When you have Bryce Harper, you're always in contention. Right? Well not based on the last two seasons since the superstar moved to Philly. The Nationals immediately won the World Series their first year without their homegrown right fielder. To make matters worse, the Phillies have been completely average after signing him to a record-breaking 13-year deal worth $330 million. In 2019 they were 81-81 and if you're spending that kind of money, it's no wonder manager Gabe Kapler was let go where he eventually left for San Francisco. Enter Joe Girardi.
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A majority of games will be available on the local Regional Sports Network NBC Sports Philadelphia. Others will be broadcast on national channels. Check here for the full-season schedule.
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If Girardi wins a championship with Philly, he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. Outside of complete disaster, in the next two seasons he will be in the top 50 all-time in wins for a manager. He's already won in two of the most difficult markets (for very different reasons) in baseball in Miami and the Bronx where he won a ship in 2009.
Girardi has one of his the most difficult challenges of his career bringing winning baseball back to Philly. The Phillies haven't had a winning season since 2011. That was the end of their run with five straight NL East titles, making two World Series and winning one in '08. (Giradi's Yanks beat them in '09.) That streak inexplicably continued in a disappointing 28-32 finish in the pandemic shortened season last year.
It stands to reason that the division got more difficult this season also as the Mets added Francisco Lindor and will have better pitching to surround Jacob deGrom. The Braves have won the division three years running and are favored to win their fourth. The Nats are just a year removed from a World Series win and heck even the Marlins far outperformed expectations winning the Wild Card series against the Cubs. The Phillies are in serious danger of being ho-hum once again this season.
But there is good news coming from this offseason by resigning some of their best players. They resigned the best catcher in the game, J.T. Realmuto to a long term deal. He had a small fracture in his thumb starting spring training but he should be good to go for Opening Day. They also resigned Didi Gregorius to a two-year deal to play short. Andrew McCutchen played close to a full season last year coming off an ACL injury that ended his debut season with the Phillies in 2019 prematurely. He didn't hit for his prototypical average last season but hit 10 homers and 34 RBIs in nearly 60 games. He's going to continue to be a tremendous leader in this clubhouse and he should be due to finally have a big year for this club. But the biggest acquisition in the offseason might not have be one on the field.
At the end of last year, Dave Dombrowski was named president of baseball operations. He brought the Tigers to the Series in 2012 and won it all with the Marlins in 1997 and Red Sox in 2018. A frequent criticism of Dombrowski is that he overspends and then bails when the going gets tough. Whatever happens in Philadelphia, he has shown that he is willing to spend so look out for the Phillies as a main contender at the trade deadline regardless of their record in July. The last time the Phillies were great is when they spent for free agents like Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay and Hunter Pence. Free agency seems to be in the cards for the future of this franchise and that may just coincide with the ending of their decade-long drought.