Dave Dombrowski's reasons for firing Joe Girardi as Phillies manager - Fix Bdsthanhhoavn

Dave Dombrowski’s reasons for firing Joe Girardi as Phillies manager

Dave Dombrowski went out for his morning jog Friday, cleaned up and called Joe Girardi.

It was about 8 a.m.

Dombrowski asked Girardi to stop by the ballpark earlier than his usual report time. 

Girardi has been around too long not to have known what was coming next.

“I think by the end he was in a much more relieved state,” Dombrowski said later Friday, at a news conference to announce Girardi’s firing as Phillies manager. “The pressure was off his back at that time.”

Girardi was a much-celebrated hire when he joined the Phillies in October 2019. He’d earned three World Series rings as a player and another as a manager. He would bring a winning touch to a team that desperately needed it.

But the losing, an ugly, annual pattern for this franchise, continued. Four games under .500 and no playoffs in 2020. A meager two games over .500 in 2021 and no playoffs for a 10th straight year.

The Phillies spent over $200 million on free agents this winter — on top of the more than $700 million they’d spent the previous three offseasons — but the losing continued and it ate at Girardi.

Swept in New York over the weekend and playing sloppy, uninspired ball in the process, the Phillies fell to six games under .500. They returned home Monday and lost two more to the San Francisco Giants, putting the skid at 12 losses in 16 games.

Dombrowski had seen enough. A high-priced free agent signing himself, his mandate was to win, to stop the postseason drought at all costs. He couldn’t tear up the expensive roster, not with four months of season left and three wild-card playoff berths up for grabs even if the division title seemed like a farfetched pipe dream given the huge lead the New York Mets had built. So he played the only card he could in hopes of sparking the team and turning around the season.

 

“I get it,” Girardi told Dombrowski in their meeting Friday morning. “The club has underperformed. I’ve been through this before, I understand how it goes.”

And that ended the Joe Girardi era of leading the Phillies. He managed 273 games, five fewer than the forgettable tenure of Ryne Sandberg, and had a 132-141 record.

Girardi’s bench coach, Rob Thomson, is the interim manager, the “new voice” that Dombrowski is counting on to turn the season around.

Time will tell if it happens.

Until then, some questions, some answers, some takeaways:

HOW LONG WAS THE MOVE IN THE WORKS?

One could make the case that Dombrowski had been mulling Girardi’s future for months. He passed on picking up the option year on Girardi’s contract coming into the season, making the skipper a lame duck, a status that can sometimes — not always, but sometimes — compromise a manager’s “voice” in the clubhouse.

Dombrowski, one of the few executives around baseball who makes just about every trip with the team, said he seriously began considering a change over the last 10 days.

He said there was not a tipping point, per se, but acknowledged that the last road trip, which concluded with a sweep in New York and was followed by the two losses at home to the Giants, made him realize it was time.

THE BLAME GAME

The manager of any group in any walk of life pays the price when that group does not achieve its goals. Girardi, who took losses incredibly hard, will be the first one to tell you that he has to wear the firing. But the team’s defense — weakened by Bryce Harper’s inability to play the field — was horrible and it cost them dearly on the last road trip. So did the bullpen.

“I’m not directly saying it’s the manager’s fault,” Dombrowski said. “But I also think it’s a tempo that you need to set on your club, that you need to play better.”

In the clubhouse, players raised their hands and took their share of the responsibility.

Dombrowski and the front office also share in the blame for the state of the team. They fashioned a DH-heavy club that was supposed to outhit its poor defense. It has not happened.

“We were all on the same page as far as (roster) construction,” Dombrowski said. “Ultimately, it comes to my decision on it.”

Dombrowski added: “The one thing you need to constantly look at with the club — we need to be a good hitting club. That’s how we’re put together. That is really a key for us. So I think we can continue to swing the bats even better. We’re a top 10 (offensive) team in the league and I think we can be ever better than that. And that’s how we were constructed.”

 

WHO DID DOMBROWSKI CONSULT WITH BEFORE THE FIRING?

He did not talk to players or members of the coaching staff, he said. He did speak with ownership and other front office members.

WHY THOMSON AS THE INTERIM?

He’s been around the team for five years and knows the personnel.

“I think Rob provides a different type of communication aspect with the players than what was taking place,” Dombrowski said. “I think that was really important for us.”

Dombrowski stayed in-house with an interim skipper rather than engage in a lengthy process of opening the job to outsiders. Following MLB interview protocols takes time and this team needs to work quickly to save its season.

Dombrowski also addressed the idea that he would bring in his old friend Jim Leyland to right the ship: Leyland is retired and intends to stay retired.

Finding a new skipper becomes Job No. 1 in the offseason for Dombrowski — unless Thomson is a success and earns the position going forward.

IS THOMSON TOO MUCH LIKE GIRARDI?

Valid question given their time together in the Yankees’ dugout, Girardi as skipper, Thomson as bench coach.

“We’ve had the highest of highs, a World Championship together, a lot of playoff wins together,” Thomson said. “We’ve battled through some tough times. There’s a bond there that will never be broken.

“I’m a little bit different than Joe. I’m not going to go into the differences, but I like to think that I’m prepared and I’m a good communicator with these guys. The plan is to make sure that all these guys know where they’re supposed to be at any given time whether it’s our bullpen, the lineup, whatever it is. I just want to make sure that the guys are prepared.”

WHAT ABOUT THAT DEFENSE?

Thomson, 58, is a former minor-league catcher from Ontario. He’s long wanted a shot to manage but never let that ambition get in the way of doing his job supporting another manager. That’s why he’s lasted so long.

So now that he has his shot, how’s he going to outrun that sloppy defense and turn this thing around?

“I don’t think you can get guys to cover more space, but we’re constantly working,” he said. “We have a great coaching staff. I’m telling you. And I was very humbled when Dave offered this to me because we’ve got a bunch of guys in that coaches’ room that could be sitting up here right now so I feel very fortunate for that. 

“Our coaching staff is constantly working on how to field ground balls, throwing, catching balls on the run. We can’t teach them to cover more space because we can’t teach them speed. But we have to put them in the right place and help them make sure they can field ground balls, catch fly balls, throw to the right base, those fundamental things.”

 

WHAT ABOUT THE BULLPEN?

Girardi did not want to use relievers three days in a row. He wanted to keep them fresh for the long haul because, as he said, “The prize is in October.”

His personal adherence to not using a reliever three days in a row showed he always put his players’ health first, an admirable quality, but it might have cost the Phils a game last week in Atlanta and contributed to his firing.

Thomson will be more read-and-react, to use an old Gabe Kapler line.

“We’re now into June and I’m not going to say we’d do it every time, but we’ll take it case by case,” he said. “If there are low pitch counts the first two nights and the guy looks you in the eye and says, “I’m good to go,” and you trust him, then it’s a possibility.”

ABOUT THAT DROUGHT

Zero playoff games the last 10 seasons. Huge payroll. Big stars. Lofty expectations.

Can this team still make it?

That’s the idea behind the managerial change.

“I think we can make the playoffs,” Dombrowski said. “I think we’re in a position where we can battle back to do that. I do believe that. 

“But we’re going to have to play better.”

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