The Phillies’ decade-long quest to bring back John Middleton’s World Series trophy led them Thursday to hire the manager who ripped their title away in 2009.
The Phillies hired Joe Girardi as their manager, signing him to a three-year contract with a club option for 2023. Girardi managed the Yankees for 10 seasons, led them to the playoffs six times, and guided the Yankees past the Phillies in the 2009 World Series.
The Phillies, for the first time since 1952, have hired a World Series champion manager.
“I’m excited for this next chapter of my career,” said Girardi, who will be introduced Monday in a news conference at the ballpark. “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.
"I played against the great Phillies players of the early ’90s – from Dutch Daulton to John Kruk to Dave Hollins – and I managed against their teams during the incredible run they had from 2008 to 2011. To have my name now associated with this great franchise is something that I couldn’t be happier about.”
Girardi also interviewed earlier this month with the Chicago Cubs and New York Mets. He played nearly half of his major-league career with the Cubs. The Mets would have allowed him to return to New York, where he won three world titles with the Yankees as a player before managing them.
But the Cubs opted for former catcher David Ross, and the Mets moved more slowly than the Phillies, who pegged Girardi as their favorite after his second interview, on Monday at Citizens Bank Park. They selected Girardi over finalists Buck Showalter and Dusty Baker as they limited their search to managers with experience and proven track records.
“Joe brings high character and a tremendous work ethic to his position, and he is a proven winner," general manager Matt Klentak said. "I look forward to working with him and I believe that he is the right manager to lead our team to the next level.”
After the season, there was an internal struggle about the future of manager Gabe Kapler. Middleton, the team’s owner and managing partner, wanted to fire Kapler. But Klentak and president Andy MacPhail stood behind the manager. Middleton overruled his top baseball officials and fired Kapler, much to the dismay of Klentak.
But there did not seem to be disagreement over Girardi. Middleton said that Klentak would lead the search for a new manager, and a source said Thursday that Klentak had told other baseball operations staffers that Girardi was his first choice, even though he had worked with Showalter in Baltimore. Klentak did not agree with firing Kapler, but he appears to be on board with Girardi.
“Matt did a great job running the search, culminating with the three exceptional candidates we interviewed,” Middleton said. “Ultimately, we all agree that Joe is the right person to lead our team, and I am excited to welcome him to the Phillies.”
Girardi met separately in his Monday interview with more than 20 team employees, ranging from the clubhouse staff and traveling secretary to the general manager and owner. The day ended with a Center City dinner with the team’s brass.
On Tuesday morning, a source said that Girardi left everyone impressed and the ballpark “was buzzing” when he was inside. It was clear then that the Phillies had found their manager.
But the Phillies’ offseason is far from finished. Free agency begins 10 days after the completion of the World Series, which can end as early as Saturday. The Phillies need to add starting pitchers, sign J.T. Realmuto to a contract extension, rework their bullpen, determine who is playing third base and center field, and bolster their bench.
The Phillies, a source said, are willing to spend big this offseason. It is safe to expect them to be in on the major free agents, including Houston righthander Gerrit Cole and Washington third baseman Anthony Rendon.
The Phillies will be busy, and so will Girardi. The majority of his staff is likely already in place as the Phillies retained nine of their coaches after the season, including bench coach Rob Thomson, who was Girardi’s bench coach with the Yankees.
Girardi will have to hire a hitting coach and pitching coach. For hitting coach, Girardi could be interested in Jim Thome, who worked with him the last two seasons at MLB Network. Thome said last year that he was interested in coaching, but the timing might not be right as his front-office job with the White Sox allows him time to stay home with his family.
Kapler, whose only coaching experience was a season he spent managing in single-A ball during a sabbatical from his playing career, lasted just two seasons with the Phillies. Middleton pushed to fire Kapler after deciding during the summer that change was needed. Kapler was analytically driven, relying more on numbers in the dugout than feel.
Girardi, too, will rely on analytics. With the Yankees, he kept a binder in the dugout filled with pages of statistical information. The Yankees are one of baseball’s most forward-thinking franchises, and Girardi was among the first managers to bring analytics into the dugout. But he is also able to balance that information with the feel he gained during a 15-year playing career.
And that’s what attracted the Phillies. Their analytics department is continuing to grow, and the movement continues to spread throughout baseball, especially among franchises that play deep into October. But the Phillies needed to find a balance.