Girardi praises 'passion' of Phillies, fan base

October 28th, 2019

PHILADELPHIA -- Joe Girardi found signs everywhere to manage in Philadelphia.

He told stories about those connections on Monday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park, where he was introduced as the 55th manager in Phillies franchise history. He grew up in Peoria, Ill., which meant he rooted for Larry Bowa and Gary Matthews, when they played for the Cubs. His future wife stepped on somebody’s hand to grab her first home-run ball at Wrigley Field in 1986, a homer hit by a Phillies player.

Pete Mackanin was Girardi's first Minor League manager, who told him that he got promoted to the big leagues in 1989. Girardi got his first big league hit against Floyd Youmans on April 4, 1989. He threw out Bob Dernier, the first baserunner he caught stealing.

Girardi came to Philadelphia on his first road trip. John Kruk broke his nose on a collision at home plate in 1991. Girardi ran camps with John Vukovich. He got Ryan Howard to autograph a ball for his son in 2006. He sought counsel from Jim Fregosi.

“This is a special place,” Girardi said. “I can’t tell you how excited I am to be here because I feel like this is part of who I am.”

Winning is part of who Girardi is, which is why he is here. He managed 10 seasons with the Yankees. He helped them win the 2009 World Series. He led them four times to the American League Championship Series. He led them six times to the postseason. He will be expected to lead the Phillies to the postseason in 2020, although he will need reinforcements on the roster to get there.

“I’m well aware of the importance of winning in this town,” he said. “I’m selfish. I want to win. That’s why I came here, because I think there’s a great opportunity to win here.”

So what kind of manager will Girardi be with the Phillies? He offered some insights:

Girardi has a mechanical engineering degree from Northwestern, so he knows numbers. But there were reports at the end of his tenure with the Yankees (2008-17) that he pushed back.

“I was made fun of as being 'Binder Joe,'” Girardi said. “I do embrace it. It is important to me because numbers tell a story over time. They really do. I'm an analytical guy that has an engineering degree, that loves the math, and they can never give me too much information. I think it's a tool that we use to assess players in so many different ways. Number one, how you get the best out of them? Number two, physically, are they healthy? I mean, there's so many things. Number three, can you change certain things that will make a player more successful? Those things all intrigue me. Those things I'm excited about. Because in reality, our job is to bring out the best in the player, and whatever tool we have to help us, I want.”

Connecting with players
Ten years is a long time to be a manager anywhere, but toward the end in New York, there were reports that Girardi struggled to connect with his younger players.

“I think as a person I'm always self-evaluating things that I can do better,” Girardi said. “Nobody's perfect and there's things that you're going to look back on and say, 'You know, I maybe could've done that a little different. I could've done that.' As far as working with young players, I love that. I went through it with the Marlins. I went through it with the Yankees. They went through a retooling process and I felt that I was able to get the most out of those players. They were one game away from the World Series [in 2017]. If there was a problem, it didn't show up in wins and losses. That's the best way.”

The clubhouse
Former Phillies manager Gabe Kapler kept things loose, maybe too loose. Some players might disagree, but there seemed to be a lack of accountability in the clubhouse.

“I don't think you have to give them a ton of rules,” Girardi said. “It's: Be on time. Be prepared. Be accountable to each other. Be respectful of each other. Love each other. Trust each other. Be respectful to the people around us who have to do their jobs. … But as long as you're on time and you're prepared and you're accountable and that you're focused on winning, is there really anything else? You can encompass everything in those four rules.”

The eye test
Girardi will use the numbers, but he will use his eyes, too.

"You have all the statistical data that tells you, 'The guy is not good the third time through the lineup or the guy is good the third time through,” Girardi said. “But there are those days that a guy is at 85 pitches and there is weak contact and swings and misses all over the place. There's a guy that has gone four innings and thrown 55 pitches and there have been rockets all over the ballpark and no swings and misses. So people will say, 'Why'd you take him out?' And I'd say. 'Well, I thought it was time.' That’s when your eyes become important.”