PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies launched a new era Monday afternoon when ownership partner John Middleton introduced Andy MacPhail as the team's next president.
MacPhail's arrival is a significant change for the organization. Middleton's involvement with the announcement is, too.
"I think this is the first time that you've ever gone outside your organization to put somebody in a position like this," MacPhail told Middleton in a nearly 40-minute news conference at Citizens Bank Park. "I am extremely flattered that you considered me. I'm a little bit surprised you hired me because I've been out for a few years, but I'm glad anyway."
MacPhail will replace Pat Gillick as president shortly after the end of the 2015 season, which comes Oct. 4. In the meantime, MacPhail will be an adviser. He said he will take the next three-plus months "to read, to watch and to listen. Hopefully within the three months I'll have a clear idea of what I think is appropriate and needs to be done."
"I don't like the word evaluate," MacPhail said. "I like the word learn. I got three months to learn what I need to learn. I think it's way premature to make personnel decisions. I don't need to have people I know around me. I don't think the record shows that I'm a guy that, four people get let go the minute that I'm in there. But they are case-by-case decisions. Once you get a feel on how your club needs to proceed, then you get a better idea of who you think can execute what you think you have to execute."
Plenty needs to be done. The Phillies have the worst record in baseball, despite one of the highest payrolls in the game. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr.'s contract expires at the end of the season. His fate must be decided, as well as the fate of the entire baseball operations staff, which will be evaluated top to bottom.
Gillick replaced longtime president David Montgomery in August as he recovered from jaw bone cancer surgery. Gillick said at the time he would serve as long as ownership needed him, but the reality is Gillick, 77, never intended to be president for long. So Middleton and the organization's other two ownership partners -- Jim and Pete Buck -- began talking to MacPhail in the winter about replacing Gillick.
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They had reasons to be interested. MacPhail served as the Twins' general manager when Minnesota won the 1987 and '91 World Series. He joined the Cubs as their president and CEO in '94, guiding the Cubs to two postseason appearances in 12 years. MacPhail most recently served as the Orioles' president of baseball operations, making some of the trades that helped resurrect the franchise and get them back to the postseason.
"When the three of us went out and started talking to people in Major League Baseball to solicit names, what surprised us was every single person without exception listed Andy MacPhail as No. 1," Middleton said. "There was nobody else who was No. 1 on any person's list. And that was extraordinary."
Middleton said MacPhail has done an excellent job of keeping up with the changing trends in MLB, which includes the use of analytics. Middleton repeatedly mentioned the Phillies' need for more analytics in player-personnel evaluations and decisions.
"I'm always amazed that more people don't do this, because even if you were a skeptic, you need to understand that stuff just to know how your opponents were thinking," MacPhail said. "It has always been part of everywhere that I've been."
This is a critical time for the Phillies. They are rebuilding, and they have several veterans they can trade to speed up that process, with Cole Hamels and Jonathan Papelbon leading the way. MacPhail will advise Gillick and Amaro about potential trades before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, but Gillick has final say until October.
"When it ultimately comes to it, I'm going to make the call," Gillick said.
"It's really critical that Andy participates in these decisions, whether or not he's actually making them," Middleton said. "He needs to see the dynamics between people, listen to the way they talk and how they interact with each other. He needs to ask questions. And that's why I said about using the next three months to learn the organization. That's what I said about listening and observing. I think it's critical that he's part of those conversations.
"That's why we made the decision now. We wanted to make it as soon as we possibly could make it, because we wanted to get Andy involved in the organization as soon as possible and with the most amount of time so he could possibly learn before it was turned over to him."
Middleton's presence at the news conference was meaningful. He and the team's other ownership partners have avoided the spotlight in the past.
"I think when you make a decision of that magnitude, I think the ownership group has to come forward and understand that they are the ones making the decision," Middleton said. "We own this decision. … The ownership group has shrunk. The Bucks and my family have an increasingly larger position. And with that comes a bigger level of responsibility than it was 20 years ago, and with that, you have to step up.
"Andy is going to have complete decision-making authority, just as Pat has and David had and Bill [Giles] had before David. You don't want us making baseball decisions, trust us. But we're going to be asking questions of the people who are involved in that process of getting information, sifting through it and making the decision. We need to be comfortable that they are crossing their T's and dotting the I's. And that's not going to change."