Now that the Eagles season is essentially over, we can look forward to hopefully brighter things in the Philly Sports scene. One of the brighter notes right now are the Phillies. They hired a new general manager Matt Klentak. Klentak has wasted no time with making things happen either. They’ve made a bunch of trades, including trading stud reliever Ken Giles away. For the first time in what seems like forever, the Phillies re-build process seems to be heading in the right direction.
The first step to fixing a problem is accepting that you have a problem in the first place. The Phillies did that when they fired Ruben Amaro, Jr., who is now the first base coach of the Boston Red Sox. Klentak recently sat down with Todd Zolecki to discuss his first couple of months on the job. Here’s the full interview courtesy of phillies.mlb.com.
Q: Have these first few weeks been a whirlwind for you?
A: I would say the early stages felt like a whirlwind. I think probably in the last few weeks, things have gotten down to a bit more of a normal pace. But I’ve been very pleased with what we’ve been able to accomplish in a relatively short period of time. Some of those are more apparent, just in looking at the way our roster has taken shape. I’ve also been pleased behind the scenes with some of the subtle adjustments we’ve been able to make to our process and just getting to know the group and the way that the group has rallied together.
Q: Has the job been what you expected, or have you learned anything new?
A: I think we’re all products of our environments and our backgrounds, so naturally having had several different bosses and mentors over the years I’ve been able to see the industry through a few different lenses. I think the job is definitely different sitting in the GM chair because ultimately the final decision comes down to you. That is certainly a difference from what I’m used to, but it’s not something that was unexpected. That’s obviously part of the job and I knew that coming in.
Q: You mentioned being exhausted after the Winter Meetings, where you worked on the Giles trade. What was that week like?
A: The Winter Meetings are exhausting no matter what you do or don’t do. And then when you add on working all week to make a pretty significant trade, yeah, there’s very little exercise, you’re eating bad food, you’re not sleeping very much, there’s tons of meetings. I came down with a pretty nasty cold by the end of it, but I think that’s the way the Winter Meetings go more often than not anyway. But when you add on a fairly big trade as we were working on with Houston, that seems to shift things even further.
So it was exhausting, but I was very pleased. Not only with the outcome of the trade, but with the way that our group gathered together and rallied together to allow us to make an informed decision and make the best deal that we were able to make.
Q: When you’re in the moment, do you feel any pressure of it being your first significant trade as GM?
A: Not on a personal level. I think we all recognized that this was an important trade for us, whether we made it or not. If we had kept Ken Giles, that was going to be important to us as well. In the moment when you’re working on a big trade or a smaller transaction, I think you have to strip out the emotion of it. You have to strip out the significance and just execute a plan.
We knew from the very early stages of the offseason that trading Ken Giles was going to be a possibility. We knew what the interest was throughout the industry. Ultimately, we knew generally speaking what we were going to demand in player return if that was going to play out. We maintained our discipline. We worked through it and ultimately we pulled off a trade that we feel really good about.
Q: Are you pretty pleased with the way you’ve executed your offseason plan?
A: I have been pleased with that. The two keys for us heading into the offseason were pitching and balance. And I think we’ve been able to achieve both goals. We’ve added pitching both of the veteran variety and some younger arms — some with higher floors and some with higher ceilings. And I feel as though going into 2016, but likely heading into ’17 and beyond, we’ve helped to build the foundation of pitching in our organization. I’ve said this before, but if you can pitch, you have a chance to win every single night. That’s something we’re going to be focused on for years. That’s going to be critically important to this franchise as we move forward.
Q: Phillies president Andy MacPhail said recently he believes the Phillies will be able to find hitters when it comes time to add them. I assume you feel the same way?
A: I think that’s right. Hitters generally regard our park as a good place to play. I know that our ownership is very committed — and will be in the future — to bringing in the right players and the top-caliber players to help us. We need to make sure that we are doing our job by providing the foundation, particularly in the pitching department, that allows us to do the other things that we need to do.
With the moves that Klentak has made so far, coupled with the report that Ryan Howard is named in an alleged doping ring and that he could be potentially removed from the lineup because of a possible suspension, if true, it certainly looks like there will be opportunity for this team to move forward in a way that best suits their future. What do you guys think about the job that Klentak has done so far? Let us know on social media.