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The Phillies Fire Manager Joe Girardi, but Their Flaws Run Deeper


For Philadelphia fans upset by the 76ers, who followed years of N.B.A. failure with only muted success, the Phillies have a message: Hold my Yuengling.

This was alleged to be winning time at Residents Bank Park, but on Friday the Phillies conceded the disaster their season has change into and fired Manager Joe Girardi. The 76ers never make it very far within the N.B.A. postseason, but at the least they get there. The Phillies seem headed for his or her eleventh season in a row without making the playoffs, a stretch that features only one winning record.

That was last season, and it just barely qualified, at 82-80. The team’s owner, John Middleton, reinvested within the roster by signing Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber, pushing past the league’s luxury tax threshold for a club-record $228.7 million payroll, fourth highest within the majors.

Yet the Phillies were 22-29 when Dave Dombrowski, the president of baseball operations, fired Girardi Friday morning. Even the cross-state Pittsburgh Pirates, mired in an extended rebuilding project with a meager $55.7 million payroll, had a greater record.

“I believe we’re higher than what we’ve played,” Dombrowski said at a news conference in Philadelphia. “But to me, crucial part, if we’re going to show this around, and I believe we still have the capabilities to do it — I believe we wanted a special voice within the clubhouse.”

The Phillies appointed Girardi’s bench coach, Rob Thomson, to be the team’s interim manager for the remaining of the season. Thomson, like Girardi, has deep roots within the Yankees organization and was a part of the staff that beat the Phillies within the 2009 World Series. He shall be the Phillies’ sixth manager during their postseason drought, which is the longest within the National League.

“There’s a variety of reasons we didn’t win,” Girardi said Friday, in his weekly segment on MLB Network Radio. “We gave too many extra outs that probably cost us 4 or five games, perhaps much more. At times, our bullpen struggled; we had some guys that I believe have significantly better stuff than the potential that they’ve pitched to. And a few guys got off to some slow starts offensively.

“And that happens, right? But I believe you may overcome sometimes one thing, perhaps even two. But sometimes when it’s greater than that, it’s somewhat difficult.”

Somewhat is an understatement. Through 50 games, the Phillies ranked last within the majors in defensive runs saved, in line with Sports Info Solutions. Through Thursday, their relievers had issued 93 walks in 180 innings, in comparison with 73 walks in 273 innings for his or her starters. And just one on a regular basis player, Bryce Harper, had an on-base percentage of .325 or higher.

The Phillies knew they might not have a powerful defense but had hoped that a brawny offense could mask that deficiency. Once they signed the slugging outfielders Castellanos (five years, $100 million) and Schwarber (4 years, $79 million), they hoped to make use of the designated hitter spot to maintain one or the opposite off the sphere for many games.

But a ligament tear in Harper’s right elbow has forced him to be a full-time D.H., and Castellanos and Schwarber haven’t hit enough to be much help. Several returning position players — Alec Bohm, Odubel Herrera, Rhys Hoskins, J.T. Realmuto — have been mediocre at best.

“I take responsibility when the club is playing this fashion; all of us take responsibility,” Dombrowski said. “I believe the players take responsibility, too. I do know they’re not joyful with what’s taken place. I do think we’re a greater club than this.”

They ought to be, at the least. When the core of their 2008 championship team crumbled, the Phillies planned to follow a contemporary blueprint for constructing a winner: They’d weather some rough years and construct a dynamic farm system, then promote top prospects and complement them with high-priced stars.

Along the best way, they’ve fired General Manager Matt Klentak and the manager he hired, Gabe Kapler, replacing them with Dombrowski and Girardi, each well-known commodities with championship pedigrees. They were reassuring hires; by winning before, the pondering went, they might know how one can do it again.

However the Phillies’ flaws ran deep. They held a top-10 pick in five consecutive drafts, from 2014 through 2018, and uncovered only one player, starter Aaron Nola, who has made a significant impact. Dombrowski, who was hired in December 2020, overhauled the team’s player-development staff last September.

Harper and starter Zack Wheeler have been smart investments, and Realmuto — acquired from Miami in a trade, then signed to a long-term contract — has made two All-Star teams for the Phillies. But with no pipeline of low-cost, young players who would recuperate with time, the Phillies have been forced to proceed importing expensive veterans.

That is commonly a dubious strategy, because many players with enough service time to command high salaries have often already peaked. Older teams can win, as Girardi’s Yankees did in 2009. But that roster was full of players worthy of Hall of Fame consideration; this Phillies roster is far weaker.

Girardi, then, could only achieve this much. His Yankees teams, collectively, had 200 more victories than losses — 910-710. But Girardi’s three Phillies teams went 132-141, a stressful and unfulfilling stay in a demanding sports town. As Girardi packed his office late Friday morning, Dombrowski said, Middleton and others sensed a shift in his mood.

“By the tip, he was in a far more relieved state, I might say,” Dombrowski said. “The pressure was off his back.”

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