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October 28, 2019

Kevin Cooney: What to expect from Joe Girardi as he's announced as new Phillies manager

There is one certainty about the press conference that the Phillies will hold on Monday to introduce Joe Girardi as its 55th manager.

It will be a whole lot different than the one the club had for the firing of Gabe Kapler two weeks ago.

That Friday afternoon, in the windowless press room in the basement of Citizens Bank Park, was a rather tense affair that exposed to the public the splits that existed within the organization’s brain trust.

This one will have more of a celebratory feel, certainly. There was talk that it could be held outdoors if the weather held up. And it will be the hiring of a very popular manager by an organization that will try its very best to show it has complete unity on the hire and the plan going forward for the organization.

Girardi is the anti-Kapler in a lot of ways. And it will start with the hiring — which has already drawn a much more positive reaction in almost every way to the skeptical snicker that accompanied Kapler’s Tony Robbins-esque press conference.

So what should you watch for on Monday? Here’s a quick viewers guide.

1) The body language on the dais

This sounds very trivial, but it could be very important. The Phillies — according to a tweet from the Inqurier’s Matt Breen last week — are insisting that general manager Matt Klentak was the one who drove the engine for the Girardi hiring.

If that’s the case and they want to downplay the role that John Middleton perhaps played in the decision, the best idea would be for the press conference to be a two man show of just Klentak and Girardi with Middleton standing to the side for questions later on, away from the camera. Andy MacPhail has a relationship with Girardi from his days with the Cubs as a player, so that probably doesn’t have to be established.

Because, in the end, Klentak and Girardi are the most important to each other for next year. Their relationship is going to be the one that gets examined and re-examined moving forward since Klentak’s devotion to his own hire in Kapler was so evident. Any split or signs of strain would be doom for Klentak, who clearly will be working for his long-term future next season. Girardi has a big enough name that he will carry over to a new general manager. Klentak won’t get another manager.

2) Who will be the pitching coach?

Girardi’s pitching coaches with the Yankees were Dave Eiland (2008-2010) and Larry Rothschild (2011-2017, and still with the Yankees staff). Both men were given some autonomy to handle the pitchers, which is weird given that managers who are formerly catchers have more of a hands-on approach. Girardi had all the info, but knew when to back away.

Eiland is available, so his name will be linked here. Rothschild may be available if the Yankees decide to make some coaching staff changes, which it's now looking like they might do.

In Girardi’s 10 years as Yankees manager, New York finished in the Top 10 in lowest WHIP five times, including a third place finish in his last season of 2017. Yes, that’s a reflection of the talent — but it also is something that could give you hope about what may lie ahead from the staff.

3) Watch who doesn’t get mentioned

One of the fun games that happens during a press conference for a new coach/manager is hearing him talk about the roster he has coming back — especially if that team has contention plans immediately.

There are a lot of times when guys who don’t get mentioned are just oversights. Some of it, however, is based on meetings that the new manager has already attended with the rest of the front office.

So it will be a given that Girardi drops the names of Aaron Nola and Bryce Harper. It’s probably a safe bet that J.T. Realmuto, Rhys Hoskins and Scott Kingery’s name gets a mention.

But will any of those young pitchers — like Zach Eflin, Nick Pivetta or Vince Velasquez — get a shout-out? How about someone like Jean Segura or Cesar Hernandez, two players who could be had this off-season for the right price?

The Phillies offseason is soon to shift from the manager’s office to the clubhouse. The speculation will begin once the coaching staff gets filled out. Monday may provide the first real clues before the non-tenders start after the World Series.

4) What did Girardi learn in those two years off?

One of the knocks that Girardi had going out the door in the Bronx was the idea that he didn’t have a personal connection to the players in his clubhouse. He is an intense sort who is not going to give the warm and fuzzy hugs just to make guys feel better.

But it will be interesting to see if the years in television did change his approach. There are former managers who head into the booth, pick the brains of the guys who are doing the job and adapt some elements into their styles. There’s no doubt that Girardi is a smart guy, so it will be fascinating to see if he tweaked some things while keeping the same edge that made his teams successful in New York.

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