NEW YORK — Phillies president Andy MacPhail can’t hide his frustration of presiding over a team with the worst record in baseball.
Hired on June 29, 2015, MacPhail was hoping for more progress at this point, although he insists he didn’t enter this season with unrealistic expectations. He also didn’t expect the Phillies to be owners of a 26-51 record entering their weekend series at Citi Field against the New York Mets.
“I didn’t expect us to contend, quite honestly, and thought it was a stretch we would get to .500, [but] the fact we struggled as much as we have is disappointing, particularly when you consider we made some effort to avoid this very thing,” MacPhail said during an expansive pregame interview with reporters in the Phillies dugout.
Some of those things included bringing in several veterans whose contracts expire after this season. Two of them — outfielder Michael Saunders, who has since been released, and pitcher Clay Buchholz, who has been sidelined since mid-April with a torn flexor tendon in his right forearm — were failed moves.
— Marc Narducci (@sjnard) June 30, 2017
Others have worked. Reliever Pat Neshek, with a 0.59 ERA, is a likely all-star. Howie Kendrick, despite being place on the disabled list on Friday with a left hamstring strain, is hitting .349. Outfielder Daniel Nava (.283) has been solid. Reliever Joaquin Benoit (4.12 ERA) has been up and down.
“If you are fishing in the one-year free-agent waters and fishing in the end of multi-year contract waters, you are not going bat 1.000,” MacPhail said.
What has surprised MacPhail is that the team has regressed, something he expected a year ago.
“We are having the year this year that I thought we were going to have last year,” he said. “I was really prepared for ’16 to be dreadful because we had moved everything.”
That included dealing franchise pitcher Cole Hamels at the July 31 trade deadline in 2015.
MacPhail said that no player in the organization, with the Phillies or in the minor leagues, is untouchable.
“Why would we want to limit our horizons with where we are now?” he asked.
He said the Phillies would consider anything to improve, even signing high-profile free agents for 2018.
If general manager Matt Klentak “sees something that he sees is part of the long-term picture and he feels like it is definitely a hole we need to fill that we don’t have internal answers, I absolutely see that,” MacPhail said.
MacPhail says that when outfielder Nick Williams was called up on Friday, he became the ninth player to make his major-league debut this season with the Phillies — all before the midway point of the season.
“So we are introducing the new faces we got,” he said.
And it likely will continue.
“The interesting thing to me is that you’ve got so many guys who are well thought of in the upper levels of the farm system,” he said. “You are almost obligated to let them come up here to see how close they are.”
When asked if the Phillies are further away from contention than before the season, MacPhail replied, “We are going to find out by the end of the year. We have a lot of unknowns.”
One thing MacPhail won’t do is predict — or even guess — when the Phillies will return to contender status.
“You are not going to get an answer on that,” he said.
He has no doubt that the Phillies’ rebuild will pay dividends.
“When I started, you guys would ask. ‘Is the rebuild going to work?’ ” he said. “You don’t ask that question anymore. You ask, ‘When is it going to work?’ It is documented. Who is going through this that hasn’t been rewarded in the postseason?”
Williams big day
Nick Williams emerged from the dugout a few hours before Friday’s game. He looked around Citi Field and declared, “This is pretty awesome.”
It was all part of a memorable day, with Williams making his major-league debut, batting sixth and playing left field.
“It’s the best feeling I have ever had in my life,” he said before the game.”
— Marc Narducci (@sjnard) June 30, 2017
Williams was recalled from Lehigh Valley after Kendrick was placed on the 10-day disabled list (retroactive to June 28).
Phillies manager Pete Mackanin says that as long as Williams is with the Phillies, he will be kept busy.
“He is going to play as often as I can play him,” Mackanin said. “I might sit him against a tough lefty, to get him off to a good start and go from there.”
Williams batted .280 with 15 home runs, 44 RBIs and an .839 OPS this season at triple A.