Less than two weeks after surgery to remove cancer from his right jawbone, David Montgomery attended the Phillies' predraft planning meeting in late May. The team's president has missed few days of work since then and polls his baseball people on a regular basis, even as he recovers from the significant procedure.
The next month could hold big changes for the team with a payroll of more than $180 million that is on pace to win just 73 games. Montgomery believes the current executives in place, including general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., are capable of overseeing those decisions.
"I just believe that group of people gave us the successful period we had," Montgomery said earlier this week. "They had different roles in it. I know people focus on Ruben's role having changed vis-a-vis 2009 vs. 2008. But I talked to Pat Gillick about our club this morning. Pat Gillick sat in that entire draft. It's not like we're not benefiting from the thinking of the same people we had before. That's why you have to look at the whole body of work. Have we been served well? My answer to that is yes."
Amaro has drawn criticism for delaying a rebuilding process as the Phillies struggle for the third consecutive season with an older roster. The general manager has often alluded to his tenuous job status, although Amaro is under contract through 2015, and Montgomery gave him a vote of confidence.
Montgomery, who will turn 68 next week, said he won't assume a larger role in baseball matters this July - he estimated 80 percent of his time is spent on the franchise's business operations - but acknowledged that the Phillies must prepare for all scenarios.
If the Phillies do not make the postseason in 2014, they will have spent some $525 million in payroll (when calculated for luxury-tax purposes) on three teams that were inactive in October.
"We don't view our operating philosophy as changing a whole lot, because the goal of getting good and staying good remains," said Montgomery, who declined to answer questions about his health. "What is the acceptance level in a bigger market? We just want our fans to believe we are trying to do the best for both today and tomorrow."
Montgomery did not want to apply the word "rebuilding" because, he said, "that word may mean things to certain people." There is focus on the future.
"We're constantly focusing on what our 2016 ball club will look like," Montgomery said. "And that doesn't have some of the names that are out there now. Now, when you're planning and thinking about 2016, does that mean you're thinking about rebuilding in 2014? Well, if you don't move people, [a fan's] view would be, 'No, they're not rebuilding. They're being stubborn.'
"Do we know where the road is going to lead? Absolutely not. . . . The goal, it never changes. The goal is to pay attention to both today and tomorrow, and to do what's right in both cases. The only way you do that is to be prepared."
Montgomery, president since 1997, runs an organization known for its loyalty. Its employees and champions cherish that principle; its critics assail it as a contributing factor in stagnation. Montgomery pointed to his dismissal of Ed Wade in 2005 as proof of his ability to adjust. Wade, upon being fired as general manager, said he had become a "lightning rod for criticism for the organization." Montgomery, in 2005, said he listened to fans.
"I don't find loyalty to be a bad trait," Montgomery said this week. "If loyalty to a fault means you don't want to make a change, why would I have ever asked Ed Wade to step down? My resumé speaks for myself. Ed and I were probably as close as a club president and general manager can be, as far as lockstep in thinking. Yet a time came when a change was made, and I had to make it. . . . I don't think it's blind loyalty."
Montgomery lamented that Amaro was being blamed by fans for the Phillies' recent problems when, he said, "it's a joint effort." But Amaro has become another lightning rod, much like Wade in 2005.
"I just try to pay attention," Montgomery said. "I think we have pretty good people doing these jobs. We saw, over a long period, pretty good success with this group of people. Obviously, Ruben is part of that group."