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May 14, 2021

Kevin Cooney: In defense of Joe Girardi, he's not dealing with a full hand right now

You don’t have to dive too far deep into the talk radio phones to hear the disappointment. After all, Phillies fans can be a passionate bunch — and they can also be a bit unforgiving.

They believed that Joe Girardi was going to be the anti-Gabe Kapler – reliable, dependable, solid, not doing goofy stuff. And with a few of the Phillies manager's moves this year, the head shaking has been audible and the grumbling getting louder.

At this point, not every move is defendable. Forgetting your pitching coach went out to the mound is a bad mistake. While the lineup card isn’t filled out by the manager every game, not knowing that a reliever you were calling in wasn’t listed still is a poor reflection.

However, there are some things that Girardi is getting crushed for that are more of an indication of the shortcomings of the Phillies roster than the lack of wisdom of the team’s manager.

Tuesday night’s game in Washington saw the latest second guess. Girardi was criticized for letting Chase Anderson hit for himself in the sixth inning of a game where the Phillies had the bases loaded, nobody out and the game could have been broken open. After all, it’s Chase Anderson – so why would you keep him in?

Philadelphia ended up scoring no runs — Anderson lined out to left, Andrew McCutchen struck out, Jean Segura flied to center to end the inning.

Anderson, who started the inning around 75 pitches, then surrendered a homer to Trea Turner and a walk to Juan Soto before taking a seat on the bench.

That’s not bad managing, that’s just baseball. Play the exact same scenario out with one exception — Anderson gets yanked for a pinch hitter (for example, let’s say Scott Kingery) and the Phillies don’t score there, followed by a reliever allowing a homer and a walk to start the inning — the cry would be, “Why didn’t you let Anderson go until he was done?”

This is what this manager has to handle, however, at the present time. The bench is paper thin. The bullpen – while better — is not to be confused with good. The fact that this team is hanging around is a testament to the weakness of the division more than the overall strength of the roster.

Again, that’s not saying this has been a great year for Girardi. It clearly can’t be with the incidents that did take place. It is saying, however, that his hands are pretty much tied right now in a lot of different ways.

There are times when managers can try to overcompensate for what weaknesses exists on the roster. It’s like a hitter who gets in a slump who starts to grind the bat handle to sawdust. That’s what I believe is happening here right now with Girardi.

However, I also believe that he will pull out of this. The man didn’t become an idiot overnight. What has to be recognized, however, is that until the roster improves, the manager is probably going to drive you nuts just a little bit.

Let’s go to the phones. 215-592….

Touch ‘Em All

• The Phillies' first home stand where they are allowed full capacity next month will be a two-game weekender against the Yankees — one that is sure to draw a full house between New Yorkers who haven’t had the opportunity to get back in the game and the draw of it being the most successful franchise in the sport.

What should make this a successful summer at the box office is the Phillies haven’t lost too many quality attractive matchups just yet to reduced capacity. Next weekend’s series against the Red Sox would have been a hot ticket and capacity will “only” be 16,000 at that point. Opening Day was obviously a big ticket draw that was missed. Still, two series against the Braves and all three at home against the Nationals remain, as well as the Dodgers and Padres coming in during the heart of the summer.

One other thing to keep an eye out for: one of the biggest draws for the franchise every year has been Fireworks Night. With the pandemic, that clearly hasn’t been scheduled to avoid large crowds as much on the outside of the building as within it. With mandates lifting or easing, it is fair to wonder if the Phillies find a way to hold that – even if it's later in the summer.

• A National League scout was asked about the order of priorities the Phillies should have at the trade deadline. “A back-end starting pitcher to replace Matt Moore and a more dependable closer,” the scout said. It seemed surprising that those two would be ahead of center field. “They can’t fix everything in one year,” he continued.

• One thing to keep in mind when you hear “COVID-19 IL” brought up like it was Thursday with J.T. Realmuto — that doesn’t mean the player has been exposed to the disease or has it. It could easily mean one of two other things. First, the player could be experiencing side effects due to his vaccination and the roster move allows for a quick replacement. The second could be any symptoms of COVID — fever, stomach issues, etc. — that could be related to anything that is not COVID-19. Teams and MLB have to be very cautious, especially when players are on the road, in case it is within the clubhouse. So a deep breath should be taken whenever that word comes out.

• Kudos to the Phillies broadcast teams – Scott Franzke, Kevin Frandsen, Tom McCarthy, John Kruk, Ben Davis and Ruben Amaro Jr. — who have been forced to work remote for the past 90 games or so and haven’t really given any indication of it being a struggle. I know it's fashionable to complain on Twitter about everything, but do yourself a favor and watch or listen to other broadcasts. Phillies fans are really damn lucky to have these guys.

The Week Ahead

The Phillies head to Dunedin to face the Blue Jays, who have to be ready to leave the Gulf Coast after spending most of the time since mid-February in the somewhat sleepy town next to Clearwater. (And with Vince Velasquez on the hill for Philly, Toronto comes in to Game 1 of the series as a +150 moneyline favorite at BetMGM, according to Pickswise.) 

After that, the Phillies come home to face the Marlins and Red Sox at Citizens Bank Park. The Boston series will be interesting since they have surged into unexpected contention in the American League East with manager Alex Cora back in the fold.

Some links provided in this content are sponsored by Pickswise, a Sports Betting Partner, independently created by PhillyVoice. 21+ Please gamble responsibly.

Kevin hosts the “Working The Beat” podcast with Mike Kern, available on iTunes, Google Play and everywhere podcasts are heard. A regular on WIP, Kevin loves to interact with readers on Twitter. Follow him there at @KevinCooney.

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