It's been two years since the Philadelphia Phillies hired Joe Girardi as manager, taking the reins from Gabe Kapler. Girardi was brought in for a three-year contract that sees him staying until the end of the 2022 season, with the possibility of the Phillies' front office picking up an option for the 2023 season.
Has Girardi earned the possible fourth year and what might he have to do to guarantee that extension?
The past two seasons under Girardi have been rough for Philadelphia, with the 2020 season being unique entirely. The MLB had set up a 60-game schedule which can make it impartial to judge Girardi's first year as it wasn't the full 162, which can present new issues for managers to deal with. In 2020, the Phillies finished with a record of 28-32, placing them third in the NL East, behind the Miami Marlins and Atlanta Braves.
The 2021 season appeared to start off quite well for Girardi after Philadelphia won their first four games, but issues would quickly arise. Injuries, poor defense, an anemic offense, and an inability to sustain momentum killed them. The Phillies' sloppy play made them inherently average, with the most games they'd spend above .500 being seven, and the most below being four.
The only reason the team was still in contention the last week of the season was because of the rest of the NL East underperforming for most of 2021. So, as it did in 2020, Philadelphia's season came down to the wire, and they once again came up short.
When asked about how he felt about the failure to make the playoffs as a manager, Girardi responded, "I feel like I failed, getting us to where we wanted to get to."
Following these two seasons, Girardi has a record of 110-112 (.495), which doesn't place him much better than his predecessors. Kapler finished with a record of 161-163 (.497), Pete Mackanin with a record of 174-238 (.422), and Ryne Sandberg with a record of 119-158 (.428).
But one thing that Girardi has over all of these other managers is immense experience managing star players. Girardi has managed some of the best players from the previous decades such as Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Miguel Cabrera, and Ichiro Suzuki. The experience managing these players may help Girardi when approaching players like Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto or Zack Wheeler.
To guarantee that Philadelphia's front office will pick up his option in 2023, Girardi will have to look to do two things.
To start, he will have to stop the trend of dropping pivotal games throughout the season. There were one too many times this season in which Girardi's management directly cost them games. His managing of the bullpen was particularly questionable. Additionally, Girardi's favoritism of veterans and his reluctance to give some younger guys chances, thus hindering their development, has come under fire. But whether this is all Girardi's fault is up for debate.
Moreover, the Phillies must learn to kick it into gear during the final stretch of the season when every game matters. During both seasons under Girardi's management, the Phillies have fallen apart during the final weeks of the season. September has not been kind to them.
The second, and perhaps most important part to guaranteeing Girardi's place in the dugout come 2023, is to make the playoffs. Whether it's through the NL Wild Card or by winning the NL East, something Philadelphia hasn't done since 2011. And in order to do so, the team must play smarter, more consistent baseball, and in turn, won't lose as many important games.
Merely making the postseason would do so much for the organization, the players, and most importantly, the city. It would be difficult seeing the front office not welcoming him back for the following season.
As touched on earlier, if the Phillies do decide to move on from Girardi come the end of the 2022 season, it'll be difficult to find someone with the accolades and experience that Girardi brings to the table.
Deputy Editor Lauren Amour contributed to this story.
More From SI's Inside The Phillies:
- Phillies Trade Scenarios: Who Might Dombrowski Move This Offseason?
- Could Acquiring Starling Marte Make Sense for Phillies?
- Arbitration Projections: Who Will the Phillies Keep?