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McCaffery: Time was right for Dave Dombrowski to look past sagging 2021 Phillies

PHILADELPHIA — The Phillies were about to begin a late-August homestand, and nothing was out of their reach. The schedule was in their favor. Key players were ready to return. Their division remained wide open. They would be blessed with hitting weather.

And that’s when Dave Dombrowski wandered into a pack of baseball writers and with minimal regard to what the Phillies had a chance to do this season, talked about the next one. And the one after that. And the future, not the present.

Timing.

It’s everything in baseball.

Not that a good baseball operations president — and Dombrowski’s bona fides are indisputable — can’t juggle more than one era without everything crashing, but there was something about his activity the other day that shouted what he was really thinking.

He was thinking that if the Phillies truly want to halt a decade-plus run of postseason-free baseball, they must be something other than what they have become. He was thinking they can no longer be a rotisserie team of players who, for one reason or another, were allowed to depart other organizations. He was thinking they can no longer have one non-pitcher, Rhys Hoskins, as an every-day regular to have sprouted from their farm system.

He was thinking they can no longer watch talented players somehow turn useless. Names? OK, names: Scott Kingery, Alec Bohm, Spencer Howard, Mickey Moniak, Adam Haseley.

“You have to continue to develop at the big-league level in today’s world,” Dombrowski said. “You do need to do that.”

Earlier that day, there’d been upheaval that cost two sub-general-managers, Scott Proefrock and Bryan Minniti, and a personnel director, Josh Bonifay, their titles. Not a one was to blame for the worst team defense the Phillies have played in five decades, but Dombrowski had to begin to make certain it didn’t reach six.

So, that process begins.

“We need to be better at getting players over the hump and producing good players from within the system,” Dombrowski said. “That’s mandatory. I mean, you have to be able to produce your own players. And you have to get some.

“Now sometimes if they’re good you might make a big trade with them to bring over some other good players. But we have to do a better job at getting more players to the big leagues that are good players.”

Now there’s a plan if ever there was one.

In spite of themselves, the Phillies remain in contention despite a lack of punch from their farm system. But they are 0-2 in a homestand Joe Girardi had declared vital, including a 7-4 loss Wednesday to the Tampa Bay Rays that included all of the usual defensive blunders and late-inning pitching follies.

One issue Dombrowski has been reluctant to address is extending the contract of Girardi, who is as few as 36 games from lame-duck status. Dombrowski has said he would like Girardi to manage this season and worry about an extension later. A buyout, though, is also a possibility.

On the day after Dombrowski began his organizational restructuring, Girardi was in a tough spot. He had to know that the players he’d been given from the minor leagues were far less than ordinary, yet he couldn’t admit that they hadn’t shown much growth under his management, either.

“Oh, I think our young kids have come up and done a pretty good job under some tough circumstances,” Girardi decided. “Remember, the kids didn’t really get a chance to play a whole lot last year. So some of them have gotten here probably a little bit quicker than they normally would. But you take 130 games away from a kid, that’s a lot of at-bats, maybe 500 less at-bats they wouldn’t necessary have.

“But I think our kids have done a pretty decent job considering that some of them are basically from Double A, that sort of thing.”

Like who, exactly?

What player rose from the bush leagues this season to provide anything useful? Moniak was overwhelmed. So was Luke Williams. Nick Maton. The pattern was unmistakable.

So Dombrowski will repopulate his corporate tree with his own selections, not leftovers from the flawed structure he’d stumbled onto.

“I just don’t think we have enough people on the same page,” Dombrowski said. “I think that’s going to be imperative if we want to be as good as we can be.”

The Phillies were supposed to be good this year, yet were so burdened by a leaky personnel pipeline that they were unable to recover from multiple injuries to important players. Whatever happens in those final 36 games, and anything still could, Dombrowski has made it clear: It has to be better the next time.

“I think we can turn it very quickly,” he said. “Personally, I do. I think we can turn it around pretty quickly.

“I wouldn’t put a time frame on it but I already think, for example, we had a good draft. And when you start looking at it, there’s some players at Triple A that are going to contribute. Moniak, Haseley, (Rafael) Marchan, Maton.

“I don’t think it has to take long, but it’s also not going to be overnight.”

Dave Dombrowski has begun that process.

That he chose to do so when he did said plenty.


Source: Berkshire mont

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