How Manager Rob Thomson’s relaxed approach helped the Phillies save their season

Fog from the smoke machine inside Phyllis The club has dissipated. The music was softer. The toasts that followed each Phillies win were complete, and this was Rob Thompson’s time to spin around the club. His path is not always intended; Sometimes a player who had no bearing on that night’s game is in his locker and Thompson spends 30 seconds checking his temperature. Oftentimes, Thompson uses this time to tell someone that they are in the lineup for the next day. It’s better than a text message or a hit command posted at the club.

Nothing in this matter is unique to Thompson. Communication is a priority for most big league managers. But for more than four months, people across the Feliz Islands have relied on one word to describe how a team has been reborn under its interim manager.


One night after last week’s win, Nick Mattoon He came out of the bathroom with a towel around his waist. Thompson meandered through the club and found Mattoon, a 25-year-old companion player who calls himself “Wolfi” and howls at his teammates. He hasn’t played in a few days.

“Mattton, you’re in the right field tomorrow,” Thompson told him. “Don’t embarrass the club.”

Thompson was quintessential: serious, with a hint of the rigid road. He knew his audience. Mattoon, for most people in the club, is the energetic little brother who confides in his ability to hang out with the big kids. He has made the most of his limited opportunities this season. Many of the organization’s role players have done so under Thompson’s direction.

Mattoon was stoked that night in a quiet club. “Let’s go!” shouted over and over again. Thompson headed to the rear exit. Mattoon followed. Still wearing only a towel, he jumped on his manager. Thompson laughed.

“I think it allows everyone to be themselves,” Mattoon later said. “You know? You don’t feel any different around him. He’s just one of the guys, apparently. He’s obviously the manager. But he lets you be yourself. Everyone is relaxed. You play better when you’re relaxed. You know?”

The next night, as the right-hand man, Mattoon. He crushed another house that ran two nights later. Mattoon has made it to base at least once in 12 of his 13 appearances this season. It’s a small thing. But the Velez are on a 91-win pace because they are, for once, a team greater than the sum of their parts. Thompson is 57-33 since he succeeded his friend, Joe Girardi, as manager in early June. Only one Phillies manager in 140 years has started with a better track record than Thomson.

There is something to be said for being authentic – not just insisting on it. “It’s just being him” Alec Boom He said. Thompson, 59, has devoted his life to the sport. He has reached a point where he is satisfied if he never registers for a managerial job. This inner peace helped him maintain his calm existence – even when he became the boss.

“The most important thing it does is that it is very simple,” Baum said. “You will never feel any panic from him. It really makes you feel like he trusts us. That’s when things start to get worse.”

Rob Thompson argues on a call. He was not fired from his position as interim manager. (Eric Hartline/USA Today)

For the months of last season, Velez radiated a great deal of confidence in Boom. He started 96 of the team’s first 112 games and produced .664 OPS. His performance at third base made him a substitution player, but he was young and an important part of the franchise’s future. The breaking point, for Girardi, was when Bom missed several balls during a series in August 2021 against mets. Boom fell to the bench. Less than two weeks later, he was in the palace.

The issue was not a lack of trust. Last winter, the head of baseball operations, Dave Dombrowski, asked his people to gain a better understanding of why the Phillies fail young players over and over in the majors. Trying to win while developing players is hard. The Phillies could have continued to play Bohm last summer – and they probably should have – but they shouldn’t have gotten to that point.

“The guys got used to bad habits last year in the major leagues, and we just couldn’t get them out of it,” Dombrowski said. “So it’s a constant chore. It’s not easy. It’s hard.”

The Velez knew this: the messages received by players at the upper levels of the Palace and in the Majors had to be simplified. It wasn’t always a symphony. Some of the promoted players were not prepared for different roles in the majors, ill-equipped to make adjustments or unable to communicate with a coach. The Phillies overhauled their Triple-A training crew and installed a group headed by 38-year-old manager Anthony Contreras. Information flowed between employees, and it was a two-way line. The more coaches in the majors know about what recall is doing, thinking, or struggling with, the smoother the transition will be. And when a player was brought back, he made recommendations on what to apply in Triple A.

Oftentimes, as a coach on the bench, Thompson would digest those reports so he could make recommendations to Gerardi. Thompson, for most of his professional baseball career, was involved in player development. It is his passion.

With it comes a specific look at the daily emotional upheavals of the 162-game season.

“Guys who have player development backgrounds, they definitely understand what it takes to get players in the major leagues and keep them there,” said Dusty Wathan, third base coach at Phillies, who has successfully coached minors for ten years. “And let’s be honest, in Major League Baseball Now, there are a lot of players in the big leagues who aren’t quite ready. They are still developing in the major leagues. This is an important thing. It’s a good streak to develop and win when you’re in a situation like us.

“I think he’s done a phenomenal job at that. Just the level of confidence he brings to the table – give the players that, give the coaches that, give everyone that. ‘Hey, it’s going to be fine. Tomorrow is a new day. We’re fine.'” There is absolutely no panic.”

Gerardi pressured Dombrowski in the spring to carry Pom and Bryson Stott In the initial roster, though, that means the manager has to find enough time to play for both. Velez, early on in the season, always gave in to that Jean Segura And Didi Gregorios in the middle until they proved otherwise. Johan Camargo signed by Dombrowski for $1.3 million; He would have a role. Therefore, in April and May, the Phillies were a team that did not have a bat for less experienced players.

