GM Klentak discusses Phillies' 2018 campaign
PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies have spent the past couple weeks trying to explain why they collapsed the final two months of the 2018 season.
They have offered several theories, but the simplest explanation may be best: perhaps the Phillies simply needed better talent. Phillies general manager Matt Klentak essentially acknowledged that point Monday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park, where he offered his thoughts on the season, including why Phillies manager Gabe Kapler needed to make so many lineup and pitching changes throughout the year.
"This team just rolled out there in a conventional style would not have made the playoffs," Klentak said. "In fact, it would have been worse than this year's team. The fact that we've outperformed our run differential as much as we have I think speaks to the fact that we probably did pretty well in the area of putting our players in the best positions to succeed. As the roster evolves and we have more 'regular players,' I think you'll see that less and less. But the roster this year kind of dictated that that's the way we behave, and we will adjust that behavior moving forward as necessary."
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The Phillies are expected to make "significant changes" to the roster before Spring Training, Klentak said. They are prepared to pursue superstar free agents Manny Machado and Bryce Harper. They could trade Odubel Herrera, Cesar Hernandez, Maikel Franco and others. They could trade some of their organizational pitching depth to fill holes, too.
They could do anything, really.
"We know that this club needs to improve," Klentak said. "We are not just going to run back with the same 40-man roster next year that we finished this season with."
But, he said, the Phillies are better than the one that finished 37-36 to end their 2017 campaign.
"Without question," he said. "We won 14 more games than we did the year before. We won 80 games. We're not raising any flags for that. I understand that, but I think our organization is in pretty good shape."
The Phillies have mentioned recently that they had the youngest Opening Day roster in baseball, that they spent much of last offseason hiring a manager and assembling a coaching staff, that they were not prepared for the grind of meaningful baseball in August and September. But those explanations raised questions, too.
The National League East-champion Braves are a young team. Can youth really explain so much of the Phillies' struggles? The Phillies aren't the first team to hire a manager and coaching staff in the offseason. Can the timing of those hires really have affected the team's play that much? A big theme for Kapler in Spring Training and early in the season was keeping his players physical and mentally strong throughout the season. What happened there?
"I'm not going to apologize for the way we conducted business this year," Klentak said. "For organizations to move forward, they need to push the envelope. Look across the street in both directions. Look at the Eagles and look at the Sixers. These are not teams that have done things in traditional ways or conventional ways for the last few years. In one case, they are the Super Bowl champions, and in the other case, they might be the most exciting, promising young team in the NBA, and it's not because they did everything traditionally.
"We were projected to win 74, 76, maybe 78 games. That team isn't going to go the playoffs if you just run the players out there and play traditional baseball absent of some incredibly good fortune. That's why I say that when those are your expectations, that's a good year to try things. As time goes on and the roster becomes more and more talented and they gain more and more experience, we will get to a point where we won't need nor want to experiment quite as much. I would expect with the combination of an improved roster next year and an adjustable manager will mean we don't push the envelope quite as much."