Larry Bowa, 76, the previous Phillies manager and shortstop, coached for the Yankees when Thomson ran spring training with uncanny precision. Thomson’s promotion, Bowa said, was a just reward for a baseball lifer who respects the sport and its history. It was also a classic case of a team replacing one form of temperament with one other.
“People said the identical thing about me: whenever you’re high-strung, they think, ‘Oh, he’s too uptight,’ but that’s just Joe’s personality,” said Bowa, now a senior adviser for the Phillies. “And we had a tricky schedule at the start. If you’ve got newcomers like Castellanos and Schwarber, it takes some time so that you can get your clubhouse so as and guys trusting each other.”
Dombrowski said he didn’t imagine the Phillies could have recovered with no managerial change, though in some ways their turnaround was only natural. The Phillies had a winning record last yr (82-80) after which signed several productive free agents: Schwarber, outfielder Nick Castellanos and the relievers Brad Hand, a lefty, and Corey Knebel, a right-hander.
A part of Thomson’s job, as he saw it, was to provide the team a mental reset.
“We had great expectations coming out of spring training, because we knew we had a very good ballclub — after which it didn’t occur instantly,” Thomson said. “We’d get going and we’d scuffle, get going and scuffle. There was no consistency. So it built up a number of pressure, and you can feel it. So the very first thing we tried to do was just calm every part down, slow all of it down.”
Thomson has tried to maintain a gradual batting order, and makes some extent to send the lineup to players the night before each game. Dombrowski gave him more options along the best way, adding Robertson to the bullpen, Noah Syndergaard to the rotation, and robust defenders to the infield (Edmundo Sosa) and outfield (Brandon Marsh and Bradley Zimmer).