Philadelphia Phillies manager Rob Thomson, left, argues with umpire Bill Miller, right, during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Saturday, June 10, 2023, in Philadelphia. Thomson was ejected from the game. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Phillies manager Rob Thomson, who’s navigated his team through a roller-coaster opening to the season, had himself quite a weekend.

In taking 2 of 3 from the Los Angeles Dodgers at home, the Phils are just one game under .500 and a mere 1.5 games out of a wild card spot. The series win proved that sweeping the brutal Tigers wasn’t just a fluke. The Phillies are in fact playing better.

The man they call “Topper” ended up being a focus in both wins — though not necessarily in a good way.

On Saturday night, he was tossed by veteran umpire Bill Miller after Miller warned Aaron Nola to stop tossing aside so many baseballs. Thomson came out of the dugout and exploded in the umpire’s face.

Miller believed Nola was disposing of baseballs not because he didn’t like their grip, but because he was trying to circumvent the new pitch timer. Nola has done this a lot in 2023 as he continues to struggle with the timer, but the rule books are kinda hazy about this sort of thing, and enforcement is largely up to the judgment of the umpire.

On radio, Larry Andersen matched Thomson’s energy. He was off the chain — and he’s right: there just aren’t any hard-and-fast rules that stipulate how often a pitcher can request a new ball. 

That said, there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that Nola, as he strolled around the mound watching the clock count down, realized he was running out of time and tossed the ball out in order to reset it.

I disagree 100% with Andersen that the pitch timer is bad for baseball. With the exception of issues like this, the timer has absolutely been good. It has shortened baseball games by about a half hour simply by reducing all the dead time in between pitches. Does there need to be a little more common sense when it comes to enforcing the rules? Absolutely. But does Nola also need to learn how to pitch in this new environment. No question. 

But that wasn’t all for Thomson. On Sunday, Topper decided to remove starter Taijuan Walker from the game after five scoreless innings and just 83 pitches, holding a 3-0 lead. 

Walker had labored in the 1st and 4th innings but moved through the Dodgers’ lineup in innings 2, 3 and 5. Thomson’s reasoning after the game was that he didn’t want Walker, a right-hander, to have to face three tough lefties — Freddie Freeman, Will Smith, and Max Muncy — a third time. 

So, Walker came out…and Gregory Soto promptly allowed a solo home run to Freeman to make it 3-1. Thankfully, the Phils offense continued to add on throughout the game, despite the Dodgers scoring single runs in the 7th and 8th innings as well. And it’s entirely possible that, had Walker stayed in, he would have allowed even more damage to be done. 

Was Thomson right to have a quick hook on his starter? It’s impossible to know if his process was correct, but as was argued on the latest Hittin’ Season podcast, the result is really all that matters. 

There are large stretches of a baseball season when a manager is barely heard from, but there are series like this weekend’s against Los Angeles in which decisions can be closely scrutinized. 

Topper had himself a weekend.

John Stolnis grew up in Delco as a rabid fan of all Philadelphia sports, but the Phillies have always held a special place in his heart, particularly those disappointing Juan Samuel-led teams of the late...