October 28, 2019
Is it possible to win a press conference?
Joe Girardi was introduced officially as the Phillies' newest manager Monday afternoon, and the World Series winning skipper said pretty much everything fans wanted — and needed — to hear.
His audience was not the reporters in the room or his future players scattered throughout the world taking time off during the offseason, it was Phillies fans — a group of people he addressed time and time again during his 35 minutes or so of remarks.
"I am well aware of the passion of baseball fans here," Girardi said, "and I've lived it as a player and a manager… this is a special place."
In a seemingly endless stream of Philadelphia ties, the manager told stories of being called to the majors for the first time (by former Phils manager Pete Mackanin), his first big league hit (in Philly) in his first big league road trip (with accommodations at the Double Tree on Broad Street), his first attempt to get Ryan Howard's autographs as manager of the Marlins, and of his experience with Phillies fans in 2009 when his Yankees won the World Series.
"They were not easy fans to play against, and I want it to be that way for years to come," he said.
Girardi also dove into his thoughts on several other topics fresh in Phillies' fans minds.
"Numbers tell a story over time. I am an analytical guy who has an engineering degree. I love math and they can never give me too much information. It's a tool we can use to evaluate players in so many different ways. In reality, our job is to bring the best out in players, and whatever tool we have to help us I want it."
Or what the biggest issue was with the 2019 Phillies:
"I think there's areas [GM Matt Klentak] and the staff are going to address. One of the things is that the bullpen needs to stay healthy. When I broadcast a game, and I did maybe three or four Phillies games, I watch every reliever and the starter from both teams, so when Seranthony Dominguez or Adam Morgan comes in, I know what they have, I know what they like to pitch… Every time I did a Phillies game, there was a whole different cast of characters. It's really hard to survive when your bullpen doesn't stay healthy. Addressing that is very important."
Or on what kinds of rules he will be implementing in the clubhouse:
"Simple things though, it's simple. I don't think you have to give them a ton of rules. Be on time, be prepared, be accountable to each other, be respectful to each other and the people around us who have to do their jobs. There will be rules around the training room, but as long as you have time to prepare and focus on winning is there really anything else?"
And a noise regulation:
"No competing music. I don't mind loud music, I like loud music, but I don't want one band over there and one other there."
Girardi gave a subtle vote of confidence for some of the underachievers on the pitching staff, like Vince Velasquez, Zach Eflin, Nick Pivetta and others (though he didn't mention any of them by name), saying that the "starters here, I believe, have a lot of ability and our job is to get the most out of them. The greatest thing you can have is competition at every position, guys trying to take each other's jobs."
His experience and confidence was clear throughout the press conference, as was his comfort being in a big market with big baseball interest, like Philadelphia. Klentak spoke about the importance of managerial experience and success during the event, in the face of so many MLB teams going with first time managers. Even Eagles head coach Doug Pederson — in his press conference earlier Monday — spoke about Girardi's experience managing with the Marlins and Yankees.
"His track record, what he's done and accomplished as a manager, it's great for the city of Philadelphia, it's great for the Phillies to get a man of his stature and track record," Pederson said when asked about any advice he'd have for Girardi. "I would say be open be honest with everyone, with the fans, with the media — eyes wide open. I wish him the best of luck and look forward to meeting him."
Girardi too expressed the importance of honesty and trustworthiness with both players and the media. But his most memorable and perhaps most important expression came at the end.
"We need to do whatever it takes to win."
He said it. Now we'll see if he's the man who can get the Phillies to do it.
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