Joe Girardi has yet to manage a regular-season game for the Phillies but his players have spent enough time around him to know how he operates. There was the month of spring training in Clearwater and then these last two weeks of Phillies summer camp for players to learn about his personality and how he runs a team.
Two Phillies veterans, Jake Arrieta and J.T. Realmuto, have thoroughly enjoyed Girardi so far and think he can make a real difference in the win-loss column.
"Where we're trying to go, he's already been," Realmuto said last week.
Girardi is the eighth manager Arrieta has played for in the majors and the fifth for Realmuto.
"Joe is very good about making his way around to everyone. He knows what's going on with every group," Arrieta said over the weekend. "He knows where guys are at every point throughout the day and he has conversations with everybody. I've had 10, 15 very personal conversations with him about the game, about family. He's big on those personal relationships and having those conversations to build that personal connection.
"It's nice to see that. All good managers do that. Joe's been doing it for a long time. He's personable, he's easy to approach. Especially for young players, that's very important to have a manager you know you can go up and talk to about something that might be on your mind, questions or concerns. It's refreshing to see that."
Much has been made of Girardi's blend of old-school gut feel and understanding of the metrics that are more prevalent now than ever before in baseball. The Phillies' previous regime under Gabe Kapler was mostly numbers-based. It's not that Kapler, former pitching coach Chris Young or former hitting coach John Mallee ignored gut-feel, they were just more inclined to go with the data and the odds. That led to many growing pains, from starting pitcher workload to bullpen management to swing instruction.
"One advantage [Girardi] has over the managers I've had in the past — not to speak down on anybody — was what he was able to do in his playing career and also as a manager," Realmuto said. "He's already won a World Series. So many successful playoff seasons. That is something you can't replicate or make up and say I'm a good manager. He's actually done it.
"That experience gives guys that much more comfort. Being able to talk to him about different situations and scenarios, just knowing he's already accomplished things most of us haven't. That gives him a leg up on the others."
Managers in baseball don't impact games as much as head coaches in the NFL or NBA. There are micro decisions throughout a baseball game but managers are not spending three hours calling plays. Baseball fans know that a manager's most important skill is leading men, creating a positive and comfortable atmosphere conducive to success. Charlie Manuel was one of the best in that regard.
"I think managers are undervalued in baseball," Realmuto said. "Just putting your players in position to succeed is not as easy as it seems. You can look at the numbers all you want and some managers will go 100% off of what the computer tells them to do. Some managers will go all off of feel. Joe has a good understanding of both, not just doing it because the piece of paper tells him but having a feel of what's going on in this hitter's head. How has he done over the last week, is he going to be confident in this situation?
"Stuff like that will separate him from a lot of others. I definitely think the manager can help win ballgames and is going to make a difference during the season."
Arrieta cherishes having a manager he trusts to more often than not make the right decision of pulling a pitcher vs. leaving him in.
"He knows what he's doing from the first pitch to the time the last out is made," Arrieta said. "He's very good at handling a bullpen, understanding when it's time to get the starter out of the ballgame. That's something I really appreciate and I know the guys in the bullpen do as well. I'm very happy to have him."