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Girardi on Fernando Tatís Jr.: ‘Let the players play’


Joe Girardi made his Major League debut in 1989, and first managed in 2006. The 55-year-old may be in his first season as the Philadelphia Phillies manager, but he’s hardly the new kid on the block.

Still, one of the things that made Girardi such an attractive hire for the Phillies is they believe he’s able to blend old and new school. And he’s shown a willingness to new ideas. He’s voiced support for playoff expansion. He likes seven-inning doubleheaders. Heck, Girardi even has said that he’s neutral on extra innings starting with a runner on second base.

Fernando Tatís Jr. is one of baseball’s brightest young stars. Kyusung Gong/Icon Sportswire)

The latest sign that Girardi continues to adapt to the game’s changing landscape were his thoughts on San Diego Padres superstar Fernando Tatís Jr.’s controversial grand slam Monday night, which he hit on a 3-0 count with his team already up by seven runs.

“I think managers should get together and say ‘Let the players play,'” Girardi said before Tuesday’s Phillies-Boston Red Sox matchup. “Think about our week – we’ve got seven games in six days…I don’t know how much I’m going to need Hector [Neris]…the other day we had a 12-run lead and I had to get Hector up, right? These games are really important, and there are certain times where if you can give your eighth inning guy, your ninth inning guy and maybe a left-hander a day off, you would love to do that because you don’t know what you’re going to need the next day.

“So I wish managers, when we would go to Winter Meetings would say ‘Just let the players play, and whatever happens happens. We’re not rubbing anything in.’ Now, if it’s 21-2, I get that. But we saw, what were we up the other day, 13-2 or something? And it wasn’t necessarily safe. And I think, especially with a really small schedule, you don’t really have a lot of time to make up a loss if you have a loss like that. And they [the Padres] also don’t have their closer [Kirby Yates]. Their closer is on the IL. So that changes things. I wish managers would just say ‘Let the players play.'”

Texas Rangers’ manager Chris Woodward disagrees with Girardi. After Tatís Jr. launched a grand slam Monday night to extend the Padres lead to 11 runs, Woodward had pitcher Ian Gibaut immediately throw a pitch behind Manny Machado, the Padres other star infielder, to show his frustration with the Padres continuing to add to their lead.

“There’s a lot of unwritten rules that are constantly being challenged in today’s game – I didn’t like it, personally,” Woodward said to the collective media, including MLB.com‘s AJ Cassavell. “You’re up by seven [runs] in the eighth inning; it’s typically not a good time to swing 3-0. It’s kind of the way we were all raised in the game. But, like I said, the norms are being challenged on a daily basis, so just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean it’s not right.”

Woodward was suspended for Tuesday afternoon’s matinee against the Padres. Gibaut was suspended for three games.

What really made this a story is that Jayce Tingler, Tatís Jr.’s own manager, didn’t defend him after the game.

“He’s young, a free spirit and focused and all those things. That’s the last thing that we’ll ever take away. But it’s a learning opportunity,” said Tingler.

It’s one thing to simply say that the Rangers shouldn’t have gotten themselves in a 3-0 situation with the bases loaded, leaving Tatís Jr. the chance to hit his second home run of the game. But as Girardi said Tuesday, seven runs really isn’t that big of a lead. The Phillies have come close to blowing such leads on multiple occasions this season. Yeah, there’s a discussion to be had about unwritten rules, but the assertion that the game was at the point where such rules would kick in is strange.

For his part, Tatís Jr. said after the game that he would likely take a called strike if faced with the situation again. However, he stole third base with a six-run lead Tuesday afternoon, a good sign that he felt slighted that in the midst of a monster season, the first time he really made national headlines was over backlash when he hit a grand slam.

And if Bryce Harper were to do the same thing later on this season, Girardi wouldn’t have a problem with it, especially if it helped to save his bullpen.

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