The Rob Thompson Affect
There is something special brewing in South Philly. When Joe Girardi was fired the Phillies were 21-29 and it was looking to be a disappointing rest of 2022. Then Joe was fired and we were introduced to the Man. Myth. The Legend...Robert Lewis Thompson. Joe's longtime bench coach was named the Interim Manager for the Phillies. I will be honest...I had no hope for Robert. The team had no excitement and was embarrassing to watch. We have seen manager or coaches fired mid-season all the time, but there is never a turn around.
However, Robert Thompson looked in the mirror at Wawa, said "Trust the Process," put on a Jalen Hurts jersey and took control of the struggling Phillies. Since the Thompson era, the Phillies have won 8 of the 11 series they have played, have a record of 46-42, and are a 1/2 game out of a wild card spot. I am not sure about you, but that is a huge turn around.
It was clear that Joe Girardi lost all control over the clubhouse. They never seemed to be having fun and that was causing the team underperform. The Phillies have one thing on their mind...end the NL's longest active playoff draught. The first part of the season it looked like the Phillies were expected to miss the playoffs. However, Rob Thompson very quickly turned this clubhouse around and the Fightins are making a legit run at the post-season.
Thompson was given one of the most impossible tasks. Ignite a roster after NL MVP Bryce Harper goes down with an injury. If Girardi was still the manager, the team would have completely folded. Instead the Phillies' bats have come alive. NL All-star Kyle Schwarber had himself a month during June and now leads the NL in home runs. Darick Hall made his MLB debut and immediately made an impact with his bat. In his short time in the show, he is batting .260 with 4 home runs. Now this is clearly a step back from Harper, but still a major increase than anything this lineup has seen in 10 years.
The Phillies are having a lot of success and that has to come back to the skipper. If the Phillies make the playoffs, is Thompson the favorite for the NL Manager of the Year? This team was struggling during the Girardi era. The offense had no spark, pitching was awful, and the defense looked like a little league team.
When Girardi was fired, the Phillies were 22nd in fielding, they are currently 10th in all of baseball in fielding percentage. Currently under Thompson, he took the 17th best hitting team in baseball to 12th. To wrap it up the Phillies now have a top 10 ERA in baseball. These are major improvements for this ball club.
The biggest key to Thompson's success goes beyond the stats. Just watch these guys play. They are having fun. They look like they are actually enjoying the game. Girardi lost the trust in the clubhouse. He pushed the idea that baseball was work and never let them enjoy it. Thompson in a short amount of time, united the clubhouse, and helped his lineup have fun.
If the Phillies make the playoffs, the interim tag for Thompson needs to be lifted immediately. Even if the Phillies finish just on the outside of the playoffs, the interim tag needs to be removed. This franchise had a ticket booked to watch the 2022 MLB playoffs from home this year. Rather immediately, Thompson made this team a clear playoff contender. The All-star break is this weekend, and this team is not eliminated. That is an accomplish in itself.
They have a long journey ahead of him. Harper may or may not return this season. Players like Hall, Rhys Hoskins, and Bryson Slott need to get their bats alive. Nick Castellanos needs to start playing like the money we are paying him. The pitching still needs help, but there is room for improvement. Thompson is the right guy for this team. Robert has them bought in, earned their trust, and is the best manager in baseball right now.
The Phillies need to be buyers during the trade deadline. Top priority. Find a way to get Schwarber to the DH position and get Odubel Herrera out of the lineup. Not sure if that will be able to be accomplished, but getting Schwarber to the DH position needs to be a priority. He has been electric during June and early parts of July, but his defensive skills are a liability. There are a lot of trade candidates that could be available.
As much as I hate the idea of rushing players back from injuries, getting Harper back as soon as possible is pivotal. Even though this offense did not crumble, they did take a step back to where they were. Adding Harper back into the lineup will add the much needed boost in the 3 hole and will get him back in RF. As soon as the doc says he is ready, I hope he is back on the field.
They key to the second half is simple. Keep playing Phillies baseball and be buyers at the trade deadline. The opportunity to make the playoffs is right in front of us. Do not play the what if game. Go all in because once the playoffs roll around, anything can happen. We have the longest playoff draught in the NL and I am not sure about you, but I am ready to end that. I want to watch Phillies playoff baseball.
In Thompson We Trust
Even after all of this, we have to appreciate the fact that the Phillies have their guy. Ever since the Phillies fired Charlie Manual, we have had zero consistency at manager. There was a disconnect between the manager, the clubhouse, and the front office. We saw Gabe Kapler struggle as the manager then leave and take the Giants to the best record in baseball in 2021. Joe Girardi was meant to be that experienced manager we needed, and instead he managed to hurt the club more than anything. We finally have our guy. Thompson is our guy.
Any other interim manager that was in Thompson's shoes, would have struggled. They would have seen the mountain and would not be able to climb it. Instead, Robert took a bite of his Wawa hoagie during hoagiefest, said trust the process, and made the Phillies into contenders. We are half way through the season and I love the potential. We all saw the hope for this season and we are finally seeing it pay off.