Lame-duck Philadelphia Phillies manager Joe Girardi has hottest seat in baseball
After a flurry of offseason activity, the Phillies have one more move to make:
Pick up Joe Girardi's option.
The manager is entering the franchise's most important season in a decade but the team has put him in a powerless position. Give him power. Don't risk wasting 2022.
Because if they don't pick up the option, they're telling a team full of stars that they're not sure about the leader's leadership. They're saying that the voices coaching them might be different voices as soon as next year, and those sorts of voices tend to get ignored.
There's no need for this sort of instability. None.
The team has gone 10 seasons without reaching the playoffs, the longest drought in the National League. Now, suddenly, it is overfilled with accomplished veterans: Bryce Harper, Zack Wheeler, J.T. Realmuto, Aaron Nola, Rhys Hoskins, Jean Segura. The Phillies just added free-agent sluggers Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos at the cost of $179 million, which pushed the team over the luxury tax for the first time, a red line John Middleton and his partners previously refused to cross.
The Phillies have been spendthrifts the last few years, and they'll have plenty of money to spend next season, too, as the luxury tax rises to $233 million. So, a team that will have Harper, Wheeler, Nola, Realmuto, Schwarber, Castellanos, Hoskins, and Segura under control, and will have room to add more, might have a job opening come November — perhaps the most attractive job opening in baseball. The players know this. If they decide Girardi's the problem, they know they'll be able to influence the next hire.
Inherited manager: They also know that Girardi was inherited. Phillies president Dave Dombrowski didn't hire him. Andy MacPhail did, after the 2019 season. Dombrowski came aboard after the 2020 season. In fact, after the 2021 season, Dombrowski didn't even know Girardi had an option for 2023.
There have been no discussions regarding picking up the option. Clearly, Joe ain't Dave's guy.
To review: Money spent, stars in-house, no security, and the boss doesn't even know your deal.
The pressure on Girardi could not be higher. His seat could not be hotter.
Girardi doesn't deny any of the issues. Rather, he says that he ignores them.
What, me worry?
Increased pressure: Asked if the most recent additions — Schwarber and Castellanos — increased the pressure to win immediately, Girardi deflected.
"I feel pressure all the time," Girardi said. "Pressure comes from within. Pressure doesn't come from the outside for me."
OK. Well, then, after handing you a flawed roster the previous two seasons, is it fair to be putting you in a show-me situation for 2022?
"I've never had a contract picked up or renegotiated during the season," Girardi said. "This is the only thing I know."
That doesn't make it right, does it?
"I never worry about it," he said Tuesday. "I worry about today. I'm going to worry about what we do opening day."
Fine. But wouldn't more job security help if you start to lose games, and lose the clubhouse?
"No. That's built on your relationships," Girardi said. "It's bigger than wins and losses."
Hamstrung over last two seasons: Actually, very little is bigger than wins and losses. Girardi went 110-112 the last two seasons, and both times he was hamstrung.
The bullpen in 2020 was the worst baseball had seen in 90 years, and the 2021 'pen led the league with 34 blown saves, a team record.
Last season the club spent $20 million on left fielder Andrew McCutchen's worst season, at the age of 34. It lacked the depth to replace injured shortstop Didi Gregorius, who hit .209, or starter Zach Eflin, when he went down in mid-July. They never had a decent option in center field.
Somehow, Girardi held things together well enough to get an MVP season from Harper and a Cy Young runner-up from Wheeler, and he kept the team in the playoff race until the end of September.
Deserving of longer leash: All things considered, shouldn't he get a longer leash?
"I'm a big believer in faith," Girardi said. "The Lord upstairs — wherever he wants me to be, that's where I'll be."
Again: He never answered "No."
Girardi knows he deserves better.
The other guys: There's always a group of time-marking managers running trash-can ballclubs, loitering in their offices until the brass comes in and chops off their head. Those managers aren't on hot seats. They're just doomed.
To be on a hot seat you've got to have hope. Expectations. Girardi was hired to win a World Series, as he did when his Yankees beat the Phillies in 2009. The Phillies have spent money on players and analytics and sports science and nutrition and technology. There are expectations.
Girardi isn't exactly alone.
It's fashionable to list Aaron Boone among the managers likely to be relieved, but last fall the Yankees extended his contract through 2024. He's been in the playoffs each of his four previous seasons, and not even the Yankees are impulsive enough to fire a manager they just extended ... are they? Besides, the Yankees know if they fire Boone, he'd be the best managerial candidate on the market. Certainly, the Phillies would pounce.
Out in L.A., however, Joe Maddon's pants are on fire. The Angels installed former front office assistant Ray Anderson as Maddon's new bench coach, perhaps an ill harbinger. Like Girardi, Maddon has a fourth-year team option that had not been picked up. Like Girardi, Maddon has a big-name roster, lots of name recognition — but only one World Series title, and that came with the Cubs six years ago.
The Angels should pick up Maddon's option, too.