When the Phillies finally fired Sleepy Joe Girardi just 51 painful games into a dying 2022 season, it sent a message to the public that sloppy, stupid baseball no longer will be tolerated at Citizens Bank Park.

Unless Rob Thomson delivers that message to the players, Girardi’s firing won’t matter.

Larry Bowa, the incendiary former Phillies skipper, told me last year that Thomson was the best managerial candidate in the major leagues who’d never gotten a chance to manage. This is his chance. Some advice:

Be like Bo, not like Joe.

We’d suggested this move May 6, then again Thursday, but just days ago Phillies president Dave Dombrowski promised he wouldn’t fire his manager during the season. Then, Friday morning, after his daily 1-hour run, Dombrowski called Girardi in and canned him. Girardi, said Dombrowski, seemed relieved.

Dombrowski said that, while he’d gotten permission to fire Girardi on Tuesday from owner John Middleton, this was a move he’d been considering for weeks as the playoffs shrank from the Phillies’ horizon as the team played an ever more embarrassing brand of baseball.

“I do think we can make the playoffs,” Dombrowski said. “We can be a fundamentally decent club.”

Middleton was seen leaving the ballpark Monday night seething after a comical, 10-inning loss to the Giants made his high-priced team look like a laughingstock.

Girardi understands. He reflected on his team’s recent poor performances in the past 10 games and the inevitability of his fate.

“We were 3-7. Realistically, we should’ve been 7-3. That falls on me,” Girardi told MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM during his weekly appearance, which, remarkably, he honored an hour after he’d been dismissed.

“We should’ve won three in Atlanta and two in New York. We didn’t,” he said, sounding utterly, eerily indifferent. “That’s why I’m driving home with my stuff in the car.”

As for Thomson, “He’s the best coach I’ve ever been around. I hope he turns this team around and runs this team to the playoffs.”

» READ MORE: ‘It’s about time.’: Phillies fans, media react on Twitter to Joe Girardi’s firing

Girardi is not alone in that hope.

Dombrowski said he wants Thomson, 58, to bring a “different voice” to the clubhouse. When asked how he’d be different from Girardi, Thomson promised to communicate better with players, to support them, to “have their back.”

Apparently, there was a disconnect between Girardi and the players.

Good day, eh

An intense Canadian, if you’ll pardon the contradiction, Thomson was promoted from bench coach to interim manager Friday morning. His ascendance reestablishes hope for a listless ballclub. It might energize a lethargic, joyless bunch of players for whom playing baseball had become a chore. At any rate, Sleepy Joe’s gloomy presence will no longer darken the skies at Citizens Bank Park.

The lying, the condescension, the doublespeak, the apathy, the Yankees-driven, completely unmerited posturing: gone. For the last two seasons, no one was accountable for anything. Not the unfocused bullpens, not the errant fielders, not the boneheaded baserunners, and certainly not the selfish, swing-for-the-fences hitters, from whom so much was expected and with whom so little has been achieved.

On June 3, the Phillies stand 12 games out of first place in the National League East, seven games below .500, and 5½ games out of the third wild-card spot, and have not won any of their last five series. Further, they are hosting Millville, N.J., native Mike Trout and the Angels this weekend.

There’s only so much humiliation the losingest team in sports history can take. Something had to change. They were wasting prime seasons of star players like Bryce Harper, Zack Wheeler, Nick Castellanos, and Kyle Schwarber.

» READ MORE: They fired Joe Girardi, but the Phillies’ defense and bullpen remain their biggest issues

To add insult to injury, they just lost two of three to the Giants and Gabe Kapler, though they did win Wednesday. Kudos to Dombrowski and Middleton for pulling the plug coming off a win.

They realized that Girardi’s toothless, duplicitous leadership wasn’t the only reason the Phillies underachieved, and it might not have been the biggest. But it was big, and it was the easiest to address. His style created a mistrust between Girardi and the public. It empowered a $238 million clubhouse with a roster that showed him no respect.

Unless Thomson understands that, Girardi’s departure is an empty gesture made to placate rabid fans and critical media.


Will relievers continue to not cover first base, like “Shoelace” Jeurys Familia did Tuesday?

Will the center fielder still misfield overthrown balls, like Odúbel Herrera did 10 days ago? Will baserunners still get hung up, as Herrera did twice in the same inning Wednesday?

Will outfielders still botch routine plays, like when Castellanos ran into Roman Quinn’s territory May 24 in Atlanta?

» READ MORE: Where does Joe Girardi’s tenure rank on the all-time list of Phillies managers?

Will Harper continue to be allowed to run into outs, as he’s done the past three seasons?

Will Thomson teach Girardi’s “Baseball 101″ better than Girardi himself?

Will Thomson adhere to Girardi’s policy of not pitching relievers three days in a row, which helped cost the Phillies two games last month when fireballer Seranthony Dominguez and closer Corey Knebel — neither abused, and both willing — weren’t used on obvious situations? And will Thomson then contradict himself, as Girardi did with Familia the night he’d defended his policy?

Will Thomson not intentionally walk a slugger like Joc Pederson with a pop-gun hitter on deck? Pederson hit his 12th home run and iced an extra-innings game thanks to that strategic miscarriage.

The answer?

Thomson never made it to the majors with Detroit, spent seven years as a coach and manager in the Yankees system before moving to their front office, then became a development coach before joining Girardi’s staff in 2008, serving six years as third-base coach sandwiched by four years as bench coach. He has managed only one year, at single-A Oneonta in 1995, where he went 34-41.

Kapler also had managed a single-A club for just one year in the minors before becoming the Phillies’ manager after the 2017 season. Kapler hired Thomson to his first staff, so Thomson predated Girardi in Philadelphia by two years, though the Phillies did not consider Thomson when they replaced Kapler.

However, after the Yankees fired Girardi in 2017, the Yankees interviewed Thomson to replace him.

“I’ve always wanted to manage. I love it,” Thomson said then, before he was passed over for Aaron Boone. “Every game I’ve ever watched or been a part, I’ve kind of managed it in my mind.”

Given his drowsy demeanor in the dugout, the same might not be said for Girardi ... this season.