Joe Girardi’s message at his introductory news conference Monday afternoon was not all that much different than the one Gabe Kapler had offered two years before.
Both men name dropped and they even used some of the same names, ones that would connect with the Phillies’ fan base. Both men professed a burning desire to win and pledged allegiance to analytics while also maintaining a connection to baseball’s past way of doing things.
You could argue that they both won the press conference, which is a must win for any new manager or coach because if you don’t have them at hello you surely have no chance of winning them over when all hell breaks loose.
The big difference between Kapler and Girardi – and it was huge – was in the delivery.
Kapler talked about “razor-sharp turns” around the bases and hitters being “in powerful and athletic positions,” when the ball arrives. He often used more words when fewer would have been both preferred and better.
Girardi’s delivery during his first day in public as the Phillies manager was far more direct, which was most evident when the subject of rules arose inside Citizens Bank Park’s Pass and Stow restaurant.
Kapler spoke about rules in an abstract way and did not believe in them at all. Rather, he thought it was better to teach good choices and let the players know you are always there for them. We know now that his way did not always work. Former Phillies first baseman Carlos Santana revealed in spring training that some players took advantage and decided it was OK to play video games in the clubhouse when the actual game was being played on the field. There was no rule against it, but there was nothing right about it either.
Girardi understands that too many rules will fall on deaf ears and he does not believe his rules need to be written.
“As far as a list of rules, when you hand out a list in spring training, some of them are front-office rules,” Girardi said. “They are really important. But I’m not going to hand them a list of 25 rules and expect them to memorize them. You know how players are.”
Girardi, wearing his white No. 25 jersey with red pinstripes, crumbled an invisible piece of paper and discarded it into the invisible trash can by his side.
“So, it’s simple things,” Girardi said. “Be on time. Be prepared. Be accountable to each other. Be respectful of each other. Love each other. Trust each other. No competing music. I don’t mind loud music. I actually like loud music. But I don’t want to hear one band playing over here and one band playing over there. That doesn’t sound quite as good."
He’s obviously never heard the mashup of the Beatles’ “Let It Be” and Shaggy’s “It Wasn’t Me.”
“There will be rules about the training room, but as long as you’re on time and you’re prepared and you’re accountable and you’re focused on winning, is there anything else?" Girardi said. "You can encompass everything in those four rules.”
You can and you got the feeling that Girardi will make sure that his list of simple rules is followed.
“We had 25 different people who met with Joe in his second interview,” general manager Matt Klentak said. “Among the 25 of us, we covered just about all topics -- discipline, accountability, getting the most out of a team. What is helpful when you bring in somebody like Joe Girardi is you don’t have to ask him how he would do it. You can ask him how he did do it.
“You can look back at that and you can test that. You can ask other people how he did those things. We came away extraordinarily impressed with the way he conducted himself in New York. He really connected with a lot of different people here and it made the decision pretty easy for us.”
Rhys Hoskins was the only player in attendance Monday and he clearly understood what his new manager expects.
“I haven’t spoken to him about [rules], but with the reputation he has I was not surprised by what he said,” Hoskins said. “I think that we’re all professionals and we’re all adult men. I think, especially with the clubhouse we have, that we can keep each other accountable and that’s what he spoke about. Being on time, being prepared, being accountable. I think all of that really meshes into being a professional.”
Does it also build a winning environment?
“I think so,” Hoskins said. “I think it creates an excitement for everybody. I think when you bring in a guy with the pedigree that Joe Girardi has, it can only help. The guy has won. He has won at the highest level and in one of the biggest markets in the world, now he’s on our side.”
Like Kapler, Girardi will likely remain on the side of his players through good times and bad, but he will also have a different set of expectations and at least a few rules.