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What if Pete Mackanin Was Given the Red Sox Job?

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin talks to Larry Bowa by the batting cage (Frank Klose/Sports Talk Philly)
Phillies manager Pete Mackanin talks to Larry Bowa by the batting cage (Frank Klose/Sports Talk Philly)

Two things happened in the last week that may have never been had another course of action been taken.  First, the Phillies signed manager Pete Mackanin to a contract extension, that makes the former Phillies interim manager the permanent manager through the 2018 season, at minimum.  Meanwhile, we learned former Red Sox slugger David Ortiz ripped former Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine in his upcoming memoir, Papi: My Story.

Sports Illustrated released a portion of the book that focused on Papi’s time with Valentine in Boston:

I was competitive enough to think that we could win a bunch of games despite Bobby’s ego. It didn’t take long for me to realize I’d been too optimistic. And when I say not long, I mean the first series of the season. We opened in Detroit and were swept by the Tigers. It was impossible to ignore the comments from my teammates about Bobby’s managing, how he made decisions that didn’t make sense and how generally clueless and distant he was. The next stop on our trip was Toronto. On the flight there, I experienced a first in my career.

Bobby’s seat was in the middle of the plane, and the players were in the back. That day I was near the front of our section. I remember looking up and seeing a line of my teammates walking toward me. They were pissed. They said, “We want that mother—— fired before the airplane lands.”

The situation begs the question: What would have happened had Mackanin gotten the job?

Mackanin had just finished his third year as the Phillies bench coach under manager Charlie Manuel.  With Mackanin in that role, the Phillies won the National League in 2009, lost to the Giants in the NLCS in 2010 and then to the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS in 2011, despite having the best record in baseball.

Mackanin interviewed for the Red Sox job, along with former Phillie Dale Sveum, then a Milwaukee Brewers coach, former Phillies Triple-A manager Gene Lamont, then a Detroit Tigers coach, former Phillie Torey Lovullo, then manager of the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox, and former White Sox and Cleveland Indians catcher Sandy Alomar, Jr..

At the time, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington spoke highly of Mackanin, as Peter Abraham wrote in the Boston Globe:

“He’s got a broad set of experiences that appeal to us. He can see the game from different perspectives, which I think is a benefit,’’ said Cherington, who is seeking a replacement for Terry Francona after consecutive third-place finishes. “He’s got a good way about him, a sense of humor, mature, and a good reputation from every clubhouse that he’s been a part of.’’

However, Mackanin may have never had a real opportunity.

Jon Heyman first wrote for Sports Ilustrated at the time that the Red Sox ownership may have gotten involved in the hiring of a new manager, going over the head of GM Cherington, which led to Mackanin being eliminated from consideration:

…(curiously, the Phillies’ respected bench coach, Pete Mackanin, was the one called on Tuesday and told that he is out of the running; “I was a little bit surprised. Maybe I didn’t have what they were looking for … I didn’t insult them,” Mackanin said by phone ). None of them looks particularly likely, however, now that it’s clear Red Sox ownership is involved and seems to have vastly different ideas.

It became clear later that Red Sox president Larry Lucchino made the ultimate choice: Bobby Valentine.

Curiously, the Phillies ended up not bringing Mackanin back in 2012.  Mackanin was replaced by nobody; the Phillies simply went without a bench coach.  At the time Manuel said that he would “run things by” pitching coach Rich Dubee, and catching coach Mick Billmeyer put down his binoculars in the bullpen and spent the games on the bench.

Mackanin was a scout with the New York Yankees in 2013.  With a big advocate in his corner in Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr., Amaro brought Mackanin right back for 2014 as the Phillies third base coach.  Once Amaro’s former manager in the Venezuelan Winter League, Amaro chose Mackanin over Juan Samuel for the interim manager job when Ryne Sandberg resigned in 2015.

Current Phillies leadership is happy with Mackanin and removed that “interim” tag that Mackanin had under Amaro, and Mackanin will now have at least three full seasons on the Phillies payroll as the club’s permanent manager.   Chances are, had Mackanin been chosen in Boston, he might have had a better fate.

Valentine was promptly fired when the 2012 season ended.  The Red Sox ended up going to a familiar face in John Farrell to end the chaos caused by Valentine’s tenure in Boston. To acquire the rights to Farrell, who was then managing the Toronto Blue Jays, the Red Sox had to trade two players to the Blue Jays.  So Valentine’s rough tenure ended up costing even more than a lost season.

The Red Sox dumped a bunch of contracts late in 2012 with a deal that sent the entire contracts of Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and Nick Punto all to the Los Angeles Dodgers.  By 2013, the Red Sox were World Series Champions.  Could Mackanin have a World Series ring if he was with the Red Sox?  We will never know.

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