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Phillies manager Joe Girardi might live to see another series, but why?

Girardi should be taken out of his misery ASAP. In a town that adores fiery leaders. He has endured two months of atrocious baseball with comatose aplomb.

Phillies manager Joe Girardi watching from the dugout during a game against Atlanta last week.
Phillies manager Joe Girardi watching from the dugout during a game against Atlanta last week.Read moreJohn Bazemore / AP

On the eve of the most important game as Phillies manager, Joe Girardi lost his best all-around player for three months to a fractured finger. Seventy minutes before the game, he lost the reigning MVP as a late scratch due to forearm soreness in a right arm that has a torn elbow ligament. Whatever Girardi did to anger baseball’s gods, it must’ve been exceptionally wicked.

All of this came on the heels of a five-game losing streak, the last three of which they’d lost in extra innings, which left his foundering bullpen in tatters. They’d also lost seven of their last eight, four of those in their last at-bat.

They’d lost magnificently. They’d lost excruciatingly. They’d lost ugly.

They’d lost to Gabe Kapler.

They’d lost, and Joe Girardi was complicit.

They finally won Wednesday, 6-5, but not before Girardi let starter Aaron Nola implode in the sixth: double, double, single, hit-by-pitch, homer, without a single reliever even warming up. That made it 5-2, and the Phillies had scored their second run despite two — two — baserunning errors in the same inning, by the same guy (yes, it was Odúbel Herrera).

So many mistakes. Too many mistakes.

Not that Girardi seems to care.

In a town that adores fiery leaders — Larry Bowa, Charlie Manuel, Dallas Green — Girardi has endured two months of atrocious baseball with comatose aplomb. The only time he lost his temper, it was at media provocateur Howard Eskin, and that doesn’t even count. The King could tick off the Queen.

In a moment when transparency and truth were his best allies, Girardi has contradicted himself, saying before Tuesday’s game he wouldn’t use a reliever three days in a row, then doing so that very night.

On May 23, Phillies president Dave Dombrowski publicly promised Girardi he’d have the rest of the season to sink or swim: “I don’t ever get into evaluating managers during the season.”

But that 11-inning loss to the Giants ensured that the Phillies wouldn’t win a series for the fifth time in a row (they split four in Atlanta). They stand 12½ games behind the Mets in the National League East, six games behind the Giants in the chase for the last wild-card spot, and, largely, hopeless. The last two losses in their five-game skid were to the Giants and Kapler, the manager Girardi replaced.

The Phillies are off Thursday. They resume Friday against Mike Trout and the Los Angeles Angels.

There is no good reason Joe Girardi should manage that game. He will — Wednesday saved him, if he needed saving — but come on. What’s the point?

Fairness is irrelevant

Anymore, managers never get fired during the season, and especially not after a win. This is different. The Phillies are on the hook for $240 million. They exceeded the payroll luxury tax for the first time. They are wasting prime seasons for starters Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola as well as sluggers Bryce Harper, Nick Castellanos, Kyle Schwarber, J.T. Realmuto, and Rhys Hoskins.

Change is seldom good for change’s sake, but this group is underachieving beyond imagination. The only possible change is at the top.

The Phillies have two ready replacements on Girardi’s staff: bench coach Rob Thomson, a baseball lifer, and third base coach Dusty Wathan, a Phillies institution who has handled many of the team’s younger players in the minor leagues.

Girardi’s lineup Wednesday in the finale against the Giants featured a leadoff man hitting .185 and backup players at third base, second base, and shortstop who’d combined for five home runs and 131 games in the past two seasons. Things looked bleak.

They rallied with big hitting late and spotless bullpen execution. Consider it an outlier. Nick Maton isn’t going to hit you back to .500.

Has Girardi been dealt a fair hand? On the whole, yes. His superstar, Harper, is injured, but that elbow issue allows him to occupy the designated hitter spot, where he has raked nonetheless.

Girardi’s team has played with poor discipline and little urgency. Yes, the roster is littered with multimillionaire veterans, and veterans shouldn’t need motivation, but, to some degree, Girardi needs to marshal that talent into a passable product. They don’t need wins as much as they need to play winning baseball. Girardi doesn’t didn’t need to manage brilliantly as much as he needs to manage competently.

Consider Tuesday.

Curb your enthusiasm

Girardi’s 11-year veteran second baseman, Jean Segura, fractured a finger because he held the bat wrong while trying to bunt. His 11-year veteran middle reliever, Jeurys Familia, forgot to cover first base on a ground ball to the first baseman. His seven-year veteran center fielder — yes, Herrera— slid headfirst into first base on a close play, ensuring the out. Little League stuff in big-league uniforms.

As for Girardi, in the 11th inning with two outs, first base open, and trailing by a run, he chose to not intentionally walk slugger Joc Pederson to face Tommy La Stella. La Stella had nine home runs since the start of the 2021 season. Pederson already had 11 home runs this season.

Then, he had 12.

Girardi endured it all with a defeated demeanor that made Eeyore look invested.

Big deal?

A ballclub often reflects the mood of the manager. Last week, some Phillies players agreed that the clubhouse is a lifeless room awash in dissatisfaction.

“I think it looks like we are not having fun because the expectations are really high. Even when you win a game, it’s easy to say, ‘Great, we won today, but we’re still 10 games off from where we want to be,’“ new, $100 million right fielder Castellanos told the Inquirer on Sunday. “I think that’s an attitude that has to be flipped.”

The team lost the next three games.

Not all of this lies at Girardi’s feet. Players aren’t meeting expectations off the field, either.

Schwarber and Castellanos arrived in March. They joined Harper, Realmuto, and Hoskins. These are big guys with big bats and big personalities making big money.

But there seems to be no accountability. No leadership. No sheriff down the tunnel.

This is the culture Girardi allows. It should not be allowed past Thursday.

Officially, the Girardi problem might fall under the purview of Dombrowski, but no manager stays or goes without the blessing of the man who signs the checks.

Phillies owner John Middleton, stubborn by nature and contrarian by practice, might let Dombrowski keep Girardi on just to spite a public crying for his dismissal.

If that’s the case, it’s going to be a long, hot summer.