What Does 2022 Hold in Store for the Phillies?

The 2022 season seemed all but lost for the Phillies. On June 3rd, 2022, the club fired manager Joe Girardi after a 22-29 start to the managers third season with the club. Girardi’s time in Philadelphia was forgettable at best. The manager who had won a world series with the New York Yankees never truly found his footing in the city of brotherly love, as fans were constantly at his throat for seemingly never being able to make the right decisions when it came to pitching changes, and he could never get the bats working on the same night the pitchers could hold the opposing club to a small number of runs. Fans were outraged as for three years they watched the Phillies under Girardi miss the postseason after a playoff run was within reach, and seemingly every single game managed to be a 3-2 loss for the Phillies or a 17-14 loss for the Phillies. For years the Phillies biggest issue has been their lack of a bullpen, and the manager that preceded Girardi, Gabe Kapler, had similar issues balancing overworking his starters or leaving big games in the hands of relivers and closers who simply couldn’t get the job done with the consistency of the rest of the MLB’s bullpen. Something Girardi had, however, that Kapler did not, was multiple years with players who are some of the best at their positions. Bryce Harper and J. T. Realmuto were both brought to Philadelphia in what would ultimately be Kapler’s last season managing the Phils, as he was fired following the 2019 season. Girardi came in for the 2020 season and nothing seemed to change, even though the Phillies were able to add the talents of Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber before the 2022 season. All the way up until the end of his tenure in 2022 Girardi filled the hearts of the Phillies faithful with promises he would never fulfil and answering tough questions by dodging responsibility for anything that could potentially fall on him. In fact, following the Mets not only sweeping, but embarrassing the Phillies for an entire series, Girardi claimed that he did not worry about his job, did not worry about being fired, and overall seemed like he didn’t think he could do anything about the Phillies woes, even though he has a reigning MVP in Bryce Harper, an elite catcher in Realmuto, and two aces in Zach Wheeler and Aaron Nola. It was time for a change in Philadelphia, and by firing Girardi when it was still Spring, it gave the Phillies a sliver of a chance to make something of the 2022 season, even if their playoff hopes were on life support, with the club being over 10 games back in their division.

Enter interim manager Rob Thomson. Thomson became the bench coach for the Phillies in 2018, after previously being a base coach and a bench coach for the Yankees, coincidentally also under Joe Girardi. Since taking over managing duties for the phillies, the team finally began living up the expectations. The hitting came to life in a way the Phillies haven’t seen in nearly a decade, the pitching began to become more consistent and reliable, and the Phillies nearly erased making mistakes, something they did routinely under Girardi. The Phillies began June with a nine game winning-streak, and it seemed as if Bryce Harper was going to finally see the playoffs as a Phillie, and even make a case to defend his MVP award, until the Phillies once again suffered a monumental setback. On Saturday June 25th, San Diego Padres pitcher Blake Snell hit Bryce Harper with a pitch way inside and way up high. Bryce moved to protect his face and ended up suffering a fractured hand that will now keep Harper off the field until at least September. The Phillies would go home to play there next series hosting their division rival, the Atlanta Braves. The Phillies came out completely flat, losing the first two games of the series and only scoring four runs across those two games. It seemed like without Harper the Phillies seemingly wouldn’t have the bats to keep up their hot streak, and the run in June was merely a flash in the pan of an otherwise disappointing and wasted season. Aaron Nola was pitching for game three of the series, and the longtime ace in Philly seemingly never gets any bats to back up his fantastic pitching performances. Then it happened. It may have been the third game in an already decided series, but the Phillies and Nola routed the Braves 14-4. There next series was a victory, winning two of three games against the Cardinals, outscoring them 15-10, and shutting them out in the rubber match of the series. By winning the series against the Cardinals, the Phillies were able to take possession of the third wild card spot in the National League, giving the Phillies the chance to be in the driver’s seat for the rest of the season. In the three Series the Phillies played after Atlanta, they won a series against Washington, split a four game series with the Cardinals, lost two games in Toronto, and then swept the Marlins in Miami for the first time since 2010.

This leaves the Phillies at a crossroads going into the All-Star break. Can they continue to play up to their expectations and make the playoffs? Will they give in to the pressure and the absence of their MVP? They currently sit third in the NL East, six games behind the Braves for second, and eight and a half games back from the first place New York Mets. The Phillies also hold the final wild card spot in the NL, but it is an incredibly slim lead. The Phillies record of 49-43 and a win percentage of 53.3% gives them a slight edge of St. Louis and their 50-44 record (53.2%). Given what the Phillies have been able to accomplish under Thomson, the fact that they have been able to perform for a month and a half, three of those weeks being without Harper, it seems as though the Phillies have found the right stuff to turn their season around. Kyle Schwarber has been a steal addition for the Phillies this offseason, being second to only Aaron Judge’s 33, but with 29 Schwarber has been keeping it close. The Phillies bullpen is finally beginning to hold on to at least some games, batters such as J.T. Realmuto and Didi Gregorius are beginning to heat up, each having homered in the Marlins series while currently having less than ten home runs combined this season. Rob Thomson has found the secret sauce the Phillies have been searching for for years, and it seems like playoff baseball will finally be returning to Philadelphia. The only question that remains is how far will we see the Rob Thomson Phillies go in the playoffs once Harper returns? The sky seems to be the limit for this team, and even a victory in the wild card round should be enough for Thomson to return to the Phillies dugout as manager in 2023. Something Phillies fans everywhere will be cheering for.

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