Joe Girardi has a new strategy for the 25-26 Philadelphia Phillies: Withholding all possible injury information from the public.
The Phillies manager informed reporters of the change following Thursday's game against the Miami Marlins, in which Jean Segura was used as a pinch-hitter then replaced by Nick Maton at second base. When asked about the switch, Girardi had this to say, per The Athletic's Matt Gelb:
"Just so you guys know: We're going to approach this different. I've talked to people in our organization. Just a manager's decision. And I'm not going to share anything — who's available, who's not available — because I think it's somewhat unfair to us. Just like if you were to do something, you're not going to necessarily share it with a rival reporter. So, that's the way we're going to handle it. Just a manager's decision."
That "manager's decision" comes two days after Girardi admitted to reporters he had spent the last few days being less than truthful about the status of Phillies star Bryce Harper.
First, Girardi said he was giving Harper a day off on Sunday when the outfielder was out of the lineup. One day later, he said Harper was again out because, per Gelb, he "went to bed last night, woke up this morning and said, ‘You know what? I’m going to give him another day.’ And that’s the reason.”
The actual reason was revealed Tuesday, when Harper was placed in the injured list with a wrist injury and Girardi said he lied for a competitive advantage.
From The Athletic:
“There is a distinct advantage to the other manager if I tell you a guy’s wrist is hurt,” Girardi said Tuesday after the Phillies placed Harper on the injured list with a bruised left wrist. “And the idea here is to win games. … I understand you want to know. But there are distinct advantages that I can give another club if they know everything that’s going on over here. So I’m sorry that I had to do that. But we’re trying to win games, and he’s just not ready to go. I thought he’d be ready on Monday or Tuesday. He’s not.”
Of course, Marlins manager Don Mattingly may have already known Harper wasn't playing. As Gelb notes, Harper spent most of Monday's game on the bench not wearing his uniform top.
Making the situation even more intriguing is that Girardi may not have been lying about Harper for just the last few days. Fangraphs' Devan Fink published a detailed look at Harper's numbers since he took a pitch off his face and left wrist on April 28. Simply put, Harper's performance has nosedived since then; he's hitting the ball much more softly, whiffing more on fastballs in the strike zone and seen a 110-point drop in batting average between the months of April and May.
So if Harper was playing hurt throughout May, it still benefited the Phillies for Girardi to not be transparent about it since opponents would still fear Harper as an elite hitter, right? Not so much, actually, as Fink also noted opponents started throwing significantly more fastballs against Harper starting in early May.
Joe Girardi's opacity comes with costs
OK, so Joe Girardi will no longer tell the media anything about his injured players. That will theoretically benefit ... pretty much only Joe Girardi, as long as those players are actually in uniform when they're supposedly available and not so clearly struggling that opponents start barraging them with fastballs.
The list of entities that suffer from Girardi clamming up is considerable.
Obviously, it makes the jobs of reporters harder when they're trying to provide an accurate picture of the team's decision-making. That would subsequently hurt fans who are trying to understand what their team is doing and why the players they pay to see aren't on the field.
It's not like this will do much good for the players either, and may even make things more difficult for them. Consider that Harper was recently getting booed in his own stadium for underperforming, which may not have happened if fans knew he was dealing with a wrist injury.
But what MLB may be most concerned about is the effect Girardi's decision has on sports betting, which the league suddenly cares about thanks to its lucrative partnership with MGM (full disclosure: Yahoo Sports also has a gambling partnership with MGM). Simply put, gamblers don't like losing money because a team withheld the fact that an injured player is hurt.
And yet Girardi claims that being transparent is "unfair" to the Phillies, even though nearly every other MLB manager will at least tell reporters when his player is dealing with something. Unlike the NFL and NBA, MLB doesn't require teams to publish detailed injury reports. If more managers follow Girardi's lead, that may change.
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