Buck Showalter

Phillies' 11-year quest to reclaim World Series trophy leads them to Joe Girardi

Phillies' 11-year quest to reclaim World Series trophy leads them to Joe Girardi

Ten years ago, John Middleton walked into the quiet visiting clubhouse at Yankee Stadium, patted Ryan Howard on the shoulder and uttered the words that have since become as much a part of him as his square jaw and large bank account.

“I want my (bleeping) trophy back,” Middleton told Howard.

Middleton’s quest to bring a World Series championship back to Philadelphia has led him back to that night a decade ago when the Phillies lost Game 6 of the 2009 World Series to the New York Yankees.

The Yankees’ manager that night was Joe Girardi.

Now he will be the Phillies’ manager.

Girardi will be christened as the 55th manager in Phillies history in a press conference Monday at 1 p.m. It's a three-year deal with a club option for 2023. Girardi replaces Gabe Kapler, who was fired earlier this month after two seasons on the job.

"I'm excited for this next chapter of my career," Girardi said in a statement released by the team. "The Phillies have a strong commitment to winning from the owners to the front office to the players to the fans. It's something that I've seen up close for the last 30 years of my baseball career. ... To have my name now associated with this great franchise is something that I couldn't be happier about."

The Phillies prioritized experience in succeeding Kapler, a first-time big-league manager. In fact, the Phils interviewed just three candidates for the job — Girardi, Buck Showalter and Dusty Baker — and all have extensive big-league managing experience on their resumes. 

From the beginning, Girardi, 55, was believed to have been the Phillies’ preferred candidate. He managed the Miami Marlins for one season and the Yankees for 10, winning the World Series in his second year with the club. Girardi’s ability to blend baseball’s new (analytics and data) and old (instincts and feel) schools made him attractive to the Phillies' front office and ownership group, the latter of which has spent millions building an analytics operation over the last few years.

MORE: Joe Girardi's journey to the Philadelphia Phillies

Showalter and Baker are both three-time winners of the manager of the year award. Neither was seen as having Girardi’s blend of old and new.

General manager Matt Klentak led the search for a new manager, but it was made clear that his superiors, including Middleton, the team’s managing partner, would have to sign off on the hire. Middleton, according to sources, began thinking about Girardi as a potential Phillies manager back in July when he first started to contemplate dismissing Kapler.

“I don’t think there’s a relationship more important in a baseball organization than the manager and GM,” club president Andy MacPhail said at the news conference announcing Kapler’s firing. “If those two aren’t simpatico, you really have issues. I believe it’s John’s and my goal that Matt go out and start the search. At the end, he’s going to have to have the approval of John and I, just like with Gabe. John or I could have vetoed Gabe; we chose not to. But I can’t imagine us hiring somebody that Matt is not fully on board with. John and I will have some influence on whether the guys that fit that criteria who we think might be the best fit, but it’s got to emanate from the GM.”

Girardi, a former catcher, is an Illinois native who went to college near Chicago (he’s a Northwestern grad) and made it to the majors with the Cubs. He spent four years with the Cubs, went to Colorado in the expansion draft and was traded to the Yankees in November 1995. He was behind the plate the following October when the Yankees beat the Atlanta Braves in Game 6 to win the 1996 World Series. Girardi went on to win two other World Series as a player with the Yankees.

Girardi began his managing career with the Florida Marlins in 2006. He was fired after clashing with owner Jeffrey Loria. In 2008, Girardi succeeded Joe Torre as Yankees manager. He led the Yankees to their 27th World Series title a year later, beating the Phillies in six games.

Girardi’s 2017 team lost in the American League Championship Series and he was later fired. After a decade on the job, it was time for a change. Girardi’s relationship with general manager Brian Cashman had become strained. There were reports at the time that Girardi had begun to push back over what he saw as the overuse of analytics — he favored a blend — and he was criticized for his handling of some young players.

None of this stopped Girardi from being a hot managerial candidate this fall. He also interviewed with the Cubs and Mets for their open jobs.

In Philadelphia, Girardi will be reunited with Rob Thomson, his former Yankees bench coach who now fills the same role with the Phillies. Girardi’s first order of business will be hiring a pitching coach and hitting coach. Both jobs are open.

