By Connor Thomas
Last night saw another brutal loss for the Phillies, the second straight at the hands of former Phillies Manager Gabe Kapler. Maybe it is because Kapler is back in town, so it is a natural point to compare the new manager to the ex, but there have been some recent decisions by Joe Girardi that began to raise questions about Girardi’s managing tenure in Philadelphia. Let’s be clear up front, this is not a panic button being hit. I still firmly believe that Girardi is the better manager of the two, and he is much more like the World Series winning Yankees Manager than the recent version we have seen. But there have been some baffling decisions made as of late. Last season, there were a bunch of excuses to fall back on for Girardi and the rest of the coaching staff; the lack of training, the shortened season, the bad GM not giving him a true Major League bullpen. Many people, myself included, wrote off last season as a wash; a one off pandemic season that tested everyone and should lead to a blaming of no one. This year, however, there are no excuses to fall back on for Girardi and company.
There was a full spring training, there will be a full length season, and there is a brand new GM in town who has made some strong moves for the team, including significantly improving the bullpen. And yet, so far, Girardi has been uninspiring in his managing of the team through the first 17 games of the year. The first came in Atlanta on April 9th as Girardi forgot how many mound visits he had left with Zack Wheeler, leading to him having to remove the starter earlier than planned. This was a Kapler-esque mistake, reminiscent of the days where he would call to the bullpen with no one warming up. It was a bad look for a manager touted as a polished baseball lifer. Then, the next day on April 10th, a late inning swapping of positions saw Andrew Knapp, the Phillies back-up catcher, getting playing time at 1st base over Rhys Hoskins for some unknown reason. Yesterday, 10 days after the confounding Knapp decision, Girardi decided to leave reliever Connor Brogdon in a 1 run game after already giving up a 3 run home run.
In 99% of cases, that would lead to the end of a reliever’s night, but Brogdon stayed in the game and gave up another 3 run homer in the same inning. After the game, Girardi mentioned that Brogdon had been great so far this year, and also referenced the lack of bullpen arms available due to an issue with COVID protocols on the team, but it still feels like a cheap reason for leaving a reliever in for 30 pitches. Last night, valid excuses or not, it cost them the game. Again, this is not a panic button type of article, but there should be some alarms going off in the back of the collective heads of Phillies fans. If the Phillies are going to try to make a playoff push, one of the biggest factors will be the crunch time decisions made by Joe Girardi. If he continues to make baffling mistakes like he has over this past month, the rest of this season could bring some very tough questions about the future of the manager position in Philadelphia.