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Joe Girardi wins over Phillies fans by crushing his news conference

The new Phils’ skipper got off to a great start on Monday.

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MLB: Philadelphia Phillies-Press Conference Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

When the Phillies wrapped up their disastrous news conference announcing the dismissal of Gabe Kapler two weeks ago, confidence in the team took a big hit. Phils fans were left wondering just who was in charge, whether there was a cohesive direction and, if so, what was it? The sense was that this was a team that had a lot of work to do to earn back the trust of their fanbase.

On Monday, Joe Girardi helped earn back a lot of that trust.

Make no mistake, Girardi owned that news conference. He crushed it. He took Bryce Harper’s “How to Talk to Phillies Fans” guidebook and memorized it.

Talk about winning? Check.

Mention virtually every Phillies Wall of Famer AND Floyd Youmans? Check.

Outline a culture of accountability? Check.

Declare that winning is all that matters? Check.

Yeah, Girardi pretty much knew exactly what to say and, more importantly, how to say it to a fanbase that requires a little more nuance than most.

You see, Phils fans can sniff out people who aren’t comfortable here and, for all the good qualities Gabe Kapler had (and yes, he did have many good qualities), Phillies fans — right or wrong — never believed he was genuine. His speaking style was not a fit for this team or this market, and they were never sure he was the right choice, given his lack of experience. The rebuilding San Francisco Giants would be a much better landing spot for the former Phillies skipper, where the team’s current state of readiness and his demeanor will fit much better than the fans who fill those Citizens Bank Park seats.

Of course, none of this would have mattered if Gabe Kapler had won more games, or taken this team to the playoffs. But that didn’t happen, so here we are.

Girardi talked about hustle, but did it smartly, noting that most hustle issues are not lack of effort, but simply “adult tantrums” — players who are frustrated or too excited in the moment and lose track of themselves. Those moments need correction, of course, and it sure sounds like Girardi knows that is something this city, for better or worse, cares deeply about.

He also noted his engineering degree as a way of stressing his embrace of analytics. His experience in New York using those numbers should aid the Phils greatly as they try to figure out a way to fix the numbers being given to them by the analytics team so that the manager doesn’t have to come up with his own gameplan, on the side, and give it to the pitchers and catchers, confusing the hell out of everybody.

You could argue that the process by which Girardi was hired was flawed, and that may be true. It was notable that neither owner John Middleton nor team president Andy MacPhail was at the news conference. Clearly, the team wanted it to appear this was Matt Klentak’s decision, and clearly we knew better. But after the criticism they received two weeks ago, the PR folks inside the Phillies got this one right.

So even if Girardi wasn’t what Klentak wanted, perhaps he’ll be exactly what Klentak needs.

Were Matt Klentak to look elsewhere for work, seeing as how Kapler’s staunchest defender lost a power struggle with his boss, it’s unlikely he’d land another GM job somewhere else. So sure, Klentak is on board. He had no choice. But if Girardi and the Phillies are successful, both through better managing and shrewd decision-making by the GM in the off-season, then everyone will benefit.

A rising tide lifts all boats, they say, and Girardi could be that tide for Matt Klentak.

Regardless, the Girardi news conference was a quantum leap better than the farce we witnessed a couple weeks ago. The Phils got their act together and put together an event on Monday that inspired confidence.

As Matt Klentak said during the event, ““It’s time to win. It’s time to win right now.”

That’s why Joe Girardi is here.

On the latest episode of Hittin’ Season, Justin Klugh, Liz Roscher and I talked more about the Girardi presser, where the Phillies might go to fill their pitching and hitting coach vacancies, and talked lots about the 2019 World Series, which gets back underway tonight from Houston.