Tag: Charlie Manuel

Defining Charlie Manuel’s Managerial Legacy After Win No. 1,000

Thanks to the backing of a brilliant Cole Hamels performance and flashy, game-ending defensive play from rookie third baseman Cody Asche, the Philadelphia Phillies cooled down the red-hot Atlanta Braves on Monday night.

What would have normally passed for an innocuous August victory for a Phillies club destined for a losing season instead became a celebration of manager Charlie Manuel.

Philadelphia’s 53rd victory of 2013 wasn’t just another notch in the win column for an aging team, but rather the 1,000th career victory for Manuel as a skipper.

After the game, Manuel, speaking to Comcast Sports Net’s Jim Salisbury, was reflective of his career, especially the winning achieved in Philadelphia.

“It’s definitely quite an achievement,” Manuel said. “Like I told my players, they’re the ones that make it happen. They play. The two organizations I’ve been with, they’re the ones that get the players for me. That just goes to show you just how good they are. It’s hard for me to stand there and say I accept all of my accolades because the other people are definitely achieving those for you. That’s kind of how I look at it. I’m sure later on it probably means a lot more to me than right now. We’re still trying to win some games.”

The last sentence of that quote is unfortunately the story in Philadelphia now, as Manuel’s tenure could be coming to a close at the conclusion of the 2013 season.

As the Phillies chug along to a second consecutive season without postseason baseball, the Charlie Manuel Era can’t properly be broken down and evaluated based on the end, but rather must be reflective upon the totality of accomplishments in Philadelphia under his watch.

From the day he arrived until now, the Phillies have been one of the National League’s better teams. Starting in 2007, the team reeled off five consecutive National League East titles, advanced to three National League Championship Series, two World Series, and, of course, brought a World Series championship to Philadelphia in 2008.

When the roster was flush with prime-aged talent (think Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jayson Werth before age and attrition), Manuel, the former hitting guru in Cleveland, presided over a relentless and punishing offensive attack.

Every night under Manuel’s watch, the Phillies were going to bring two attributes to the paying customers: Hard-hitting and inspired play.

From 2007-2011, the Phillies offense ranked second, seventh, sixth, 11th and 15th, respectively, in all of MLB in team OPS. Considering their place in the National League, without the luxury of a designated hitter, finishing in the top half of the sport in on-base plus slugging for five straight years is quite the accomplishment.

As the roster, specifically the offensive firepower, has taken a downturn over the years, the hard-hitting expectations have fallen precipitously, but the players have always respected and played hard for a manager that earned his keep in a city that can be notoriously tough on coaches.

It’s likely that Manuel’s last days in the Phillies dugout become uncomfortable for both the franchise and fanbase. Despite his accolades as a hitting coach and accountability from his 25-man roster, Manuel’s age (69) and in-game shortcomings make it highly unlikely that a rebuilding team keeps him in the fold to oversee the next era of Phillies baseball.

However, years from now, when the dust settles on the last era of Phillies baseball, Manuel should be recognized alongside the players, executives and coaches that made the 2007-2011 teams so dominant.

Charlie Manuel was the perfect manager for those teams. In a city that has been starved for professional championships, Manuel delivered what so few others couldn’t.

His place on the Phillies Wall of Fame should be secured.

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Philadelphia Phillies: Mismanagement Has Rendered the Club Insignificant

Such a Herculean task it is to dissect the Philadelphia Phillies nowadays. 

Nearly two months into the season, the Phillies continue to hug a sub-.500 record. Meanwhile, the front office continues to debate on whether or not their supposed plan is being implemented appropriately. 

Whatever plan general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has for this club is not working. Simply put, he is at the forefront of the blame while skipper Charlie Manuel should be ousted for his debilitated decision-making.

A perfect example of the adverse decision-making on behalf of the Phillies skipper can be seen Tuesday night, when the Fightins square off against the Miami Marlins.

In 13 innings versus the Phils, Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez has yet to allow a run scored while giving up just three hits. Of those three hits Fernandez has permitted, two came off the bat of the switch-hitting utility man Freddy Galvis

Despite the small sample size, it is evident that Galvis has had the most success any Phillie has had against Fernandez to date. However, he will be on the bench in this affair.

Instead, outfielder Delmon Young will get the nod.

Young is baseball’s version of Napoleon Dynamite when it comes to defense. He is also struggling to stay above the Mendoza Line, batting-wise. 

