Joe Girardi found himself in a hellish situation on Sunday afternoon. If, and to what extent, he was responsible for the situation remains unclear, but it was an unenviable one nonetheless.
Injuries, including a late scratch of Andrew Knapp, along with the team’s failure to make a single roster move on a number of banged up position players, left Girardi with precisely zero healthy options off the bench.
Bryce Harper (shoulder), J.T. Realmuto (wrist), Didi Gregorius (elbow), and Knapp (rib cage) were each seemingly unavailable.
Those injuries also left Girardi with Scott Kingery, who has now struck out in 12 of his 19 at-bats this season, starting in right field — until Kingery, too, got hurt, forcing Girardi to use a clearly hampered Harper as a replacement.
This was all before his starting pitcher recorded just four outs, helping bury the Phillies in an early hole. And it was also before Girardi, who on Saturday night publicly pleaded with his team to “catch the ball,” appeared to lose his cool with Jean Segura in the dugout during the second inning after the second baseman failed to do just that.
It wasn’t much of a surprise that Segura didn’t greet Girardi at the mound during a second-inning trip in which the manager mercifully removed an ineffective Chase Anderson from the game, nor was it much of a surprise that Girardi wasn’t in the best of moods following yet another, uh, unique loss.
Still, the deviation from his typically affable tone with reporters was noteworthy, as he adamantly refused to detail what happened with Segura.
He first turned away questions about the incident by saying “the bench conversation is meant for the bench” and “you can ask all you want, you got everything you’re going to get about it” before firing off a few next questions.
Certainly, Girardi is entitled to handle such questions however he best sees fit, but if his primary objective was to move on from the situation, then he most certainly didn’t do himself any favors.
Honestly, Girardi should know that "bench conversation" isn't going to fly as an explanation. He's worked in a major market. Now has added two days of conversation about it when a simple "it happens, we'll work things out" would probably have doused it. https://t.co/HG4oJimVKG
— Kevin Cooney (@KevinCooney) May 16, 2021
The manager’s overarching frustration with a 21-20 team that is hard to pin down as an underperformer or overachiever is understandable, but I agree with Kevin’s tweet here. Of course, if Girardi was using a harsh tone with reporters to spark his oft-apathetic and sloppy team, perhaps he’s onto something.
Either way, the latest Phillies’ mess that unfolded on Sunday afternoon begged the perfect question from NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Jim Salisbury, one that was swatted away by Girardi with one of those “next questions.”
Haven’t seen this version of Joe Girardi since his Yankees years. pic.twitter.com/xkjgeEQ6j0
— Joe Giglio (@JoeGiglioSports) May 16, 2021
How about the optics of all of this?
Now, I don’t know exactly what Jim meant when he asked the question. “All of this” could alone refer to the Segura situation, or it could refer to, well, all of this:
- A broken player in Kingery, who is currently incapable of contributing and is in desperate need of a minor league makeover, continuing to exist on the major league roster
- A baffling inability to communicate on routine plays and an equally baffling inability to field the baseball on routine plays
- Playing a game with no healthy bench players, necessitating the franchise’s most important player then enter in an emergency capacity after Kingery was forced to leave the game
- Harper naturally coming up with two outs and the tying runs aboard with two away in the ninth
- Anderson failing to complete the second inning, bringing him to a 6.96 ERA through eight starts
- The second inning dugout conversation
For the sake of brevity, let’s omit some other obvious bullet points that could be added and move on. For the sake of fairness, the Phillies remain just one of two National League East teams above .500 and sit just 1/2 game back of first place.
I mean, if they have often been this gruesome to watch, then what has the nightly slog of the Braves’ 19-21 start looked like? What about the daily ride of the Nationals’ 17-22 start?
Hell, the first-place Mets had a clubhouse dustup between Franciso Lindor and Jeff McNeil last week, and the good vibes from their recent five-game surge are all but gone following a weekend sweep by the Rays.
All of this is noted to illustrate the point that the Phillies aren’t alone in their struggles. They aren’t the only team that strikes out too much, makes errors, lacks pitching depth, or gives away an occasional game, but the shortcomings of the competition do not alter the reality of the optics they have created.
The current roster composition of this bunch is that of a critically flawed team, a team with talent deficiencies exacerbated by some unquantifiable missing “it” factor.
My take on Girardi’s Sunday postgame (non) answers? He probably knows it.