With Phillies manager Joe Girardi facing questions from reporters about his job security, owner John Middleton and president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski must consider the following.
• Would moving on from Girardi elicit howls of injustice from players, fans and media? (Probably not.)
• Who would replace Girardi? (There is no obvious answer.)
• Would a new manager improve the team’s performance? (Not without better defense and better relief pitching, and Dombrowski cannot snap his fingers and make those problems disappear.)
Sometimes teams believe change is necessary for change’s sake. The Phillies, seven games under .500 for the first time since the end of the 2017 season, might be reaching that point. The largest deficit a Phillies team has overcome to win a division was 8 1/2 games in 2007. The current group, the product of a club-record $228.7 million payroll, is 11 1/2 games back.
The expansion of the postseason means all is not lost for a franchise trying to make the playoffs for the first time since 2011, the second-longest drought in the majors. As the calendar turns to June, seven National League teams likely are pretenders, leaving eight clubs to battle for six spots. The Phillies, while six games back in the race for the third wild card, have played one of the toughest schedules in the majors. Their remaining schedule is one of the easiest.
So, one way to look at this is that things can only get better, particularly when four Phillies sluggers — Nick Castellanos, Rhys Hoskins, J.T. Realmuto and Kyle Schwarber — are not producing to their expected levels when compared to the rest of the league. All but Realmuto, who had the day off, hit home runs Monday in the Phillies’ latest dispiriting defeat, 5-4 to the Giants in 10 innings. But uh, have you seen this team in action? The Phillies are who we thought they were. Only worse.
Back on March 21, shortly after Dombrowski added to his collection of DHs by signing Schwarber and Castellanos, The Athletic’s Jayson Stark wrote a story headlined, “Can a team as defensively challenged as the Phillies win anything?” Dombrowski obviously thought so. His 2014 and 2013 Tigers teams made the playoffs even though they were the third- and fourth-lowest rated teams according to Defensive Runs Saved since the invention of the metric in 2003.