There are so many plots and subplots to the Phillies’ 2022 season.
The most important, clearly, is snapping the franchise’s 11-year postseason drought. The Phillies improved their chances with a 5-1 victory over the Nationals in Game 1 of Friday’s doubleheader at Nationals Park. (Game 2 got postponed because of rain. They tried to play a split doubleheader again on Saturday.) The Phils’ magic number is five with six games to play entering Saturday. They remain in a good position to make the postseason, even with the way they have struggled recently.
In fact, if the Phillies win all three remaining games this weekend in Washington (and the Brewers lose their next two games at home to the Marlins), Philadelphia could clinch a postseason berth as early as Sunday.
That feat would do a lot for this organization. It certainly would influence how the front office views and attacks the offseason. Winning (or losing) changes everything, and winning would almost guarantee that interim manager Rob Thomson returns in 2023, only without the “interim” tag. From 1960 through 2021, 154 of 280 managers (55 percent) who got jobs midseason returned to manage their teams the following year, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
More importantly, 15 of the 16 midseason replacements who led their teams to the postseason returned the following year (93.8 percent).
A couple of weeks ago, it seemed like an absolute no-doubter that the Phillies would remove “interim” from Thomson’s title. The team was 80-62 on Sept. 14 and held the second NL Wild Card spot with a 4 1/2-game lead over the Brewers, who were chasing the Phillies and Padres for a postseason spot.
Thomson played a major role in that success. The Phillies were 22-29 on June 3, when he replaced Joe Girardi at the helm. The new skipper brought a more relaxed vibe to the clubhouse, and the players responded.
But the Phillies lost 10 of 13 from Sept. 15 through Thursday.
Suddenly, 1964 started coming up in conversations again.
Suddenly, those “if we don’t, we don’t” vibes resurfaced.
Nobody’s job is safe when a team collapses, certainly on the manager, coach and player level.
But if the Phillies right the ship again and make the postseason, they may announce Thomson’s promotion from interim manager to simply manager whenever they wish.
The Phillies have said publicly and privately that they need to follow Major League Baseball’s hiring policies, which expects teams to conduct thorough searches that include minority candidates. But the league offers exceptions based on job performance. If the Phillies make the postseason for the first time since 2011, what better case can a team make for Thomson than that?
He would have earned it, right? Besides, the league is not interested in an interview process when an in-house candidate is the best and obvious choice.
“I’m not worried about that,” Thomson said about his future last month. “That’s out of my control.”
But the way the Phillies play these next six games is in their control. A few more wins and the champagne bottles pop.
And if that happens, Thomson should be rewarded for it.