The Phillies appear ready to pick between three choices for their next manager. Dusty Baker, Joe Girardi and Buck Showalter were the only choices for the position from the moment that Gabe Kapler exited. All three have gone through two interviews, with Girardi interviewing in Philadelphia on Monday.
Obviously, the choice is an important one for the Phillies. They need the right guy to get the team not just into the playoffs, but playing at this time next year. The right choice has to have the right mix of knowing the game, having instinctive insight into the game and which moves are the best to make and he also has to be able to appropriately use analytics. All of those things need to be blended perfectly to get the most out of this team that not only didn’t make the playoffs for an eighth straight season, but underachieved horribly under Kapler.
Considering all of the experience that each of the three candidates have, the mix of players they would lead on the Phillies and the clubhouse culture that the team needs, the choice should be – Joe Girardi.
While any of the choices would be a step up, Girardi is the best of the bunch and has all of the right tools to manage in Philadelphia. He’s used to managing in a spotlight from his days with the Yankees – by the way, it was 10 years ago that he and the Yankees were beating the Phillies in the Fall Classic – and has handled personalities with a better acumen than even Dr. Phil could muster.
The Yankees, with Girardi as their manager, were one of the early teams on the analytics bandwagon and Girardi fit perfectly into managing an analytically driven team. Being on the ground floor and sticking with the team through the development of their analytics puts him in the perfect position to not just fit into what the Phillies are attempting to do, but it’s likely that he could teach them a thing or two about how to put what they have to the best use possible.
As a game-day manager, Girardi is well versed in what buttons to push. Few, if any, managers will out-manage him, but the same could be said for either Baker or Showalter in that regard.
Where Baker and Showalter falter are in other areas. Baker has been successful and got a raw deal on his last gig with the Nats. He won 192 games over two seasons and was let go. He knows the moves to make, but isn’t as smooth at mixing in the analytics approach that the Phillies want to have. It’s likely that he came recommended by Bryce Harper, who was with the Nationals for Baker’s two seasons.
Showalter may be a quick-fix for the team. His M.O. is to turn teams around quickly, but his personality begins to wear on a team and he can start to lose the clubhouse after two or three seasons. He knows the game as well as anybody, but again, his analytics aren’t in the neighborhood that Girardi lives in.
If you want to rank the three choices, Girardi is the clear number-one, with Baker next and Showalter bringing up the back of the three-man parade. At one point, Showalter appeared to have the edge, with majority partner John Middleton even calling around baseball to get input on Showalter, but after Monday’s interview, many in Philadelphia are seeing Girardi as having moved to the front of the class.
Here’s the thing; Girardi has a second interview with the Mets later this week. The Phillies should write him a check quickly and not even give him a reason to speak with the Mets. In fact, they should have tried to get him signed before he left town yesterday, rather than letting him hang on the open market any longer. The Mets – and possibly the Cubs – both have interest in Girardi, although the Cubs are interviewing a lot of other managers and Girardi’s odds of managing his hometown team (he’s from Peoria, Ill.) seem to be sliding downward.