PHILADELPHIA -- Joe Girardi is not Gabe Kapler, just like Kapler once said he is not Dallas Green.
The Phillies hope the differences between Girardi and Kapler lead them to the postseason in 2020. The team announced Thursday afternoon that Girardi will be the 55th manager in franchise history. Girardi signed a three-year contract with a club option for 2023, likely bringing stability to a team that has had four managers since Charlie Manuel left the job in August 2013.
“Joe brings high character and a tremendous work ethic to his position, and he is a proven winner,” Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said in a statement. “I look forward to working with him and I believe that he is the right manager to lead our team to the next level.”
Girardi, 55, brings experience and a winning record to Philadelphia. He managed 10 seasons with the Yankees (2008-17) and one season with the Marlins ('06). He led the Yankees to the 2009 World Series championship, beating the Phillies in six games. The Yankees averaged 91 wins per season under Girardi, making the postseason six times and the American League Championship Series four times.
“I’m excited for this next chapter of my career,” Girardi said. “The Phillies have a strong commitment to winning, from the owners, to the front office, to the players to the fans. It’s something that I’ve seen up close for the last 30 years of my baseball career. I played against the great Phillies players of the early ’90s -- from [Darren] Dutch Daulton to John Kruk to Dave Hollins -- and I managed against their teams during the incredible run they had from 2008-11. To have my name now associated with this great franchise is something that I couldn’t be happier about.”
The Phillies wanted someone with experience to replace Kapler, who was dismissed two weeks ago. They interviewed only three candidates for the job: Girardi, Buck Showalter and Dusty Baker. The trio had a combined 53 years of managerial experience. Each candidate had a second round of interviews with members of the Phillies’ front office, plus ownership. Girardi had his second round Monday at Citizens Bank Park, which concluded with dinner on Monday night with Phils ownership. Girardi dazzled.
Here are a few thoughts about the hire.
1) Been there, done that
Girardi experienced almost everything in 10 seasons in New York, which makes him capable of handling almost anything that comes his way in Philadelphia. That means in-game situations, whether it’s a midweek game in June or an elimination game in October. That means clubhouse drama and off-the-field controversies. He will not rattle easily.
“They got a great one,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. “Joe was here for 10 years for a reason. I obviously did an interview process back [then] to replace a Hall of Fame manager in Joe Torre, and so that led me to an amazing candidate in Joe Girardi. That was obviously a difficult process to go through; obviously I had some huge names in that mix -- Don Mattingly, Tony Peña, who had been an American League Manager of the Year with the Kansas City Royals. Joe Girardi ultimately prevailed in that interview process and had a massively successful run here with ultimately a World [Series] championship in 2009.”
2) Accountability and urgency
Girardi is expected to run a tighter ship than Kapler, who believed players were the best versions of themselves when they policed themselves in the clubhouse. It was a fine theory, but it did not always work well (i.e., when Carlos Santana smashed three TVs with a bat on the final weekend of the 2018 season, because he thought players played too many video games).
The Phillies collapsed in the second half in each of Kapler’s two seasons. Managing partner John Middleton said he could not get past those collapses when he decided to dismiss Kapler. Girardi’s teams in New York posted a .560 winning percentage in regular-season games in September and October from 2008-17. Only the Angels (.565) and Dodgers (.563) were better.
3) Joe Binder
The Phillies asked Girardi, Showalter and Baker about analytics. They invested millions in an analytics department over the past several years and they do not want to abandon those efforts. Each candidate said the right thing in their interviews, but Girardi came from the Yankees, who are a silent analytics powerhouse. Girardi considered and implemented analytics during his tenure, but he occasionally pushed back, too. Sources said the Phillies believe Girardi will provide a balance between the traditional and modern approach to baseball, which will be appreciated in the clubhouse and in the stands.
4) Whose call was it?
Middleton dismissed Kapler two weeks ago. Klentak and assistant general manager Ned Rice wanted him to stay. It begged the question: who hired Girardi? But sources said that Middleton, Klentak and Phillies president Andy MacPhail agreed that Girardi was the guy. There was a consensus.
“Matt did a great job running the search, culminating with the three exceptional candidates we interviewed,” Middleton said. “Ultimately, we all agree that Joe is the right person to lead our team, and I am excited to welcome him to the Phillies.”
5) Girardi’s coaching staff
Girardi has two vacancies on his staff: hitting coach and pitching coach. Girardi could push for more changes, but it is believed Girardi and the front office have discussed potential hires. Girardi already knows bench coach Rob Thomson, who was on his coaching staff with the Yankees.