Though he is adverse to publicity, John Middleton is a proud Philadelphian, witness his financial involvement with Project HOME (photo above) as well as the Philadelphia School District, Philadelphia Academies, the Philadelphia Youth Network, Teach for America, and Penn Medicine’s Neuroscience of Behavior Initiative. He likely sees the Phillies as a local institution that needs his business expertise
By Theodore N. Beitchman
Like many Phillies fans, I was skeptical of Howard Eskin’s report on FOX29 that David Montgomery’s leave of absence was a convenient way for John Middleton, who owns 48% of the team, to take control of the Phillies and make major changes.
In the first place, over the years Eskin has reported lots of things that have turned out not to be true.
In the second place, if a report is totally based on an anonymous source that’s a big red flag.
The highest-profile anonymous source in history was Deep Throat, who met Bob Woodward of the Washington Post in garages in the middle of the night to direct Woodward and Carl Bernstein about which way to go in the Watergate investigation.
Among the many differences between Deep Throat and Eskin’s source is that Woodward and Bernstein had a boatload of sources on the record and some off the record on which they based their reporting.
Eskin has no other reporting that he has claimed to back up his report.
The Phillies were quick to knock down Eskin’s bombshell with a 71-word statement:
“Contrary to the Fox 29 report last night, David Montgomery’s leave of absence from the Phillies is entirely due to his medical condition, as previously announced. There is absolutely no other reason for his leave from active involvement in the Phillies management.
“Over the life of the Phillies partnership no one entity or family has owned a majority of the partnership, and we do not foresee this changing in the future.”
Sorry, but in the parlance of Watergate, that is known as a “non-denial denial,” which addresses the facts of the moment but leaves open the possibility of future changes in the Phillies managment.
Montgomery is a good and decent man who is a Phillies lifer, having started with the club in the ticket office in 1971 and worked his way up to president by 1997.
The subjects in Horatio Alger’s books had nothing on David Montgomery, who grew up in blue-collar Roxborough, went to Penn and has become the president of his favorite team,
Monty has known no other business.
Middleton, on the other hand, is a generation younger than Montgomery, having graduated from Amherst in 1977. He heads his family’s business, which includes McIntosh Inns, Bradford Holdings, and Double Play, Inc., having sold his cigar company a few years ago for $2.9 billion.
He inherited his portion of the ownership from his father, Herbert H. Middleton, who was one of the original partners when Bill Giles put together the ownership group that bought the team in 1981 for $30 million.
John Middleton is a businessman first and a baseball man second. And in business if something isn’t working you makes changes. You remove execs, change your marketing strategy or if none of that works you sell.
The Phillies have limped along the last three years after a magical seven-year-run of off-the-charts success. They finished in last place this season for the first time since 2000.
Big changes are necessary.
One other reason I believe Eskin’s report is that Middleton’s son ranted in a tweet the other day:
“To whom it may concern, I have not read these articles – not because I’m not interested in fan opinion but rather because false conjecture bothers me – but I have heard from friends in Philly there is wild speculation today over the Phillies. Remember 99% of what you read is totally inaccurate. And one more point brought to my attention. A general partner control baseball operating decisions. Limited partners vote on a variety of things, which may or may not be specifically on the field related. Limited partners are owners, the people involved in said limited partnership are equity shareholders and directors technically. The structure is far more complexed than it appears is being discussed and understood in articles and/or online.”“Also, I am a film and tv producer – seemingly confusion there also. But there’s this fantastic invention called Google, as well as other sites like IMDbPro (regular often inaccurate). I live in Malibu because I work in LA. One thing I can tell you, the Phillies are doing their best in a bad situation. The team just gave you arguably one of the three best runs in NL history, the others being, in my opinion, the 60s Cardinals and 90s Braves. Philly prides itself on being tough, but also LOYAL to its core. Changes and new additions, rough stretches, these are a fact of sport. Death, taxes, and your sports team will not win the championship every year. So please continue to support a team trying to right its ship, certainly spending the money necessary to do so, and look forward to the upswing and many more years of great baseball, consecutive pennants and division titles, and world championships to come. I’m proud to be a Philadelphian, but I’m not proud a fan base built on LOYALTY is abandoning ship because of a series of bad years. We are better than that. #GoPhils”
It is logical to assume that Middleton the son, a 30-year-old who toils in the film industry in Hollywood, knows something about his dad’s plans.
All of which makes Eskin’s report less of a wild-ass rumor and more of a premature fact.