World Series Wonders
Above: Phillies Bench Coach Michael Calitri celebrates with his wife Ciara (née Egan), and children; Emiliana (9), Graziella (6) and Cristiano (3) Calitri
Until this year, the Philadelphia Phillies have not made the playoffs in 11 years. At the end of the 2017 season, they were on the hunt to find talent to make them a playoff-caliber team. Philly needed someone who had been a part of this newer-age thought process of strategy on the major league side.
“It’s been a nutty year. It’s actually been a nutty five years, really since I began with the Phillies,” said Calitri who was hired in the late fall of 2017 as the manager of Advance Scouting and Quality Assurance, one similar to his role at the Rays.
Prior to the 2018 season, the Phillies did not pour resources into this analytical world of the game. Upon the arrival of Calitri and others, many strategy plans were made going into each game, finding any marginal benefit to help win games.
“It’s really a balancing act. Honestly, you could know as much about a guy mathematically as you would want to know, but they’re still humans,” he said. “There are so many things that are unmeasurable and that’s the art of it all.”
It’s an insight that comes from the combination of years of studying the game with years of playing the game.
It’s in an effort to put players in a position to win. Part of that, this season, was managerial changes.
On June 3, 2022, the Phillies fired manager Joe Girardi and coaching assistant Bobby Meacham after the team’s rough start. In turn, former bench coach Rob Thomson was promoted to manager, and Calitri was promoted to Thomson’s former position as bench coach.
Thomson and Calitri have a relationship built on trust, and Thomson saw Calitri’s effort to learn from him and understand more about the game from another perspective. “It was a massive step for me,” Calitri said, but it was one that turned the corner for baseball in the city.
After the changeover, the Phillies won 20 games in a month from June 3 to July 3. This boosted morale extremely and continued to push them to squeeze into the playoffs come October.
It was a shock to the system.
“The city was thirsty for it. The ownership group was of course thirsty for it. The players and coaches were definitely ready to do this,” he said.
Calitri described the postseason as simply a celebration of how far they’ve come. At the pinnacle of their season, it was one massive party and the fan base support was unmatched, even compared to Boston, he said.
“Even when we went to Houston, it just wasn’t the same. The Philly fans — it’s like the 10th player.”
Following the loss of the World Series to the Astros (4-2), Calitri said the team and staff are decompressing for the next couple of weeks. However, there are less than 100 days until spring training and soon enough this team will return to the field in the hopes to make a similar run once again.
“You just hope that what they experienced and how they played in the last few weeks, is something that they’ll have as experience going into next season…” Calitri said. “I think that’s what makes teams go on a bit of a run. You get a core group of players that get this kind of amazing taste in their mouth and they want to replicate that every year.”