The menu situation evolved over the summer – injuries and ineffectiveness led to changes. Thompson, once the interim manager, was in the right seat at the right time.

“Obviously, Topper was tremendous in trusting men,” Wathan said. “They might have a 0 for 4 and they’re there the next day. So, they don’t look over their shoulders like, ‘Oh, am I going to play tomorrow?'” Shall I play tomorrow? “

This confidence not only strengthens the players; Thompson’s coaches spoke of greater freedom to implement their ideas. “The coaching staff has been really helpful,” Dombrowski said. “I think they are very good faculty.” Paco Figueroa, first base coach since 2018, said Velez had been the most aggressive on the base lanes in the past three months because of Thompson’s willingness to do so.

“(It) has created a much more relaxed atmosphere here,” said Bobby Dickerson, coach of the team. “But with that, there is still a lot of focus. It’s a really favorable environment for a young player to be able to have some flaws but still understand the importance that we have to win ball games.”

Thompson is usually the first person to hit the field. Only the kitchen staff beat him up. Before his first spring with the Phillies, stadium staff were warned about Thompson’s penchant for pre-dawn hours. They made him his own key at the playground in Clearwater, Florida.

“He put his life into this game,” Bohm said. “He’s here before anyone. It’s all about the players. When you show that, I feel the players respond to that.”

“Obviously he’s the manager. But he lets you be yourself,” Nick Matton said. You play better when you are relaxed. You know?” (Mark J. Rebelas/USA Today)

Thompson is somewhat uncomfortable with the attention. last month when Bryce Harper Wearing a white shirt emblazoned with Thompson’s face, the interim manager shook his head. He said, “I hate it.” Thompson doesn’t think he’s responsible for all of this. He bows to the players and his coaches.

They usually know where they stand with Thompson. This may not have been the case before.

“He’s good at communicating,” Mattoon said. “He’ll tell you whatever’s on his mind and what he wants you to do. I think that’s great. Especially for young people.”

Girardi and Thomson are best viewed as two different seasons during 2022. In the first few months, Kyle Schwarber He was still carving out his place in the club while he struggled to produce on the field. Once he enjoyed the hot month of June and Bryce Harper succumbed to injury, Schwarber became Thompson’s best tool for spreading comfort.

Schwarber had pulled out with all the guys – young and old. He just needed time to develop relationships.

“The club was very valuable,” Wathan said. “I mean, Schwarber was a big part of that. He took all these guys and said, ‘I went through this. I’ve been through that. Just keep plugging in. All is well.'”

Schwarber takes from his own experiences – he won the World Championship ring after severe injury rehab, then was demoted to Triple A the following season – and thinks it’s only fair to share. “I want to give that to these guys because we have a lot of them,” Schwarber said. Often times, time is spent side by side Matt Ferling In the afternoon while they strike. Schwarber and Thompson have worked hand in hand – intentionally or not – to re-imagine feelings about Phillies.

“It’s a very relaxing environment when you come here,” he said. Dalton Guthrie, the newest newbie paint for the first time. “These older men make you feel at home.”

Kyle Schwarber celebrates with Rob Thompson after recording a tour. He became the main captain of the club. (Jeff Carey/USA Today)

The results are important. Playtime isn’t guaranteed, and Dombrowski pointed this out: The Velez has better talent than they’ve been in the past. “I mean, first of all, it starts with the players themselves,” Dombrowski said. “Their ability and motivation to succeed.” This is how Thompson sees it, too.

But under the interim manager’s rule, the Phillies have pulled more off their roster than they have in a very long time. The sky has never been as snowy as it does every year during the decade-long drought after the dry season. Contributions from unexpected sources, many of them young players, created a different energy.

“Knowing that you have a chance to play again is important, right?” Wathan said. “I mean, you come in here, and there’s a lot of stuff going on already. And then you have a little bit of a failure, and you think, ‘Oh, now I’m not going to play.’ And you’re afraid to go to Triple A. And that makes it hard. But when you know you can come over.” To be here and to have a little window maybe you have a chance to stay and have some success, it relaxes everyone. It relaxes the younger players. It relaxes the older players.”

As games gain prominence, Thomson’s steady hand will be tested. There might be a scenario where the Phillies grab a post-season spot with a few days to spare in the regular season and the front office comes to Thomson with an offer to be the permanent manager. MLB rules forbid clubs from contracting without interviewing minority candidates, but if a team can prove its internal option is worthy of promotion based on performance, the league will not step in.

For years, Thompson worked behind the scenes and earned the trust of his players. It was useful to whom he served – Gerardi or former manager Gabe Kapler. “Anyone you talk to at baseball knows him, there is a great deal of respect for him,” Baum said. “This is a gain.” Thompson got it inside the Phyllis Club. He never knew he would have a chance to do things his way.

It didn’t take long to see the benefits of Thompson’s relaxed approach – and what it might mean beyond 2022.

“That’s kind of cool,” Schwarber said. “Okay, you see what we have now. But you can also look into the future. The future can be very bright for all involved.”

(Top photo: Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Associated Press)

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