Kyle Schwarber’s exit from last Sunday night’s game was noteworthy. Due to the rather “fluid” strike zone given to both teams by Angel Hernandez that night, there was visible frustration on both sides with balls that were called strikes and vice versa. When Schwarber gave Hernandez his opinion of the job he did that night, you could tell by the frantic pointing at both dugouts that the teams held Hernandez and the job he did in equal regard. As entertaining as it was, once it was over, the question started being asked:
Where was Joe Girardi?
Bryson Stott, prior to his demotion, was hitting .133/.161/.167. He had 31 plate appearances, but did not start a game after April 18th. He made a lone pinch hitting appearance in that time and didn’t see the field after April 19th. Granted, it had only been six days, but here we have another Phillies’ prospect, clearly in need of plate appearances and reps in the field, that was allowed to languish on the bench. Didi Gregorius was down with a sore hand, yet Girardi chose to ride the switch-hitting Johan Camargo for those games until the team finally sent Stott to Lehigh Valley. From the outside looking in, like Nick Maton before him, Stott appeared to have fallen out of favor with the team, yet would not be sent to the minors in order to play. Again, we ask:
Where is Joe Girardi at?
The Phillies won their first series of the season, taking two of three from Oakland Athletics followed by a win against the Mets. Since then, they have gone 8-11 and fallen to just a game out of last place in the National League East. The offense has struggled, despite what their ranks may be, the pitching has been inconsistent and the defense, while not as bad as previewed, still have been put into questionable positions (Johan Camargo as a shortstop?). The lineup has only recently taken a more stable form, instead going through several iterations in the vain attempt to generate some offense from a group that should be producing it in spades. One more time, for those in the back:
Where is Joe Girardi at?
A quick venture through social media will show you that the fanbase is starting to get agitated at Girardi’s actions thus far this season. Letting that Sunday night’s game get so far before anything was said to Hernandez, prior to one of the bigger bats on the team exploding and being ejected, should never have happened. While we don’t want to see a manager thrown out on purpose for arguing balls and strikes, even the announcers on the ESPN broadcast were commenting how the manager needs to start to protect his players from possible ejection, helping them get out of their own heads. Instead, we saw nothing. Not even a backup of Schwarber other than the repeated phrase “You have to be better” from Girardi.
When Stott was sent to the minors in favor of bringing back Roman Quinn, there was a bit of logic to keeping Stott in the major leagues. Didi Gregorius was going through some hand issues and the young prospect needed to be kept around just in case something happened during a game where an infielder was needed. However, Stott is a big part of the team’s future and prior to this season only had 10 games in Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Letting him go to that level to receive the needed plate appearances was the best option for his development, especially if he wasn’t going to be used in a starting role in Philadelphia, yet Girardi continued to simply ignore him on the bench. Whatever reason they had for that kind of logic, one that included not bringing up a player Quinn even sooner once they knew how much Bryce Harper’s elbow was bothering him, it continued to feel as though letting Stott sit was having a negative effect on the player and on the team.
In the most recent Sunday night game, the bullpen management of Girardi could be called into question yet again, something that has dogged him during his time here in Philadelphia. With one out and the bases loaded in a tie game in the fifth inning, Girardi went to the mound to relieve Zach Eflin and bring in....Jose Alvarado? Granted, the night before, Alvarado had gotten out of a tight spot, one that almost mirrored the exact situation Girardi brought him into again, but a cross up with Realmuto, followed by a single to the left handed hitting Dominic Smith, pretty much ended the Phillies’ chances of getting back into the game that night. The decision to bring Alvarado in that situation, the night after another high leverage situation, while Brad Hand was available out of the bullpen, certainly doesn’t do Girardi any favors when having to explain his thinking there.
Getting rid of a manager is always a way to make a team feel better about themselves. We all know the real culprits in a team’s slow start are the players who aren’t performing up to standards, but since one cannot fire a player, someone has to be the scapegoat. In this case, it would end up being Girardi.
The likelihood of this happening, of course, is slim to none right now. The team needs to get themselves fully operational before any kind of big decisions can be made either regarding the manager or the roster itself. They’re still looking for Ranger Suarez and Zack Wheeler to get themselves to full strength, there are still some injury issues to sort through (Mickey Moniak? Connor Brogdon? Bryce Harper?) and the lineup still is battling fits and starts. At the very least, though, the seat is probably warming up a bit on Girardi. The team is going to be in a dogfight playoff spots considering many teams look as good, if not better, than advertised heading into the season (Miami, San Diego, St. Louis). Playoff spots will be difficult to come by and any wins that the team can get, they need to snag. When decisions like the ones made by Girardi go wrong for a team and cost them wins, that has to fall back on someone.
Again, it’s pretty doubtful that Girardi gets fired even at all this year unless they go into a tailspin of some kind. This is a veteran team filled with players that can all turn it on at the moment’s notice. But the inability to have that happen even after a month’s worth of games may make Girardi’s managerial seat start feel just a tad warmer these days.