. That's what I'm doing. I'd like to believe that rubs off on the players.
"Back in the old days, it was, 'I'm the manager. That's why you're not playing. Get out of my office.' It doesn't work any more. I want the players to respect me and like playing for me. But at the same time, I want them to be accountable. . . . It's kind of a funny relationship. But it's one I think I have nurtured. That's my style."
Different styles work. The Phillies have won the World Series twice, once with a drill sergeant in charge and once with a folksy uncle. Both of those were veteran teams, both a little hard to handle, but each responded to the manager. The only style that won't work is one that is manufactured for the moment. Pete Mackanin's style works for this developing team not because he is too harsh or too friendly but because he is himself.
"Pete is the manager," Klentak said. "There's no time frame on that. And I have every hope and confidence that as we turn this thing around and the wins start coming, he's going to be right here."
That's as far as security really goes for a manager in this game. Everyone "hopes" it will work out, but no one really knows. Mackanin is more aware of that than most. So far, though, this stop has worked out the best, even though he's only been at it 50 years.