A week ago around this time, the Phillies fired Joe Girardi. As Defector’s Philadelphia correspondent, I blogged it. I don’t always write the headlines on my posts, but I did this time: “Maybe Firing Joe Girardi Will Finally Kickstart The Phillies.” Several friends of mine read the headline, took a screenshot, and sent it to me with some variation of “You know it won’t!”
It costs money to read this site, so it’s OK that my friends clearly just read the headline because I think I was pretty pessimistic in the actual post about their chances; I mainly wrote about how the Phillies kept saying they were going to start hitting. Actually, it’s more than OK, because now I can brag to them that I was right and they were wrong: After an 8-3 victory over Milwaukee yesterday, the Phillies are undefeated since installing Rob Thomson as interim manager.
Thomson spent 28 years in various coaching and front office roles with the Yankees, the last 10 as Girardi’s bench coach. He held the same role in Philadelphia. The last time Thomson had managed, when Girardi was sick early in the season in 2008, he lost both games. “The offense is going to hit at some point,” he said after the second of those losses. It could’ve been a Joe Girardi interview in 2022! “Does firing Joe Girardi make the Phillies any better? No,” The Athletic wrote in a headline.
So far they are way better. The 2008 Yankees eventually averaged 4.87 runs a game, 7th the AL. In Thomson’s six games as manager, the Phillies have 47 runs (7.83 a game). They swept the Angels and Brewers, winning a game 10-0 in each series. Thomson has not had to make any predictions about the team hitting. In his six games, Bryce Harper has a 1.451 OPS. Kyle Schwarber’s average is up to .209 after a stretch where he’s OPS’ing 1.282.
“It’s just a different vibe right now,” Harper said, per Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philly. “We’re playing our asses off. It is what it is, you know?” Ah, Bryce, big fan, but… no, not really. I do not know. What does “it is what it is” mean in this situation? “We needed to get going,” Harper continued. “Everybody knew that. It’s just a different vibe.” It rules that Harper’s explanation is that Joe Girardi was harshing the Phillies’ buzz.
Perhaps there are more concrete explanations. In the Inquirer, Scott Lauber wrote before the Brewers series that maybe Thomson would play the Phillies’ young players more, which could help. He even quoted Harper: “Our young guys have got to play.” And, indeed. Nick Maton was called up and had two nice games before getting hurt. Alec Bohm and Matt Vierling’s homers in the ninth won it for the Phillies on Wednesday. Bryson Stott has a 1.173 OPS under Thomson, and hit a walkoff homer on Sunday.
It might get better: The Phillies next 13 games are against teams with losing records. Time to make a very confident prediction, the same one in the headline: The Phillies may never lose again.