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Where do the Phillies go from here?

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[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][/et_pb_section][et_pb_section fb_built=”1″ _builder_version=”3.22″][et_pb_row _builder_version=”3.25″ background_size=”initial” background_position=”top_left” background_repeat=”repeat”][et_pb_column type=”4_4″ _builder_version=”3.25″ custom_padding=”|||” custom_padding__hover=”|||”][et_pb_text _builder_version=”3.27.4″ background_size=”initial” background_position=”top_left” background_repeat=”repeat”]After embarking on their ground-up rebuild starting after the 2015 season under veteran baseball executive Andy MacPhail and young general manager Matt Klentak, the Phillies were supposed to be a perennial contender by 2021; they were supposed to have similar cores – some homegrown or acquired through savvy trades and free-agent signings – as they did in their two eras that could be called their heyday from 1976 to 1983 and from 2007 to 2011; they were supposed to replicate what the two most prominent bottom-up rebuilds of recent vintage, the Cubs and Astros, did by winning a championship and cobbling together an annual contender.

They were supposed to.

They didn’t.

MacPhail is still listed as team president, but he’s scheduled to depart after the 2021 season and has no say in the club’s operation. Klentak is still there too, but he’s got the obscure job title of “Strategy and Development Officer,” whatever that is.

This is now President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski’s show and he’s got a project in front of him. It’s not an intentional disaster as is the case when teams tank to accrue draft picks, clear their payroll, and reboot. In a way, this is worse. The Phillies, in their current state, do not have a clear path.

Here’s why.

The unacknowledged problem with tanking

It’s human nature to look at the best-case scenario and how it was achieved in retrospect and think it can be easily repeated. Such is the case with the trendy full-blown rebuild in which a team strips its organization to its exoskeleton and reconstructs it from the bottom up. Anytime a team has a bad week, a bad month, or a bad year, there will be voices from the outer reaches lobbying for a repeat of what the Cubs and Astros did with the unrealistic – even delusional – expectation that the results will be identical.

At its outset, there’s personal benefit to such a decision as well. For front offices who are given the task of such a rebuild, the head of baseball operations gets to put his or her imprint on the organization from the bottom up in the hopes that they too can be the next Billy Beane or Theo Epstein. (Maybe not Jeff Luhnow, at least the post-scandal version of him – unemployed, bitter, blackballed, and litigious.)

What it also does is give that front office between three and five years of fielding atrocious rosters, losing 90 to 100 games, and explaining it away to ownership as part of the “process.”

When ownership expects radical improvement and the players simply are not good enough is when problems arise.

High draft picks are useless if the wrong players are selected

If a team is tanking for top picks and those players are meant to be the basis for a long-term contender, the GM, and the front office staff cannot miss on those players. Their first overall pick in 2016, Mickey Moniak, is a bust. Adam Haseley, Spencer Howard, and Nick Maton – three of the few players from the Klentak drafts who made the majors are journeymen. 2018’s third overall pick Alec Bohm looks as if he still needs to be taught the fundamentals. Had Klentak stayed on, it would have been admitting his failure, were he to trade those players away.

This is often a factor in whether GMs trade players they selected as that admission can cost them their jobs.

Signing or trading for Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Jake Arrieta, Andrew McCutchen, Didi Gregorius, Jean Segura, Zack Wheeler, and hiring high-priced manager Joe Girardi is largely useless without a foundation in place, to begin with. There was no foundation.

There’s a perception that Aaron Nola and Rhys Hoskins are homegrown players brought into the organization by Klentak, but both were drafted by former GM Ruben Amaro Jr. Add in Klentak giving Scott Kingery six years and $24 million only to see Dombrowski outright him off the 40-man roster and you have a dearth of young, controllable talent that needs to be the wellspring of a successful future.

Organizational rankings are by nature questionable. They’re compiled by outsiders and are often based on team propaganda and philosophical common ground. Nevertheless, before the 2021 season, the Phillies