The first half of the Phillies season was nothing short of an emotional rollercoaster. Heading into the 2022 season, there were playoff expectations throughout the city, and the fans had officially bought into this year’s Philadelphia Phillies. The team heads into the All-Star break with a 49-43 record, occupying the final Wildcard position.
We have witnessed thrilling comebacks and devastating losses. We have watched the firing of Joe Girardi and the unlocking of Rob Thomson. We’ve let the kids play and seemingly overcome injuries to our top hitters. We have seen it all in the first 92 games of the season. With 70 games left to go, can the Phillies finish the job? Or will be in for a ride that only baseball in Philadelphia can give us.
There is no place I’d rather be than Citizens Bank Park on Opening Day. A sold-out crowd in South Philly is a sight to see regardless of the circumstances. The Phils hosted the Oakland Athletics, and everyone was ready to see what the 2022 Phillies had in store. With the promising off-season featuring the signings of Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos, the rise of top prospect Bryson Stott, and an underrated pitching staff, there was a good feeling surrounding this team.
The team flashed everything they were expected to show on Opening Day. A powerful offense, below-average defense, and a bullpen you never know what to expect. All three stereotypes showed up on day 1 of 162. The most important takeaway was that the Phillies won, and Opening Day has become a microcosm for the Phillies’ season thus far. Opening Day proved that it doesn’t matter what version of the Phils shows up on any given day because by the time the last pitch is thrown, they will have given it their all.
Change in Temperature
Following the series win against the A’s, the 2-1 Phils would never return to a winning record with skipper Joe Girardi. The Phillies that were seen in the months of April and May felt very much like the previous iterations of the team. The club could never seem to piece all phases of the game together. If the offense were clicking, the pitching would lose leads. If the pitching were strong, the Phillies’ offense would provide no run support. The bullpen seemed destined to be just as pitiful as the previous three years.
Joe Girardi refused to change his ways. The only changes to his bullpen management were the names on the back of the jerseys, and a lead never felt comfortable. Girardi’s lineup changes each and every day became frustrating, and the team could never get their legs underneath them at the plate. Joe bailed on Kyle Schwarber as the leadoff hitter very early, and the Fightin’s returned to a team without a consistent player at the top of the lineup. The team looked flat, and emotion was rarely shown. Outside of a Kyle Schwarber ejection against the Mets, the Phillies looked drained.
The Phillies quickly became 22-29, seven games below .500, and 13 games behind the New York Mets in the National League East. Fans had already begun to jump ship, and it felt like the season was over. Changes needed to be made and they soon would be, as President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski relieved Joe Girardi of his duties as manager. Speculation about who would take over the team would be brief, as Dombrowski named bench coach Rob Thomson as the interim skipper for the remainder of 2022.
Canada’s Finest Export
As we sit here today at the All-Star break, giving Rob Thomson the keys to the team may just be the best move the Phillies have made in the last decade. Under Thomson’s leadership, the Phillies would win his first 8 games as a big league manager. The team would immediately show incredible fight as they came swinging against the Angels in Thomson’s first game. The Phillies would win 10-0 in his managerial debut, and the offense looked like the group the front office put together in the off-season.
Since Rob Thomson has taken over, the team has gone 27-14. The Phillies had one of their best months of June in franchise history, going 19-8. After being out of the playoff picture altogether, the Phils now hold the final playoff spot in the National League. The St. Louis Cardinals, San Francisco Giants, and San Diego Padres are all teams in direct competition with the Phillies for the post-season. The National League East is not out of the question either. The New York Mets still lead the Phillies by 8.5 games, but the Phillies are another winning streak away from closing the gap. The Atlanta Braves have skyrocketed past the team in the standings and now knock on the Mets’ front door. If the Phillies keep playing like they have, there is a chance this team is in the hunt for the NL East crown once again.
The Road Ahead
Once the All-Star festivities have concluded, it will be go-time for the Phillies. With 72 games left to go, the team needs to hit its stride out of the gate. The Phillies will have the third easiest strength of schedule to play down the stretch. They take on the Cubs, Reds, Pirates, Nationals, and many other bottom-feeder teams in baseball. Especially with the Trade Deadline approaching, these bad teams will be even worse after selling their better talents.
The Phillies will face the New York Mets seven more times and the Atlanta Braves twelve more times. They have to start winning these series if they wish to make the playoffs. What will separate these clubs down the stretch will be how they perform in their division. The Phillies can climb to the top of the NL East by beating the Mets and Braves. Time will tell if they change their fortunes against their rivals.
Dave Dombrowski will have until August 2nd to make moves to improve this team. Dave has shown in his previous stops that he is willing to make moves to give his team a chance to go all in. The Phillies need to be smart with the level of talent they give up, as the club still needs to rebuild their farm system.
There will be talent to acquire for the Phillies at the trade deadline. Adding another starting pitcher needs to be the top priority for the club. Adding a bat and bullpen arm can certainly help, but the Phillies need to add an arm if they want to improve their chances of making the post-season.
The Phillies are well on their way to bringing post-season baseball back to Philadelphia. The team has to get the job done on the field, but with the return of Bryce Harper and Jean Segura, and the additions from the trade deadline, the Phillies roster will be good enough to make the big dance.
The second half of the season will not be easy, but it is up to the Phillies to get the job done. The fans are all in, and we are setting ourselves up for a fun ride as the summer closes and fall baseball approaches.
Lets Go Phillies!
AP Photo/Matt Slocum