The Phillies have a lot of problems right now. Their offense has been ice cold, their bullpen can’t hold onto a lead, and their manager puts them in a position to lose day in and day out. While not the only bad guys here, Joe Girardi and Corey Knebel have directly led to multiple Phillies losses recently. Neither man has done much to ingratiate himself to the fan base, as they’ve both refused to take any accountability for their roles in the Phillies’ recent skid.
Joe Girardi is baffling as a manager. He’s old-school to a fault and is completely inflexible. The perfect example of this is his bullpen management, and the fact that he refuses to use any pitcher three days in a row. Ostensibly, this is to make sure everyone is getting regular rest, and to prevent relievers from burning out early in the season. This may sound good in theory, but it has prevented the Phillies from winning on multiple occasions this year.
For instance, Seranthony Domínguez, one of the Phillies’ more reliable firemen this year, was unavailable yesterday against the Giants on Monday. Domínguez had pitched the past two days, therefore he was unavailable yesterday. However, he had thrown only one pitch on Saturday, and 11 on Sunday. 12 total pitches over two days is too much? I’m not buying it. But, such is life under the reign of Joe Girardi. There’s no nuanced reasoning, or critical thinking. There is simply a decision made before the season started and it will not be changed no matter what.
And yet, during his press conference following Monday’s loss, Girardi didn;t take accountability for why he wouldn’t allow Domínguez to pitch given his small workload, or why the unproven Andrew Bellatti was put into a tie game in extra innings. He simply gave meaningless platitudes. For example: “everybody in that room, everyone in this room, has gone through hard times in their life. And you get to the other side.” Profound, to be sure. Girardi also offered, “It’s going to turn [around]. It’s going to. I believe in them. I believe in Knebel. I believe in everybody in that room. There’s a lot of fight in that room.”
See what I mean? He has no new ideas or plans. No explanations or accountability for his poor decisions. Just a simple pat on the back and a reassurance that things will somehow get better. Girardi is intentionally overlooking a key factor here: one of the ways that things can get better is to have someone else calling the shots.
Corey Knebel single handedly lost the game to the Mets on Sunday night by allowing a game-tying solo home run to rookie Nick Plummer in the ninth, and then surrendered a walk-off double to Eduardo Escobar one inning later. Knebel wasn’t any better on Monday, as he grooved a 96 mile-per-hour fastball to Evan Longoria which he quickly deposited into the bleachers. That turned a tie game into a 3-2 Giants lead. Over the past few weeks, Corey Knebel has been a net negative for the Phillies.
Knebel was just as infuriating as Girardi when he spoke to the media after Monday’s train wreck. Instead of taking accountability, Knebel lashed out like a wounded animal, stating, “I wouldn’t say it’s a tough month for me. I mean, I’ve had two bad outings in a row. Just two solo homers. That’s it.” As MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki pointed out, it’s not just two bad outings. Knebel was at the center of things when the Phils squandered a 7-1 lead against the Mets on 5 May. He also let a series sweep of the Dodgers slip away on the 15th. Sure, Corey Knebel hasn’t been brutal every single time he’s pitched this month, but he’s not the innocent bystander he wants to be.
It’s exactly this attitude that makes things so frustrating for Phillies fans. This team doesn’t have to be perfect every day. We knew exactly what their faults were coming into this year. They didn’t do enough to fix the bullpen and the team defense is atrocious. Lo and behold, those have been two major issues through the first two months of the year. No one can claim to be surprised at this turn of events. Yes, they’ve been much worse than we were hoping, but we still knew what we were getting ourselves into.
If Girardi and Knebel would just be honest it wouldn’t be as bad. They should take a page out of Alec Bohm’s book, who was caught disparaging the home crowd on live TV and just told the truth about it. Now, almost two months later, Bohm is a fan favorite. We all understand making mistakes. Joe Girardi and Corey Knebel are allowed to make mistakes just like the rest of us. But what really angers people, and justifiably so, is when a person refuses to take accountability for their mistakes. And that’s what we’re witnessing right now.