A big August walk-off home run to stay alone in first place.
It feels like a decade since the Phillies have had a moment like that. But it actually happened less than two years ago. Maikel Franco hit one out to left field against the Marlins as part of a four-run 9th inning to give the Phils a 5-2 win and a half-game lead in the National League East.
Watching that game now, less than two years removed from when it actually occurred, is quite remarkable because of who is no longer with the team. Of the eight position players that started that game, only Rhys Hoskins projects to be in the club's Opening Day lineup whenever baseball returns.
Odubel Herrera and Nick Williams remain with the organization but there's a good chance neither plays a big league game again for the Phillies. Meanwhile, Carlos Santana, Jorge Alfaro, Asdrubal Cabrera and Franco are already gone.
There has also been a replacement in the dugout since that game and it's very likely that change will be more important than any of the upgrades made on the diamond.
The Gabe Kapler era has been analyzed and dissected at length. But it really can't be overstated how weird things were with Kapler at the helm.
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This is not to say there can't be value in unorthodoxy. But sometimes strange is just strange. And unsettling. Joe Girardi, on the other hand, has won in baseball's most pressure-packed seat and early indications suggest he's going to provide calm where it lacked over the last two seasons.
There's also little doubt that Girardi brings with him an upgrade at pitching coach in Bryan Price. The previous regime employed Chris Young in that role.
Here's just some of the greatest hits of the Kapler era:
- Video recording individual player workouts in spring training with a tablet device
- Prematurely pulling Aaron Nola in the 2018 season opener
- Multiple instances of relief pitchers not being ready for when called upon
- Curveball machine
- Players claiming to not know the reasons they weren't playing despite the manager priding himself on constant communication
While C.Y. was long on data, there's a lot of anecdotal evidence to suggest he was short on relatability. Price, however, has seen success communicating with pitchers in three different big league stops.
Change and uncertainty has been the Phillies' way in recent years. Expect Girardi and his staff to provide the stability this franchise needs in the dugout. And don't be surprised if those first place nights now extend into late September (or whenever the end of a season is now).
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