Much like last year’s eventful, fruitful offseason, the Phillies are off to a tremendous start to begin this winter. Rumored to be the favorite for the job for weeks, former Marlins and Yankees skipper Joe Girardi has officially been announced as the 55th manager of the Phillies. The deal is worth three-years with a club option for 2023.
An experienced leader with an incredibly high baseball IQ and a winning pedigree, Girardi is just what the doctor ordered in Philly. A former World Series champion (2009), the veteran coach will look to repeat the feat in Philadelphia. It’s certainly no small order, as only four other managers- Bill McKechnie (1925 PIT, 1940 CIN), Bucky Harris (1924 WAS, 1947 NYY), Sparky Anderson (1975-76 CIN, 1984 DET), Tony La Russa (1989 OAK, 2006&11 STL) – have done so. Still, having posted 10 straight winning seasons (2008-2017) with the Yankees- a span in which he averaged 91 wins per season- Girardi seems to be of the elite breed of managers capable of achieving such an accomplishment.
Though not as analytically-driven as Gabe Kapler, Girardi is no stranger to thinking outside the box and leaving no stone unturned in pursuit of maximizing matchup advantages. In his first-ever season as a big-league manager thirteen years ago, Girardi navigated a league-low $15M payroll Marlins team to a near .500 finish. Despite having a lower team payroll than some individual player salaries at the time and primarily consisting of low-priced vets and rookies, the Marlins remained in the playoff hunt until September under the tutelage of Girardi, earning him Manager of the Year honors following the campaign.
Known around the league as a baseball technician prone to getting the most out of his players, the former Manager of the Year will now be partnered with Bryce Harper, J.T Realmuto, Aaron Nola, amongst many others in Philly. Expectations will certainly be big, as the Phillies have been thirsting for another World Series pennant since they tasted championship glory in 2008. After handling the vast, ruthless New York media with grace for a decade, though, Girardi should be able to prosper through the pressure of coaching in Philly.
It helps that he’ll be reunited with his former right-hand man and Phillies bench coach Rob Thomson and new Phillies Director of Amateur Scouting Brian Barber, whom he worked within the Yankees organization.
Bringing a wealth of experience with him to South Philly, Girardi should be able to decipher and correct the Phillies’ flaws quickly. This is something Kapler struggled to do mightily during his brief tenure with the Phils, likely because unlike Girardi who’s about to begin his 12th season as a big-league manager, Kapler had no experience as a manager before being brought on in Philly.
Of the most notable flaws to haunt the team the last few years, expect the bullpen to be massively improved under Girardi. In his ten seasons in New York, the Yankee bullpen finished in the top half in the league in ERA six times and top 10 four times. The savvy skipper seems to have a knack for making the right move at the desired time, a skill he’ll look to translate to Philly.
Another flaw I expect to be rectified under Girardi is the Phillies’ lack of identity. Despite possessing a talented team on paper, the Phillies were often nothing more than a polarizing franchise with potential in two years under Kapler. With the extremely-vocal Girardi now at the helm, the Phillies will likely have a clear, concise idea of what type of team they’re going to be by the time Spring Training comes to an end and will look to impose their will on the league a lot more in 2020.
One thing’s for sure, though, the Phillies inevitably eventful offseason couldn’t have gotten off to a better start than by hiring Joe Girardi as manager. Now donning the more fitting red pinstripes, Girardi will look to jumpstart a new, productive era of Philly baseball.
Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports