As director of integrative baseball performance, Sam Fuld didn’t get to work with first-year Philadelphia Phillies manager Joe Girardi as much as he wanted to in 2020. Now that he’s been promoted to general manager, Fuld will get the opportunity to keep working with Girardi for the foreseeable future.
“I have so much respect for Joe,” Fuld said through Zoom on Tuesday during a virtual press conference introducing him in his new role, “and I can’t wait to further that relationship.”
The newly-promoted 39-year-old executive said he enjoyed getting to know Girardi during spring training. But, shortly thereafter, the COVID-19 pandemic would shut down the sport and change its landscape throughout the 2020 season, preventing the two from working together closely.
“In a lot of ways, it was a tale of two seasons,” Fuld said. “I loved being around him during Spring Training 1.0 in a pre-COVID world, and I think I was really just impressed by the way he led our group in that way.”
Once the season’s hiatus ended and the team got back to work in July, Fuld and Girardi did not interact in the same way they did in March. Still, Fuld spoke with the manager before home games when possible, and was generally around the team in Philadelphia.
With Fuld entering a new season in a new position as the general manager under president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, he will want to build a greater connection with Girardi, a manager who “lived up to every bit of” his reputation in Fuld’s mind. Fuld will do so with a unique familiarity with the role of the manager.
Fuld played eight seasons in the majors under five different managers, and worked directly with former Phillies manager Gabe Kapler in his former role as player information coordinator and outfield instructor. Fuld has also interviewed for managerial positions at the major-league level, and was considered a finalist for the Boston Red Sox managerial job earlier this offseason.
As someone well-connected with what it takes to be a modern major-league manager, Fuld said he feels that the field manager and general manager positions are not as different now as they might have been in the past.
“You could probably make the case that the lines have blurred between those two roles in some ways,” he said.
In addition to handling the clubhouse, modern-day field managers must understand different kinds of analytical information to assist them in their decision making. Field managers now typically hold philosophies and processes that align with those of the front office they work under as well.
Keeping a consistent mindset throughout the organization is one area that Fuld will work most with Girardi. Being able to work together with the manager to execute the plans of the front office will be a key to any success the Phillies might see.
“It’s a really important relationship,” Fuld said. “The relationship that Dave has and is going to have with Joe and the one that I’m going to continue to have with Joe is a really important one that I think [in] this day and age is crucial as can be.
“We need to be aligned in all the initiatives that we have from the front office down to the field.”
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