PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies general partner, president and chief executive officer David Montgomery gave the opening remarks on Thursday for the annual Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) Convention, staged this year at the Marriott Hotel on Market Street in Center City.
It was a grey, dreary and rainy day outside, but the 67-year old Philly native was his usual charming self, spinning tales about the Phillies old and new to an audience of about 500. Montgomery has been working in one capacity or another for the Phillies since 1971, starting off in season-ticket sales.
"From 1975-83, we enjoyed a wonderful period of success," Montgomery told the crowd. "We had nine straight winning seasons, five times we won the NL East, twice got to the World Series, and won it once . For those of you doing numbers, I think we had a .560 winning percentage during that period of time.
"Well, believe it or not, we just repeated that in the nine years prior to last year. We had nine consecutive winning seasons. We had five [division] championships. We went to the World Series twice and, of course, won one of those . For those of you who follow the cycles in our sport, apparently there's such a thing in Philadelphia."
On their way to perhaps the second consecutive season without making the playoffs, the Phillies' braintrust, headed by Montgomery and general manager Ruben Amaro, is trying to determine how to start that cycle anew.
MLB.com: The Phillies didn't make any moves at the non-waiver Trade Deadline. Why not?
Montgomery: Well, as Ruben said last night, the discussions we had and the offers we had just didn't warrant making a move. The reality is, and the marketplace was such, that there wasn't a whole lot of activity. And since the types of deals we were talking about were second tier, if you know what I mean, I think as the day wound on, some folks ran out of time. They were focusing on one thing and it did or it didn't happen for them. We just knew going in that there probably wasn't going to be a whole lot of opportunity. At the same time, our goal is to improve. Our goal is to improve for today and tomorrow. What we heard from people didn't seem to make sense.
MLB.com: It's hard to get this "buy or sell" thing just because of your position in the playoff race. Isn't it true that if you sell off players, you're going to have to replace them in the offseason, sometimes at a lesser level?
Montgomery: You know better than anybody that injuries are a huge part of things. For us to evaluate our club right now, it's not our club. What I mean by that, I'm a great believer in balance. We probably weren't as good as we were when we went 9-4 heading into the break and probably not as bad as going 2-9 coming out of the break. The reality is we have to get the pieces we were counting on back together, including Domonic (Brown) and Cliff (Lee) pitching again, including Ben Revere and hopefully Ryan (Howard), to evaluate what that team means to us and then make decisions accordingly.
People said we brought Cody Asche up because we were trading Michael Young. No. That wasn't the case. It's time we look at Cody Asche as a third baseman in order to evaluate if he can help us next year or not.
MLB.com: Well, your last two seasons have been injury filled. You opened last season with Howard and Chase Utley out for the first half, and Roy Halladay missed a month. Now, Halladay has been out a good portion of the season after shoulder surgery, and you just documented the other ongoing injuries.
Montgomery: Last year we were short to start. It was different because we kept saying, "When we get Ryan back, when we get Ut back, we think we can be a stronger club." And, of course, we played a lot better in the second half. Time will tell whether that will happen again. Everybody, in my mind, views us as if we have two options: we're caught either buying or selling. I just believe that every opportunity you have to talk to another team, you have to independently decide whether it's an improvement for either today or tomorrow. As it turned out, we just didn't see those types of deals out there.
MLB.com: You're like the Yankees now. The Phillies are in a market where you can't tell your fans you're going into a five-year growth pattern.
Montgomery: That's right. We want to build on the fan identification we have with some players. Our offense hasn't given us what we hoped for this year. We're hoping that our veterans are going to combine with our younger talent and that's going to eventually make the difference. When Ben and Domonic were in the lineup, we were pretty good. Ben had a tough April, but he began producing at the top of the lineup there until sadly he broke that knob bone in his ankle. You want to evaluate when you have more of your club together than when you're in a situation like we are right now.
MLB.com: You touched a little bit on this in your address to the group. What do you think of the propensity throughout the game of signing players to long-term contracts? You've done that here. Howard is a good example. You don't know if he'll ever be the same player, but you owe him $85 million long term.
Montgomery: And you touched on it. I'll go back to your question about the expectations of our fans here. Last year, the question I got from fans everywhere I went was, "When are you going to sign Cole Hamels?" We finally signed him, but what's he, 4-13? He hasn't had a lot of run support. He's not a 4-13 pitcher. My point is, you pick and choose. You take a nucleus like we have that's had great success and pick those elements you want to keep as long as possible. You hope that you select those players long-term who have the good fortune to be healthy and productive throughout their contract. Sometimes you're going to be right. Not always.
MLB.com: What's manager Charlie Manuel's future? He's at the end of his contract.
Montgomery: Well, I think as we've said all along, Charlie and Ruben have talked, and we just decided that we have enough going on out there this year that the best course was to see what happens this season.
MLB.com: Would it be tough to move out a guy who is the winningest manager in Phillies history, who clearly wants to continue managing?
Montgomery: Well, we're not necessarily talking about moving him out. We just decided, "Let's see how the year plays out, and then we'll take it from there."