One name to watch for Phillies pitching coach: Larry Rothschild, Girardi's former pitching coach with the Yankees. Rothschild has a year left on his Yankees deal but they could make changes on their staff.

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Phillies manager update: Dusty Baker has second interview, Buck Showalter on tap Friday, Joe Girardi still to come

Phillies manager update: Dusty Baker has second interview, Buck Showalter on tap Friday, Joe Girardi still to come

Interviews continued Thursday for the Phillies’ vacant manager’s job.

According to multiple sources, Dusty Baker spent a second straight day in Philadelphia meeting with club officials. Baker went through a first round of interviews on Wednesday.

Buck Showater and Joe Girardi met with Phillies officials on Monday in the New York metropolitan area, according to multiple sources.

Showalter has been working as an analyst for the YES Network in New York during the postseason. Sources say he pulled out of his scheduled assignments for Thursday and Friday nights because he will be in Philadelphia for a second round of interviews on Friday.

Girardi is expected to have a second round of interviews early next week.

Though it’s possible more candidates could emerge, the Phillies are currently focused on just these three candidates.

“They want major-league experience,” a person with knowledge of the Phillies’ thinking said earlier this week.

Baker, Showalter and Girardi have a combined 53 years of big-league managing experience and they have won a combined seven manager of the year awards and 13 division titles. Girardi led the New York Yankees to the World Series title in 2009. His club beat the Phillies in six games.

Girardi may very well be the Phillies’ preferred candidate because of his experience working with a front office that values the use of analytics in building a roster and running a game. The Yankees are one of baseball’s analytic powerhouses. Girardi, however, is a former catcher who also relies on instinct and feel in running a game. That balance would be attractive to the Phillies.

Girardi is also being pursued by the New York Mets and they have geography going for them as Girardi lives outside the city.

With the second round of interviews underway, it's possible the Phils could name a manager as early as next Thursday, between Games 2 and 3 of the World Series.

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It's clear Phillies want an experienced manager — could a hire come quickly?

It's clear Phillies want an experienced manager — could a hire come quickly?

Phillies officials are busy again Wednesday as they look to fill the team’s open manager’s position.

According to sources, club officials are meeting Wednesday with veteran skipper Dusty Baker.

The meeting comes after team officials interviewed Buck Showalter on Monday. It is believed that club officials also met with Joe Girardi on Monday.

At the moment, these are the only known candidates for the Phillies’ job, though more could emerge. 

Between them, Baker, Showalter and Girardi have 53 years of big-league managing experience and they have won a combined seven manager of the year awards and 13 division titles. Girardi led the New York Yankees to the World Series title in 2009. His club beat the Phillies in six games.

At a news conference Friday, the day after the Phillies announced Gabe Kapler’s firing, team officials were not specific when asked what qualities they were looking for in a new manager. But by focusing on Girardi, Showalter and Baker, the Phillies are clearly looking for big-league experience in their next skipper, and a person with knowledge of the Phillies’ thinking confirmed this.

“They want major-league experience,” the person said. 

If the Phillies’ search is limited to just Girardi, Showalter and Baker, the club could conceivably make a quick hire — maybe as soon as next week. Monday is a scheduled off day between the League Championship Series and World Series. Thursday is a scheduled off day between Games 2 and 3 of the World Series. Major League Baseball frowns on significant announcements during the postseason but it could OK a managerial announcement on an off day.

If the World Series goes seven games, it would end on October 30.

It is not clear who the Phillies’ top candidate is. It very well could be Girardi because of his experience working with a front office that values the use of analytics in building a roster and running a game. The Yankees are one of baseball’s analytic powerhouses. Girardi, however, is a former catcher who also relies on feel in running a game. That balance could be attractive to the Phillies.

Girardi has also interviewed for the Chicago Cubs’ manager’s job and is said to be on the list of candidates for the New York Mets’ opening. Showalter and Baker have not been mentioned, at least publicly, for other openings. Showalter has extensive connections to the Phillies’ front office. He worked closely with several high-ranking Phillies officials during their time in Baltimore. Showalter skippered the Orioles from 2010 through 2018. He is very interested in the Phillies' job and, according to sources, has done homework on the team's roster.

Baker has 22 years of big-league managerial experience and is a three-time NL manager of the year. He last managed the Washington Nationals in 2017 and led that club to 97 wins and the NL East title.



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