Since replacing Joe Girardi as the Phillies manager just over a year ago today, Rob Thomson was always described as calm, cool, and collected.
At the time of his interim hiring last season, the Phillies were 22-29. The Phils won the next 8 games with their new skipper and catapulted themselves back into the playoff race.
Of course, no one can forget last season’s magical playoff run, where the Phillies miraculously won the National League pennant and made their 8th World Series appearance in franchise history. At the front of it, all was Thomson.
Many Phillies players commented how they loved playing for him and that his relaxed approach to the game of baseball was just what they needed.
“I mean, if anybody knows Rob, he’s the most even-keeled guy out there,” starting pitcher Aaron Nola said before the World Series began.
“He never gets too up. He never gets too down.”
Before the NLDS against the Braves began, the Phillies announced a two-year contract extension they signed with Thomson that would last until after the 2024 season.
Thomson’s first season as a Phillies manager has not gone exactly the way the team has wanted.
The Phillies dropped their first four games of the season before earning their first victory in their fifth. In their first 13 games, the Phillies went 4-9. It was a frustrating start after an unbelievable run just a handful of months before.
Overall, the Phillies have had four losing streaks, including their streak to open the season. From April 30-May 6, they lost 6 games. From May 14- May 19, they lost 5 games. And from May 28-June 2, they lost 5 games.
That June 2nd loss came against the Washington Nationals, who at the time had one of the worst records in the MLB. In that game, the Phillies quickly went down 6-0 as Zach Wheeler struggled in the first three innings on the mound.
The Phillies came back to tie it at 7 but lost the lead in the bottom of the 8th and ultimately lost, tying the Nats in the win-loss column at the bottom of the National League.
This season, the Fightins have been a team that has not lived up to its namesake. With no fight and little heart shown, it’s no wonder the Phillies have been struggling to accumulate wins.
For some, it begged the question: Was Thomson the problem?
Sure, Thomson was great in the playoffs. Every move he made (except that last one) was gold and turned out just the way the Phillies wanted.
His calm demeanor was perfect as well. In the playoffs, all you need to do is stay calm. You’re down by 2 runs in the top of the 9th in the Wild Card? Stay calm, put the bat on the ball, and score 6 runs to win Game 1 against the Cardinals. Did you lose Game 2 on the road in both the Braves and Padres series? Stay composed and win the next three games at home.
Calm is key in do-or-die postseason games. But does that same attitude work once the regular season starts again and the slate is wiped clean?
A team can fall behind very quickly once a new season begins. After horrid losing streaks and a tough start to the season, you need to have awareness. You need to bounce back and show resilience. When teams get down and struggle, almost always, you see the team’s manager make a hullabaloo over a bad call made by an umpire that gets them thrown out. Fans love to see that emotion, and many times, that emotion and passion spread around the team.
But Thomson just isn’t the guy to cause any commotion or get thrown out. Yes, it happened this year during the Phillies-Rockies skirmish a few weeks ago. But when you get surprised when your manager talks back to the umpire, it can become a problem. What fans want is a coach who stands up for his team more often than not. A coach who sparks emotion. Is the calm Rob Thomson what this struggling, inconsistent team needs?
Listen, firing Thomson isn’t even close to the answer right now.
But for fans looking for a potential root to the Phillies’ problems in the first 59 games of the season, Thomson could potentially fit that bill.