PHILADELPHIA — Joe Girardi led a Phillies team with the reigning NL MVP, five 2021 All-Stars, a $224 million payroll that pushed the franchise above the luxury tax and expectations of end the longest drought in the National League playoffs.
With his team buried deep in the NL East standings, and with a sagging bullpen, defensive gaps and sleepy starts from some high-priced veterans, Girardi paid the price for Philadelphia’s miserable departure. He was fired Friday, becoming the first major league coach to lose his job this season after failing to turn a team with a record payroll into a playoff contender.
Bench coach Rob Thomson has been named interim manager.
Faced with a challenge for the NL East title, the Phillies were 22-29 and 12 games behind the first-place New York Mets going into Friday’s games. They were 5 1/2 games out of the NL’s second wildcard spot.
“Oh, I think we can make the playoffs. I think we are in a position where we can fight to do that. I believe it,” said president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski.
Girardi’s first year with Philadelphia was the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. The Phillies went 82-80 last year, and he finished his tenure with a 132-141 record. Girardi led the New York Yankees from 2008 to 2017 and the Florida Marlins in 2006.
The Phillies had lost 12 of 17 games heading into Game 1 of Friday’s three-game series against the Los Angeles Angels.
“We underperformed and that’s on me. That’s what’s happening,” Girardi told SiriusXM’s MLB Network Radio. “I think there is more talent in this room than the way we played.”
The Phillies still boast NL MVP Bryce Harper and NL Cy Young Award finalist Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, All-Star wide receiver JT Realmuto and freelance hitters Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber. Still, Philadelphia hasn’t made the playoffs since 2011, won the World Series since 2008, and seen fan interest plummet in more than a decade of lackluster baseball.
“It’s not something that can’t be fixed and changed,” Dombrowski said. “I think we’ve already started some of those changes this winter when we’ve made changes within our system, our organization, a lot of changes, but those things don’t happen overnight.”
Harper was plagued most of the season with right forearm and elbow pain and was forced out of right field, serving in the designated hitter spot. Second baseman Jean Segura is out for up to three months with a broken right index finger. The Phillies are 12-15 at home and 4-10 in one-point games.
The low point was a May 5 loss at home to the New York Mets when they blew a six-run lead in the ninth inning and lost 8-7. The Mets had lost the previous 330 times they trailed by six runs in ninth.
“I think there are several reasons why we didn’t win. We gave away too many extra strikeouts that cost us four or five games, maybe even more,” Girardi said.
Girardi replaced Yankees manager Joe Torre after the 2007 season and spent a decade in the scratches. Girardi led New York to its 27th World Series title, beating the Phillies in six games in 2009, and his 910 wins were sixth most in team history.
Girardi said last week that the season was “frustrating” but he was not worried about losing his job. Girardi, however, likely had to make the playoffs this season after the Phillies declined to pick his 2023 option.
Philadelphia’s struggles go far beyond Girardi. Gabe Kapler was fired after going 161-163 in two seasons, then led the San Francisco Giants to a 107-55 record and the playoffs last season.
The Phillies also fired assistant coach Bobby Meacham and promoted Mike Calitri to bench coach.
Thomson was Philadelphia’s bench coach and coordinated spring training for the past five seasons. He was hired before the 2018 season.
“I’m ready to lead this team and I can’t wait to get to work and make a difference,” he said.
YANKEES: Josh Donaldson was activated from the 10-day injured list and was on the roster for the first time since being suspended by Major League Baseball for a remark to Chicago White Sox star Tim Anderson.
Donaldson was suspended one game for making multiple references to Jackie Robinson during a conversation with Anderson on May 21. Donaldson appealed the discipline.
Donaldson played the next day against Chicago but has not been fielded since due to COVID-19 and right shoulder inflammation. He was scheduled to play third base and clean up bats against the Detroit Tigers upon his return.
The 2015 AL MVP is hitting .239 with five home runs, 15 RBIs and a .764 OPS in 37 games in his first season with New York.
Donaldson was isolated from the team for several days after the Anderson incident because he had symptoms of COVID-19. He apologized to the Robinson family during this time. On his return he said he was injured that his teammates did not support him.
TWINS: Minnesota arrived in Toronto with regular right fielder Max Kepler and relief pitchers Emilio Pagán, Caleb Thielbar and Trevor Megill on the shortlist to comply with the Canadian government’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate.
