At the end of the day, the Phillies got their man.
Joe Girardi, he of the career 910-710 regular season record with the New York Yankees and the only manager in MLB history to win the Manager of the Year Award guiding a team with a losing record (the 2006 Marlins, who went 78-84) has agreed to a three-year deal to manage the Phils. His mission, now that he’s chosen to accept it, is to help end an eight-year streak without a winning record and, ultimately, get John Middleton his “bleeping” trophy back.
It seems only right that the Phils have turned to Girardi to do that, seeing as how he led the team that took it away in 2009, but it won’t be easy.
The task for Joe Girardi with the Phillies (& Maddon w/Angels): win a World Series with 2 franchises.— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) October 24, 2019
Only 4 managers have done it:
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)
The numbers are slightly better when you include managers who have at least taken their teams to a Fall Classic with two different teams, something I think we’d all be happy with at this point: Pat Moran, McKechnie, Joe McCarthy, Joe Cronin, Harris, Billy Southworth, Leo Durocher, Al Lopez, Dick Williams, Yogi Berra, Alvin Dark, Anderson, LaRussa, Jim Leyland and Bruce Bochy.
Girardi comes to the Phillies after being pursued by the Mets and Cubs, although the process made it clear the Phils wanted him more. Chicago seemed to have former catcher David Ross in their crosshairs from the beginning, and the Mets were never going to pay a manager big money to be their skipper. The Cubs and Mets were both interested in hiring a first-time manager, a younger voice without much, if any, big league managing or coaching experience.
The Phillies already tried that, and decided they needed something else entirely.
The faults of the 2018-19 Phils were not all Gabe Kapler’s fault, and believing they were is folly. Girardi is not going to magically change everything the wave of his binder, but the combination of his embrace of analytics and his experience as a successful big league manager were what make him the perfect candidate for this team.
As our own Paul Boye noted to me on Episode 330 of Hittin’ Season, Girardi is the perfect intersection of the Venn Diagram that was the Phils’ previous two managers.
Pete Mackanin had a ton of experience. The players liked him, but he did not speak the language of analytics. Kapler knew the analytics as good as, if not better than, most managers in the game, but lacked the ability to instill discipline, keep the team motivated, and aid his players in using the information that was presented to them.
The hope is that Girardi is the perfect mix of the two men, something neither Buck Showalter or Dusty Baker would have been (although both would have been fine choices). It became clear by the end of the season that the Phillies needed a strong voice in the clubhouse, someone who had led a talented team through the rigors of a 162-game schedule and came through on the other side with division titles and postseason victories, while at the same time could work with an analytically-driven front office and a GM that didn’t really want to get rid of the old guy in the first place.
Girardi does come with a little baggage. He butted heads with Jeffrey Loria in his only year in Miami (although to be fair, it’s hard to lay blame at the feet of Girardi when you’re talking about one of the perceived worst owners in baseball), and had some friction with his boss Brian Cashman toward the end of his tenure in New York. It was also said that he was a bit brusque with his players toward the end of his run as well, however, Cashman recently gave Girardi a glowing recommendation.
“They got a great one,’’ Cashman said at a news conference. “...To me, if you’re going to the marketplace and he was available, you can find no better candidate.
“He’s going to represent their franchise well. You know he’s going to be all-in. And he’s been a winner.’’
The relationship between Girardi and his new GM, Matt Klentak, will certainly be one to watch. It’s no secret Klentak liked Kapler and would have kept him in the dugout if he’d had his druthers, but John Middleton clearly wanted a change of direction. That said, it seems as though Klentak was on board with this hire, and was not stumping for Showalter, who he and Andy MacPhail had worked with in Baltimore.
There will be a lot of discussion about who actually hired Joe Girardi to manage the Phillies. FWIW, source says Matt Klentak told baseball operations folk that Girardi was his first choice. GM wasn’t on board with firing Kapler, but sounds like he’s in on Girardi.— Matt Breen (@matt_breen) October 24, 2019
If this is true, it’s a good sign that all will be well, at least to start. And make no mistake, this is a historic hire. The Phillies haven’t brought in someone with Girardi’s pedigree since Steve O’Neil in 1952, who was hired to try and save the Whiz Kids after having won the 1945 World Series with the Tigers. O’Neil had a reputation for turning around struggling teams (career winning percentage of .559) and had some success in Philadelphia, going 182-140 (.565 winning percentage), but never finished higher than 3rd.
The Phillies are obviously hoping for something more from Girardi as he begins his three year term as Phils’ skipper, but no one knows how this will end. The bottom line is the team got the man who was the best option they could have hoped for when this whole process began.
That’s a good start.