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With Joe Girardi, Philadelphia Phillies found a new scapegoat for their futility

Robbie Stratakos

The Philadelphia Phillies were ecstatic to hire Joe Girardi as their new manager after the 2019 MLB season. Life comes at one fast, though. News broke on Friday morning that the Phillies fired Girardi, which comes in the wake of the team’s 22-29 start.

Bench coach Rob Thomson will manage the Phillies for the rest of the season, as they attempt to involve themselves in the National League Playoff mix. But Girardi’s firing isn’t really about the team’s slow start.

This is the Phillies’ organization doing what it does best, that being blaming everyone but themselves. Girardi is simply their new scapegoat.

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Joe Girardi firing is a pattern for the Philadelphia Phillies

MLB: Miami Marlins at Philadelphia Phillies
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s go down memory lane, shall we? The Phillies entered 2018 with a former player preaching analytics with manager Gabe Kapler along with a handful of budding players (e.g. Aaron Nola, Rhys Hoskins, Odubel Herrera and Maikel Franco).

Philadelphia held first place in the NL East in August. Then they crumbled and missed the playoffs at 80-82. The Phillies followed up their mostly encouraging season with a historic offseason, signing/acquiring Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Jean Segura and Andrew McCutchen. The Phillies finished a mere game better in 2019 and fired Kapler.

Now, the Phillies’ immense quantity of talent producing a .500 record after a late-season collapse the season prior rightfully brought Kapler’s decision-making into question. On the other hand, he was at the helm for back-to-back respectable seasons, which came after the franchise rotted at the bottom of the NL East for five years.

Philadelphia, of course, hired Girardi to replace Kapler, which seemed like a tremendous hire. Girardi was a healthy mix of old and new school with his managerial tendencies. He would assemble his lineup in traditional fashion (contact hitters getting on base to set up the heart of the order) while being versatile in deploying his relievers.

The Phillies missed the playoffs in the shortened 2020 season and “mutually parted ways” with general manager Matt Klentak. Then they missed the playoffs in 2021 by a wide margin, are off to a rough start in 2022 and have another new manager.

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Philadelphia Phillies have been unable to develop talent

There have been two constants for the Phillies over the last five years: continual change in leadership and an inability to develop talent.

The Phillies’ struggles with the latter are mind-boggling. As previously alluded to, this franchise has seen players reach the big leagues and have success, but most of them quickly tapered off. Nola has become a reliable starter but not an ace. Herrera continually dropped in offensive production before a domestic violence suspension. Franco is no longer with the organization.

Infielder Alec Bohm had a superb 2020 campaign but has since struggled to get on base and field the hot corner. How have the Phillies gotten around their struggles to develop young players to be relevant? They’ve used their wallet.

The Phillies signed Harper to a $330 million deal. They traded top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez for arguably the best catcher in the game in Realmuto, who they later re-signed to a $115 million deal. Before his departure, McCutchen inked a $50 million deal.

Didi Gregorius swayed the Phillies to give him two contracts with eight-figure salaries. Zack Wheeler was signed from the New York Mets for $118 million — although that has become an excellent signing. Last season, the Phillies traded then-top pitching prospect Spencer Howard to acquire Kyle Gibson, who has underwhelmed.

This past offseason, the Phillies signed Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber for a combined $179 million. The Phillies have to acquire a team because they can’t develop one.

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Joe Girardi wasn’t the Philadelphia Phillies’ problem

Girardi was by no means a perfect manager. Any time a team with the Phillies’ talent racks up two and a half disappointing seasons, the manager warrants criticism. Blowing a 7-1 ninth-inning lead at home, which the Phillies did in their May 5 loss to the rival New York Mets, is also an awful look. At the same time, there’s only so much a manager can control.

Girardi can’t control his closer giving up a first pitch home run to a player who’s making his MLB debut; this happened in the team’s May 29 loss to the Mets. For the better part of the last five years, the Phillies have dedicated resources to improve their bullpen, and it has continually let them down.

This team has considerable talent across the board, but they’ve never clicked at the same time. Harper has played the best baseball of his career over the last two seasons, but the team’s offseason pickups are struggling to hit their weight. An MLB team can’t rely on its wealth to win a championship or even make the playoffs. When a team can’t develop players, they don’t have depth and are forced to take chances on the trade market. This is precisely what the Phillies have done.

Two of the last three World Series winners have come from the NL East (Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals). Those teams had a deep-rooted core. In the present, the Mets, whose roster is a well-oiled machine, are the only team in the NL East with a winning record. Despite all those wins for the taking, the Phillies are still seven games below .500.

Kapler is the manager of a San Francisco Giants’ team that just won 107 games. Girardi won a World Series with the New York Yankees and continually managed competitive teams thereafter.

Girardi may not have been the solution for the Phillies, but he also wasn’t the problem. The franchise not seeing it through with managers and their startling lack of player development are to blame.