All four players will miss the three-game series against the Blue Jays. Canada requires that anyone traveling to the country have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, the second at least 14 days before entry.
Outfielder Mark Contreras and right-handed pitchers Jharel Cotton, Chi Chi González and Ian Hamilton were promoted from Triple-A St. Paul as a weekend replacement.
RED: Cincinnati activated veteran left-hander Mike Minor after an extended stint on the injured reserve and a minor league rehabilitation mission.
Minor started the season on the 10-day injured list with a sprained left shoulder. In five starts in rehab at Triple-A Louisville, he went 1-3 with a 6.11 ERA with 21 strikeouts in 17 2/3 innings.
To make room on the roster, the Reds moved to outfielder TJ Friedl in Louisville.
CARDINAL 14, SMALL 5: Paul Goldschmidt homered to extend his hitting streak to 25 games, Corey Dickerson went deep twice and visiting St. Louis routed Chicago.
Nolan Gorman and Lars Nootbaar also went deep as the Cardinals earned their fourth win in five games.
Goldschmidt hit a three-run drive in the third for his 12th home run. The six-time star capped his 26-game career hitting streak with Arizona in 2013 and extended his personal best by reaching base in his 39th consecutive game.
Goldschmidt has 10 home runs and 36 RBIs in his last 22 games. He has a National League-leading .349 average and 47 RBI, tied for the NL lead with Pete Alonso of the Mets.
Dickerson fired a five-run fourth off Marcus Stroman (2-5) when he lined up a decisive solo shot on the right for his first homer. He and Nootbaar hit back-to-back solo homers in the ninth against Frank Schwindel, who took the mound after starting as the designated hitter.
Gorman threw a long three-point drive in the fourth to make it 9-4.
NATIONALS 8, RED 5: Lane Thomas hit a three-home run game for the first time in his career, and Nelson Cruz and Juan Soto also went deep, leading Washington to a win at Cincinnati.
Thomas became the first Nationals player to hit three home runs in a game since Kyle Schwarber did on June 20, 2021 against the New York Mets. Thomas has had just three homers in 123 at-bats this season.
Joey Votto hit a three-run homer for Cincinnati in the eighth and tied Johnny Bench for fourth on the franchise hit list with 2,048.
YANKEES 13, TIGERS 0: Gerrit Cole pitched the seventh inning perfectly one night after teammate Jameson Taillon lost his perfect game offer in the eighth, Aaron Judge homered and had four hits on his bobblehead night, and New York was put routed while visiting Detroit.
The Yankees are the first team with consecutive perfect-game bids of six or more innings since at least 1961, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Jose Trevino, Anthony Rizzo and Matt Carpenter also scored New York against rookie Elvin Rodriguez (0-1), charged with 10 points in his third major league start.
Jonathan Schoop ruined Cole’s perfect night with two outs in the seventh. The ground player from Schoop jumped in the middle, just after the diving of second baseman DJ LeMahieu.
GUARDIANS 6, ORIOLES 3: Shane Bieber held Baltimore hitless until the sixth inning and Owen Miller drove in four runs in his first two plate appearances as Cleveland picked up a win at Baltimore.
PHILLIES 10, ANGELS 0: Bryce Harper and Kyle Schwarber each hit two home runs and Philadelphia won on interim manager Rob Thomson’s debut, sending Los Angeles to its ninth straight loss.
TWINS 9, BLUE JAYS 3: Kyle Garlick and Jose Miranda each hit two home runs, Byron Buxton also went deep and visiting Minnesota ended Toronto’s eight-game winning streak.
GIANTS 15, MARLINS 6: Brandon Crawford hit his fifth career Grand Slam, Mike Yastrzemski hit a home run and a double, and San Francisco hit a record five home runs in a win at Miami.
DIAMONDBACKS 8, PIRATES 6: Rookie Alek Thomas hit two of Arizona’s five homers in a win at Pittsburgh.
Ketel Marte homered while extending his hitting streak to 15 games and Christian Walker and Jake McCarthy also connected for Arizona.
SPOKES 6, WHITE SOX 3: Randy Arozarena homered, Ji-Man Choi had three runs and Shane McClanahan earned his fourth straight start as Tampa Bay beat visiting Chicago.
Baseball: Clear favorites have emerged in the South as the playoffs begin