The Phillies are playing with life and passion under Rob Thomson.
As Philadelphia Phillies fans undoubtedly know, the club has not made the postseason in a grueling 11 years. Their failure to reach the postseason can be mainly attributed to not beating the bad teams when they should — most notably in recent seasons being the Miami Marlins.
Many have blamed coaching, players, and roster construction for the shortcomings in the past decade. The 2021 season ending without a postseason appearance was particularly frustrating since Bryce Harper won the National League MVP Award and Zack Wheeler was a finalist for Cy Young recognition.
At the end of the season, fellow right-handed starting pitcher Aaron Nola expressed frustration, but also and optimism for the future:
"“It’s frustrating for sure. I feel like we are getting closer every year.”"
So, what makes 2022 different? The Phillies started their third season under manager Joe Girardi with much disappointment. Despite their active offseason — highlighted by signing slugging outfielders Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos — the club seemed to have made little to no progress toward being a postseason contender.
However, after the firing of Girardi and the naming of Rob Thomson as interim manager, things have seemed to turn around:
One of the major reasons for this turnaround is the improved culture of the team. While watching the games, the Phillies seem to play with life and passion. And the players are responding to Thomson and his managerial style.
With the culture change, Phillies fans are seeing a massive improvement in the standings as well. They are finally beating teams they are supposed to beat, such as their recent pair of four-game sweeps of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Washington Nationals. While the Phillies were shut out by the Marlins on Thursday, they are still a much-improved 9-5 against the National League East foe this season.
Entering Friday, the Phillies sit at 62-49. While they are 10 1/2 games behind the division-leading New York Mets, they hold a half-game lead for the second Wild Card spot and the tiebreaker against other teams in the chase — the San Diego Padres, Milwaukee Brewers, and St. Louis Cardinals.
Next up, the Phillies will have a difficult series in New York — especially since they will go up against Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom. While it is unlikely the Phillies will catch the Mets for the division title, this series should “spice up” the teams’ rivalry that faded in the past decade.