“Deja Vu” For the Phillies?

The year was 1983.

Despite a mediocre 43-42 record, the Phillies were tied for first place in the National League East after their 5-2 loss to the Reds on July 17 at Veterans Stadium, where both the Phillies and the Eagles called home in those days (the teams now have separate home stadiums — Citizens Bank Park for the Phillies, Lincoln Financial Field for the Eagles).

So what did they do?

They fired their manager, Pat Corrales, prompting WPIX's (Channel 11 up I-95 in New York) Jerry Girard, who could give Jerry Orbach of Law & Order fame a run for his money in the wisecracking department, to wonder aloud, "Fire a manager whose team is in first place? Who knows? Maybe they want to finish in second place!"

Corrales was replaced in the dugout by general manager Paul Owens — and this was not the first time that Owens had done that: following a promising 14-8 start in 1972, the Phillies went 12-42 in their next 54 games, causing manager Frank Lucchesi to be fired on June 2. Owens was a somewhat more respectable 33-47 in relief of Lucchesi — but the improvement, such as it was, did not turn out to be enough to enable the Phillies to evade finishing with the worst record in the National League for the first time since 1961 (and something they would not do again until 1996).

But in 1983, the Phillies were 47-30 under Owens, and their final record of 90-72 was good enough to win the NL East by six games — and after winning the then best-of-five NLCS over the Dodgers in four games, they lost the World Series to Baltimore in five.

(The Phillies also changed horses in mid-stream in 1979, firing three-time National League East champion Danny Ozark on August 31, as of which the Phillies were 65-67; he was replaced by Dallas Green, who like Owens had heretofore worked in the team's front office. The Phillies went 19-11 the rest of the way — but their resulting 84-78 final record was only good for fourth place in the NFC East, snapping Ozark's streak of five consecutive first-division finishes, the franchise's longest such streak in the entire 20th Century. Green, however, would manage the club to their first World Series title ever up to that point the following year).

Now, fast-forward to the present.

After getting off to a 22-29 start, coming off a season, his second with the Phillies, that saw the team post both their first winning season and their highest division finish since 2011, Joe Girardi, who had managed the Yankees to a World Series championship in 2009 — beating the Phillies in six games! — was fired on June 3, thus appeasing the rapacious wolves on the city's two sports talk radio stations, to be replaced by his bench coach (a position that did not even exist in the days of yore), Canadian-born Rob Thomson.

And how are the Phillies doing under Thomson?

They are 17-6, and are now returning home from an 11-game road trip during which they went 7-4 — and although they are in third place in the NL East, eight games behind the high-flying Mets, they trail the Cardinals by just two games in the race for the league's final wild card berth.

But in order for 2022 to be a redux of 1983, the Phillies will need to continue to get good production from their bullpen: Their 10 blown saves through 74 games so far this season puts them on pace to have 22 blown saves on the year, after the staggering 34 they had last season, which tied the all-time major-league record for most blown saves by any team in one season, originally established by the Rockies in 2004 (the average MLB team blew 26 saves in 2021).

Second, their fitful hitting will have to become more consistent: Although they are averaging 4.76 runs per game (above the major-league average, which was 4.36 through Monday's games), the Phillies have been shut out seven times, have also been held to 1 run seven times, and to 2 runs on three occasions. That's more power outages than one would expect in a banana republic — and on other side of the run-scoring coin, the Phils have scored 9 runs or more in a dozen of their games.

In 1951, Bobby Thomson — no relation to Rob Thomson, but also born outside the United States (he was born in Scotland) — hit "The Shot Heard 'Round the World."

His namesake could very well end up doing something similar — as a manager.

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