PHILADELPHIA >> It’s a process. Sports fans in Philadelphia know that.
The Process can be slow and painful. It can last for several rebuilds without championship reward. It can turn title memories foggy, but when the ultimate prize suddenly becomes reality after so many years on the periphery (see: Super Bowl LII), it can produce both joy for a city and a hunger for more.
So now the Phillies will “celebrate” a 10th anniversary since their last World Series title. The executives who built it have moved on or have been shipped out to pasture. Matt Klentak is now in general command, with the man he worked for in Baltimore, former Orioles president and now Phillies president Andy MacPhail, nodding off on the more significant decisions.
They know the time has come to collect on another wave of rebuilding.
Klentak spent the past 2½ years drafting what he’s been told are talented college and high school kids who will bode well for a long-term organizational future. He also continued the standard operating procedure of dumping old guys for assets, then signing short-term veterans and trading them for more assets.
Now comes the fun part, accompanied by a perfectly timed visit by Baltimore’s Manny Machado.
Welcome to Philadelphia, potential star of the Phillies’ near future.
“They’re a good ballclub,” Machado said Wednesday prior to a series-closing game against the Phils. “They are young, they are hungry, they want to win. They have been impressive. They’ve got a good ballclub over there and I really can’t tell you more about it, because they are on the other side and I don’t really see them that much. But they’re a very good ballclub over there.”
He knows they must be, because ... well, Manny knows MacPhail. Klentak, too. They were the team president and director of baseball operations, respectively, when the Orioles drafted Machado as a high school wunderkind in 2010.
They were both gone from the Orioles, their rebuild having taken too long to produce ownership-pleasing returns, by the time Machado made his major league debut in 2012. But the Orioles would take off that year, getting into the postseason for the first time in 15 years, eventually winning a wild card round before losing to the Yankees in the ALDS.
They would be in the playoffs in 2014 and 2016, too, which is why Machado says he respects those guys on the “other side.”
“I know how Andy works,” Machado said. “I’ve seen those guys work and they’ve turned this (Orioles) organization around so I’m sure they’re going to try to do the same thing on the other side.”
So now it’s MacPhail and Klentak among the patient bidders as Machado’s career is about to move on. This Orioles team he enjoyed a modicum of success with over the previous six years entered this July 4 game in Philadelphia with a 24-60 record, worst in the major leagues.
The front office is again looking at a reshuffling, manager Buck Showalter, hired by MacPhail in 2010, is likely to be leaving. So too, Machado. He hit the holiday hitting .311 with 21 home runs and 59 RBIs, and has “star rental player” written all over him ahead of the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline selloff.
And while he spoke highly of the Philadelphia baseball executives who drafted him, and spoke admiringly of their young and growing and contending team, he knows he is a commodity in demand in such destinations as New York and Chicago, too. These competitive fits are not easy ones.
Despite any confidence-building claims about longtime Phillies shortstop prospect J.P. Crawford or the fledgling work of rookie Scott Kingery at that position, for example, take note...
“I’m playing short,” said Machado, who also qualifies as an elite third baseman. “That’s the position I want to play, that’s the position I know I can play and produce (at).”
Asked then if that would be one of his stipulations if he goes on the free agent market, Machado said, “Yup. ... At the end of the day I have been a shortstop my entire life and I can be a way better player at shortstop than I would at third.”
OK, sure. No problem for a Phillies team that thinks every player should be able to play any position.
So let the bidding war begin.
But the Phils may need to jump right in with some early negotiating hints. For that was Machado — who despite his claims Wednesday of “I just go out and play” — knows about the other side of the business, too.
He knows it would make it easier for the Orioles to trade him to a team like the Phillies — who have stockpiled assets, have an abundance of major league level pitching talent and wouldn’t necessarily want to spend so much of their booty on a player who could turn around and sign with the rich competition after the season — if they signed him to an extension, like now. Or at least reach a wink-wink agreement with all parties involved.
So about that possibility of a contract extension, Machado called it “a bold question.” He knows the Phillies keep saying they want to “Be Bold.”
“Like I said before, I’m here to play,” Machado said. “I’m not here to talk about contracts or talk about anything during the season. I’m going out there to play baseball and let my agent handle the rest.”
So it is left for another day, but of course, the days of July negotiating in baseball back rooms are already dwindling down.
The windows of opportunity during these waves of rebuilding are only open for so long.
Contact Rob Parent at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @ReluctantSE