Though 2020 hasn't been the smoothest ride for Joe Girardi and the Philadelphia Phillies, the team's struggles were briefly forgotten after the 12th year skipper joined a special club in baseball history.
Aaron Nola tossed seven sharp innings, striking out eight, while Bryce Harper drove in one of the Phillies' three runs to help Girardi seal his 1,000th career victory on Wednesday.
However, we're used to seeing Harper rake on the field. After all, he's enjoying an MVP-caliber 2020 to this point, slashing .317/.457/.634 and ranking in the top ten in WAR among position players. It was what he did off the field that captured the hearts of Phillies fans and 'brought a tear' to Girardi's eye.
"Everybody knows the type of person Joe is," Harper said (via Scott Lauber of the Philadelphia Inquirer). "He's been in the game for a long time, from the Marlins to the Yankees to us. He's a great manager. He's a great person, great family man, as well."
Girardi, a former catcher, was given a piece of history from the game by current Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto after the game, who handed him the ball from the game's final play.
"“I’ll put it in a case and just put it away,” Girardi said (via Todd Zolecki of MLB.com). “It means a lot. My daughter, Lena, asked me about it. I said, ‘A lot of times, you don’t have a chance to enjoy things until the season calms down and it’s over, because you’re onto the next day.' And that’s my personality anyway. But the players did a really nice thing for me.”
It was Girardi's 1,808th game as a manager, which makes him the 16th-fastest manager in the game to every cross the 1,000-win threshold, according to Elias Sports Bureau. 1,000 wins puts him in a tie with former Phillies skipper Charlie Manuel on the all-time leaderboards.
Girardi began his managerial career with the Marlins, as Harper alluded to. He won the NL Manager of the Year Award in his lone season with the team, 2006, leading the Fish to a 78-84 record. Yes, that's a losing record, and according to Eric Stephen of SB Nation, that's the only occurrence of a team with a losing record boasting the Manager of the Year.
However, with a roster full of young and unproven talent, including a 22-year-old Hanley Ramirez, a 23-year-old Miguel Cabrera, a 24-year old Dontrelle Willis, and a 22-year-old Josh Johnson leading the charge, Girardi kept the team in playoff contention for quite some time, including when they had a 73-71 record into September.
He was fired after the season due to his relationship with owner Jeffrey "Most Hated Man in Baseball" Loria, and the Yankees sure are happy that the Marlins made that decision. Girardi stayed in New York for 10 seasons, compiling a 910-710 record and bringing a World Series ring to the Bronx in 2009.
His stint in New York is remembered fondly, by both the players and the organization as a whole. Derek Jeter called him "one of the nicest people you'll ever meet" after learning of his 2017 dismissal as the Yanks' skipper. When the Phillies played the Yankees early on in the 2020 season at an empty Yankee Stadium, the team still made sure to honor his contributions to the city.
His start in Philly hasn't been great, as the Phillies have underperformed and have been plagued by terrible relief pitching to this point. However, he leaned on Nola for the win Wednesday night against the division-rival Nationals, and the decision paid big dividends.
Should he be able to turn around the Phils' tough start, lead the team on a hot streak and add, say, 22 or 23 more wins to his 1,000-win total before the season ends, another Manager of the Year Award could very well be within his sights.