Executive has ties to MacPhail; was previously assistant GM for Angels
By Todd Zolecki
PHILADELPHIA -- Matt Klentak talked about discipline, culture, information and connectivity Monday morning at Citizens Bank Park.
He talked about winning, too.
"If we are successful in those first four points, we will do a lot of winning," said Klentak, who the Phillies introduced as their new general manager. "That is ultimately what this is all about. You know that and I know that. Philadelphia knows that. That's why I'm here. I would not have left Mike Trout in his prime to come here if I didn't believe that, I promise you that."
Phillies president Andy MacPhail named Klentak, 35, the 11th and youngest general manager in Phillies history. Klentak spent the previous four seasons with the Angels as their assistant general manager. He spent the four years prior as director of baseball operations for Baltimore, where MacPhail hired him.
"I know it's a natural assumption to make, 'Well, he ended up hiring the guy that was his assistant down in Baltimore,'" MacPhail said. "But it really didn't feel that way."
MacPhail began the search for Ruben Amaro Jr.'s replacement on Sept. 10, immediately after he announced Amaro would not return as general manager. MacPhail interviewed the majority of his candidates in one-on-one sessions in Chicago. He narrowed the list to three finalists: Klentak, A's assistant general manager Dan Kantrovitz and Rays vice president of baseball operations Chaim Bloom.
Those three received second interviews Thursday in Philadelphia, but this time Phillies owners John Middleton, Jim and Pete Buck and executive vice president Mike Stiles joined MacPhail for the three five-on-one sessions.
Middleton said they decided at about 7 p.m. ET Thursday that Klentak should get the job. MacPhail said they chose Klentak for a multitude of reasons. First, their strategic visions aligned. MacPhail said he considered Klentak a "high-character guy." He said he is disciplined, something Klentak said is an important trait to have in the GM chair. MacPhail also said Klentak is a good listener, open-minded and he will be compatible within the Phillies' culture.
"And lastly, we have to have someone who's willing to disagree," MacPhail said. "We all can't think like lemmings and walk off the same cliff. We've got to have people that come at things from a different angle, and the one thing I can tell you based on my prior experience with Matt is that he's not afraid to disagree."
MacPhail called Klentak Friday morning to tell him he got the job.
"It was surreal," Klentak said about the news. "My jaw dropped. It's funny, the question about Andy and whether this was a foregone conclusion … trust me, I didn't feel that way at all. When I got the call, I had no idea which way that call was going to go. It was surreal. Beyond excited."
But now Klentak must get to work. He must complete a rebuilding process initiated only in August 2014. The Phillies finished this season with the worst record in baseball, but they also turned one of the worst farm systems into one of the top 10 in baseball following a handful of trades.
There are some talented pieces in the system, but there are still plenty of holes to fill.
Klentak will use analytics to help the Phillies fill those holes. Middleton made it very clear in June, when ownership hired MacPhail, that he wanted the organization to be more analytically inclined. Klentak has an analytics background, but he is not some 30-something Ivy Leaguer who has been stuck at a cubicle crunching numbers for the past 10 years.
Those who know Klentak, who graduated from Dartmouth in 2002, say he has a well-balanced approach.
"It's a critical piece of the puzzle," Klentak said about analytics. "I try to create and strike balance in everything that I do and accordingly we'll try to strike balance in everything that we do. The Phillies have a long and proud history, particularly recent history, that was the result of some excellent evaluations and scouting. I don't want to lose that. That is something we're going to continue to reinforce and utilize at every turn. But we also need to make sure we are gathering and utilizing all of the information at our disposal. The real challenge is taking all of that information -- and it is a ton -- and combining it and synthesizing it and figuring out how that works into our process and making decisions accordingly. But let there be no doubt, we will be at the forefront of every single one of those areas, and we will strive to be the best in every one of those areas and have the best information."
The Phillies' organizational meetings will begin Monday night in Clearwater, Fla., meaning Klentak will hit the ground running. He would not give a timetable for when the Phillies might contend again, although they seem to be at least a year or two away.
"You should know that I have very ambitious goals," Klentak said. "I'm leaving a very proud and successful organization to come here. I didn't do that because I want to lose. I want to win. But I do believe strongly that the timing and the sort of element of when, that is going to be dictated by the players. This game is not about the guys that wear the ties and sit up at the table. I know that. It's about the players, it's about the fans, and it's about winning. We will win as soon as humanly possible for us to win."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his Phillies blog The Zo Zone, follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.