When Andy MacPhail was introduced Monday as the Philadelphia Phillies' next president of baseball operations, the 62-year-old executive knew what he was getting into. A former general manager of the Minnesota Twins and president of the Chicago Cubs and Baltimore Orioles, MacPhail is no stranger to rebuilding efforts.
At the beginning of next season, the veteran executive will be tasked with just that as he inherits a Phillies team with the worst record in Major League Baseball (27-53) in the midst of its fourth straight year missing the postseason.
Although he will serve as a "special assistant" to current team president Pat Gillick for the next three months, MacPhail will assume control of the organization at the season's end.
If the Phillies want to get back to their winning ways that saw five consecutive National League East crowns from 2007 to 2011 and a franchise-record 102 wins in the latter year, there might not be a better man for the job than MacPhail, whose resume includes three decades' worth of rebuilding experience.
MacPhail took over as the Twins' GM in 1985 and promptly built a national contender that would win World Series titles in 1987, their first in 63 years, and 1991.
Next it was on to Chicago where, in 1994 as president and CEO of the Cubs, he took over a historically cursed franchise—one run so poorly that Greg Maddux left in free agency and Ryne Sandberg retired midseason before MacPhail could do anything about it.
In 2003, his construction was rewarded when the Cubs won their first postseason series since the infamous 1908 World Series and came a Steve Bartman interference away from reaching the Fall Classic.
MacPhail then went to Baltimore, serving as team president from 2007 to 2011, where he helped plant the seeds to national contention though smart trades and a specific attention to sabermetrics. In 2012, the Orioles reached the playoffs after 14 straight losing seasons in the vaunted AL East.
In each of his three previous stints in the league, MacPhail had to take over franchises that had become baseball's bottom-feeders and turn them into title contenders. When it comes to the Phillies' situation, he's been there and done that.
Monday's introductory press conference saw Phillies co-owner John Middleton stress the importance of MacPhail's embrace to analytics and sabermetrics in rebuilding an MLB team, something that the organization, led by current Philadelphia GM Ruben Amaro Jr., has notoriously ignored.
MacPhail was vehement about his approach to the new age of baseball scouting and development, via CSN Philly's Corey Seidman:
I can assure you, as you probably already know, sabermetrics is something of intense interest to ownership. When it comes to that sort of thing, I believe you look at everything, absolutely everything. Why would you exclude any information? You're gonna try to do every piece of homework you can to push the odds of being successful in your favor — every stat, every formula.
This is a tactic the Phillies haven't warmed up to yet. In an ESPN feature this past February, the franchise was 122nd, dead last, in a ranking of every team in the four major sports based on strength and commitment to analytics.
MacPhail believes it's important to combine the scouting and league experience he has with the revolutionary analytics-driven statistics of the MLB today, via Seidman:
I think it's absolutely essential that you marry [sabermetrics] with the best human intelligence you can. Bodies change, weaknesses get exposed and then they get exploited. People make adjustments. Maybe they can hit a curveball that they couldn't a year ago. You need to look at every single facet when you're making player evaluations. No stone goes unturned.
Many Philadelphia-area fans and media members know all too well what MacPhail is talking about. A little less than a decade ago, first baseman Ryan Howard slugged a league-leading 58 home runs and 149 RBI en route to NL MVP honors in just his second full season in the majors.
Last season, a 34-year-old Howard hit just .223 with 23 homers and an MLB-high 190 strikeouts. Talk about bodies changing and weaknesses getting exposed.
MacPhail has a lot to address and evaluate in these next three months in all facets of team personnel. With Amaro's contract expiring at the season's end and following Sandberg's recent resignation, the Phillies' new president could bring in a new GM and manager to lead the 2016 Phillies.
The players are a whole other issue.
The combination of aging veterans (Howard, second baseman Chase Utley and catcher Carlos Ruiz) and potential trade bait (starting pitcher Cole Hamels and closer Jonathan Papelbon) pose MacPhail with the challenge of rebuilding a core of a team that wants to desperately contend again.
As we saw in Minnesota, Chicago and Baltimore, though, this is no large task for one Andy MacPhail. He's done it with three other franchises in three separate decades, and Philadelphia is just his latest project.
Dan is a featured writer in B/R's Advanced Program in Sports Media. You can follow him on Twitter @dan_servodidio. He also thinks the Phillies are desperate for help.