It’s not like Amaro Jr. and Manuel have to be committed to Young. After all, Young is on a one-year contract worth a thrifty $750,000. 

So what gives? 

At the end of the day, the Phillies’ decision to sit Galvis against Fernandez in favor of D. Young is representative of the porous decision-making the club has made over the course of the last two seasons.

Naysayer’s with pie-in-the-sky attitudes will point out that the Phillies are a good series or two away from overtaking first place in the National League East.

Never mind their record against sub-.500 clubs as opposed to clubs with winning records.

Never mind the fact they have yet to take on the Washington Nationals.

Let’s get one thing clear: The Phillies are in decline. Anybody who says otherwise is likely to still believe in the Tooth Fairy.

The window of opportunity to repeat the feat from 2008 closed in 2011. The door slammed shut when the Phillies gave up a 2-1 series lead over the St. Louis CardinalsThe nails were hammered in the coffin when the Phillies surged late last year only to have their postseason hopes dashed in a series sweep at the hands of the Houston Astros.

In-game mismanagement by Manuel coupled with questionable personnel decisions from Amaro Jr. have rendered the Phillies insignificant. 

The sad reality is that the organization continues to string its fanbase along in similar fashion to the Philadelphia 76ers. After trading for center Andrew Bynum (and his two bad knees), Sixers ownership led fans down a path, all season long, to think that Bynum could play at some point.

As everyone knows, Bynum never debuted. 

The Phillies will not make the playoffs, either.

The point is that the Phillies organization has made terrible decision after terrible decision. Sure, hindsight is always 20/20. Unfortunately, some of the moves the Phillies have made were called into question at the time they occurred.

For instance, the decision to trade Vance Worley and prospect Trevor May to Minnesota has turned out to be atrocious. Sure, Worley has been horrible for the Twins, but nobody could have forecast that at the time. So long as May develops into a serviceable No. 4 or 5 pitcher in the majors, the Twins soundly defeated the Phillies in this trade.

One has to wonder: Whose bright idea was it to trade arms for Major League Baseball’s leader in ground-ball rate?

Regardless, the doom and gloom in South Philly is real. Fans oblivious to the mismanagement of this club can continue to think the Phillies have a shot to contend. Those who understand reality will just sit back, elbows crossed, and watch everything unfold for the worst.

Prior to the start of the season, many with realistic expectations believed the Phillies were an above-.500 club with a decent chance at cracking the postseason, even in the NL East.

Those expectations have now been altered. More likely than not, one can expect the Phillies to finish with a losing record for the first time since 2002. That was the year when Nelly’s “Hot in Herre could be heard on every radio station in America, George W. Bush was still in his first term as president and the United States had not yet invaded Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

As Charlie Chapman once said: “In the end, everything is a gag.” Words couldn’t speak truer for the current state of the Phillies.

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Philadelphia Phillies: Thanks to Ruben Amaro Jr., the End Is Near

The Philadelphia Phillies have not had a losing season since 2002, when they finished 80-81. The last ten seasons have provided the faithful fan base in Philadelphia with more things to cheer about than to jeer about. Unfortunately though, the end is near. 

It wasn’t the farcical Mayan Apocalypse that dashed the hopes of Phillies fans everywhere. No. It was the mismanagement of a roster and farm system that will cause the destruction of arguably the best decade of baseball in this franchise’s history. 

Who is to blame?

People will easily point fingers at the players. Most notably, Ryan Howard’s disappointing lack of production along with an additional projected decrease as his salary increases through the next several years is causing flack among Phillies fans.

Despite all this, Howard is not to blame.

Charlie Manuel developed a reputation for being a manager who knows how to instruct and correct batting issues from the get-go. It is sad to say, but one of the problems with the Phillies has been the ability to hit effectively and drive in runs on a consistent basis in recent years.

Still, managers in baseball are the most innocuous figureheads in professional sports. They matter much less than head coaches in the NFL and NBA.

The problem resides with the front office.

On November 3, 2008, Ruben Amaro Jr. succeeded Pat Gillick as the general manager of the Phillies, directly after the Phillies won the 2008 World Series. Since then, a series of gaffes and questionable transactions have compounded the problems for the Phillies, diminishing their relevance in not only their specific division, the National League East, but the entire National League as well.


On April 26, 2010, less than two years after his promotion to GM, Amaro Jr. signed the soon-to-be 31-year-old first baseman Ryan Howard to a 5-year, $125 million contract extension. The deal called for a club option on the sixth year. 

Despite holding the single-season HR record for a Phillie as well as many other records, Howard’s production is on the decline. Coming off an Achilles tear, Howard struggled mightily last season. Some believe that Howard should regain his ability to produce at an elite level in 2013, while others dismiss him as an oft-injured slugger prone to striking out who can’t play defense and is on the decline.

Whichever way you see him, Howard is definitely a controversial piece to the puzzle of where things went wrong with Amaro Jr.

Amaro Jr. does deserve some credit. Despite selling the best prospects in the farm system and spending cash hand over fist, Amaro Jr. has amassed talent in the form of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Hunter Pence, Roy Oswalt and Jonathan Papelbon.

While these names are enticing, their deals probably are not. Take Papelbon, for example. He was given the richest contract in history for a reliever. The problem is that a deal worth $60 million for a pitcher who is tasked with attaining three outs per game is asinine.

Especially when the money could have been used to give the rest of the bullpen or 25-man roster more depth.

2013 will be a telling year for Amaro Jr. He will either look like a genius or possibly lose his job. He deserves to be knocked hard for acquiring, then trading away Gio Gonzalez. He also shipped Chris Singleton out of the organization.

Meanwhile, many fans are disheartened at the lack of talented acquisitions during the 2012-13 off-season.

Ben Revere? John Lannan? Both guys are nice players, but Revere has one of the highest ground ball rates in baseball while Lannan is extremely ordinary on the hill. Meanwhile, fan favorite Vance Worley—a man who, when healthy, is an extremely effective young pitcher—was shipped out of town.

The Phillies have thus far failed to secure a deal for the likes of Justin Upton, Jason Kubel or Dexter Fowler.

2013 will speak volumes for what Amaro Jr. has done for the Phillies franchise. The roster is the least talented of any roster the Phillies have had since 2005, which is why this is the year where Amaro Jr.’s legacy will be shaped.

As to whether or not he has a job as GM in Philadelphia come October, that remains anyone’s guess.

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Philadelphia Phillies GM Amaro: There Is Not a No. 1 Priority for 2013

According to Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro has stated that there is no No. 1 priority for next year.  With no talk of improving the outfield and an obviously shallow free-agent pool at third base next year, Phillies fans may not be so enthusiastic about jumping into the 2013 season next year. 

Phillies fans have been mired in disappointment this season after the last five.  A team that had all the makings of a dynasty was only able to secure one World Series championship in that time.

This year, the reasons were quite obvious: poor situational hitting, an inept bullpen in the first half of the season, injuries to marquee players, a weak defense and an ineffective manager who could no longer ride the train once the wheels were no longer going “round and round.”

Charlie Manuel and his hitting coach, Greg Gross, have done nothing to improve the hitting issues.  Perhaps the team has aged to a point where it’s not about situational hitting, but bat speed. 

The team’s top players—Rollins, Utley, Howard and Victorino before he was traded—struggled to keep their averages above .250.  The bullpen was atrocious, as Chad Qualls, Antonio Bastardo and a combination of young arms proved unable to hand the ball over to closer Jonathan Papelbon. 

Injuries to Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, the demise of smooth-fielding third baseman Placido Polanco and the trade of Shane Victorino weakened the offense, and the defense significantly.  


When this concoction of unsavory ingredients was added to the stew, the odoriferous mixture fouled the air and the manager struggled to “stir the pot.”

It certainly is unfair to place the entire blame on Charlie Manuel; after all, it was Amaro who helped stock the provisions on the pantry shelf.  But both men had a hand in fostering the disappointment.


When Amaro said there was no No. 1 priority, I am sure he meant there were several problems all of equal weight.  

The outfield, in my opinion, should be their No. 1 priority because Brown and Mayberry are nothing better than bench players.  Ruf has to prove he can hit major league pitching and play left field.  It is obvious now that Victorino and Hunter Pence are sorely missed despite all their fan detractors.

The Phillies’ front office cannot be serious that the outfield is not a top priority. A trade for a strong defensive center fielder who can hit for average is an absolute must. Signing Josh Hamilton is a pipe dream, but if you want to restore the team to a higher standing, that would certainly work.  Since that is probably not going to happen, though, signing Michael Bourn is a possible solution.

Unfortunately, the corner outfield positions would still be in flux.     

Amaro could trade for Padres third baseman Chase Headley, but that might require trading one of their young pitching prospects. And minor league youngsters Cody Asche and Maikel Franco are turning some heads at third, but both are still at least a season away. 


The Phillies absolutely must improve the overall defense, but how that can be done without a trade or a free-agent signing is anyone’s guess. Utley and Howard hopefully will see a return to good health next year, but can they improve those mediocre averages, or is Father Time creeping up on them early?  

The Phillies brass has remained steadfast in their defense of Charlie Manuel.  With that commitment, maybe principle Phillies owner David Montgomery should promote a “prozac night” at Citizens Bank Park.  

Or should a managerial change be made now rather than later?

When the time comes and Manuel does hand over the spoon to Ryne Sandberg, let’s hope the ingredients are such that he can mix up a fragrant bouquet and not be tormented by an odoriferous blend of bad ingredients.

In addition, let’s hope that the keys to the train Ruben Amaro hands over to Hall of Famer Sandberg fits the ignition. Phillies fans deserve to shout “Whoo, Whoo!” when the wheels start turning.

All aboard!      

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Should the Phillies Make Ryne Sandberg MLB Manager in ’13 to Avoid Losing Him?

Could Ryne Sandberg be the Philadelphia Phillies‘ manager in 2013?

Probably not, because Charlie Manuel is under contract to be the Phillies’ skipper next season and the team likely doesn’t want to eat the reported $3.75 million he’s set to be paid in the final year of his contract. 

However, the fact that the Phillies haven’t offered Manuel a contract extension beyond next year could be a sign of the team’s future intentions. The typical move made in this situation is to offer a manager at least a one-year extension so that he doesn’t look like a “lame duck” whose job status gives him little authority.

Yet according to CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman, Sandberg is highly regarded within the Phillies organization. The former Chicago Cubs second baseman is currently the skipper for Philadelphia’s Triple-A Lehigh Valley team and could be a popular candidate to fill some managerial openings around MLB next year. 

If the Phillies view Sandberg as their manager of the future, can they afford to leave him out there for another team to hire? 

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. acknowledges that there’s “nothing to be done” if Sandberg wants to take a big league managing job next year. But the hope in the organization seems to be for Sandberg to bide his time for one more season and take over in the Phillies dugout for 2014. 

Is Sandberg willing to wait one more year for his first major league managing job? He worked his way through the Cubs’ minor league organization for four years, showing that he was willing to pay his dues and prove his merit as a manager.

There was no payoff, however, as Sandberg was passed over for Mike Quade when Lou Piniella retired as Cubs manager in 2010. Disappointed at not getting a promotion and not seeing much of a future for himself with the Cubs, Sandberg took a job with the Phillies to be their Triple-A manager.

How many major league teams will be looking for new managers next year?

The Houston Astros will definitely have an opening after firing Brad Mills and finishing the season with interim manager Tony DeFrancesco. The Boston Red Sox will almost certainly fire Bobby Valentine when the regular season ends. 

Valentine’s firing could create a vacancy in Toronto if the Red Sox pursue Blue Jays manager John Farrell. The Boston Globe‘s Nick Cafardo reports that Farrell, who was a pitching coach for four years under Terry Francona, is the Red Sox’s top choice to replace Valentine. 

If Manny Acta’s job status with the Cleveland Indians is shaky, as Heyman speculated earlier this week (Sept. 11), that could present another potential opportunity for a prospective manager. 

Sandberg would be a good candidate for any of those jobs. He might be especially appealing for the Astros since he has so much experience managing developing players in the minor leagues. 

Nothing has apparently been promised to Sandberg by the Phillies. Amaro‘s “nothing to be done” comment virtually confirms that. Sandberg‘s experience with the Cubs also surely taught him that there’s no such thing as a chain of succession when it comes to teams hiring managers. A “manager-in-waiting” is often left waiting. 

So if Sandberg has a chance at an opportunity elsewhere, he will almost certainly take it. There just aren’t that many major league managing jobs available. 

Yet Sandberg might also realize that the best job will open up for him in 2014 if Manuel retires after his contract runs out. If Sandberg is viewed as favorably within the Phillies organization as Heyman reports, waiting might be the best move for him. He’ll likely have a contending team to manage and a general manager behind him who wants to keep winning. 

But the Phillies shouldn’t panic and give Sandberg the job for 2013 because they’re worried about losing him. Manuel is a proven commodity who managed five consecutive first-place teams and led the Phillies to back-to-back World Series. 

Perhaps there was some thought that Manuel shouldn’t be back next season when the Phillies were one of the most disappointing teams in baseball. Now that the team has played itself into contention for an NL wild-card playoff spot, however, he’s shown that he can still manage capably with a healthy roster. 

Manuel has earned the right to finish out his contract. He’s arguably earned an extension, but perhaps views next season as his last. Letting Manuel go out on his terms and lead a Phillies team that should be improved and a contender in the NL East next year is the right move. 

If that means losing Sandberg, so be it. But the right move for him might be to stick around in the organization for just one more year.

Putting Sandberg on Manuel’s coaching staff next year might be a nice assurance for his future, however. Why not ensure a smooth transition?


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Will Charlie Manuel Be Sacrificial Lamb for Phillies’ Embarrassing First Half?

The Philadelphia Phillies entered the 2012 season as five-time defending NL East champions. All five of those division titles came under the sage-like gaze of manager Charlie Manuel.

It is under that same sage-like gaze that the Phillies have gone from first to worst this season. They ended Major League Baseball’s unofficial first half with a record of 37-50. As Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer pointed out, it took a lot longer for the Phillies to get to 50 losses in 2011:

At the rate the Phillies are going, they’re going to end the season with over 90 losses. For them to turn things around and make it back to the postseason, they’re going to need both good health and a few miracles.

If Jonathan Papelbon feels like doing some sort of rain dance jig, that probably wouldn’t hurt.

In times like these, a lot of peoples’ first impulse is to blame the manager. There’s some of that going around where Manuel is concerned at the moment. Barring an epic turnaround in the second half, one obviously has to wonder if this will be Manuel’s last season in Philadelphia.

Shoot, one has to wonder if he’ll even make it to the end. When a team is playing as poorly as the Phillies are, the manager is never safe.

…But nobody should be reaching for torches and/or pitchforks. This isn’t one of those situations.

One thing that’s for sure is that the Phillies aren’t going to fire Manuel because they think firing him will be the spark the Phillies need to snap out of their funk. Phillies fans tend to give Manuel (and everyone else under the sun) a hard time, but even they have to realize that it’s not Manuel’s fault that the team is so far under .500.

It’s not his fault that Chase Utley and Ryan Howard were just featured in the same lineup for the first time all season a couple days before the All-Star break. Manuel did not ruin Utley’s knees, and he did not rupture Howard’s Achilles. The team struggled to score runs without the two of them, but Manuel can’t be blamed for that either.

Nor can he be blamed for Roy Halladay’s shoulder woes or Cliff Lee’s various issues.

Though some have ventured to criticize his handling of the bullpen, it’s not Manuel’s fault that the Phillies lack both depth and talent in their bullpen. What they have out in the pen would be good enough if the team’s starters were going seven or eight innings every night, as they did last year, but that hasn’t happened in 2012.

So, it’s not like we’re talking about a really good team that is underachieving. We’re talking about a team that has been undermanned all season due to injuries. 

According to Baseball-Reference.com, the Phillies’ Pythagorean winning percentage says they should have a record of 41-46 this season. Given all that has gone on, this essentially indicates that the Phillies indeed should be under .500.

Firing Manuel would accomplish little. Removing him from the equation would not return Utley and Howard to the form of their glory days. It would not make Doc Halladay a Cy Young contender again. It would not add more wins to Lee’s record. It would not fix the bullpen.

In other words, firing Manuel will not make the Phillies great again. Firing the manager can be a useful means to light a fire under a team’s collective posterior. But the Phillies aren’t one of those teams. If anything, firing him would make things worse, not better.

If Manuel is fired this season, it will be a mercy firing. And this is only going to happen if it’s clear by the trade deadline that it’s not happening this year (that’s already clear enough, of course). By this time, the Phillies likely will have already traded ace lefty and free-agent-to-be Cole Hamels. Probably Shane Victorino as well.

But again, it’s hard to see this happening during the season. Manuel has been around since 2005, and the Phillies have finished second or better each year he’s been in the dugout. He doesn’t get a ton of respect as a manager, but any manager who wins a World Series at least deserves his share of respect from his own organization.

If the organization knows in August and September that the Phillies are out of the race, it will not do Manuel the dishonor of cutting him loose. At worst, that would be disrespectful. At best, it would be an awkward and anticlimactic end to a great run.

Even if this does end up being Manuel’s final season as the skipper of the Phillies, it’s more likely that both sides will wait until the season is over before they come to some sort of mutual agreement. Manuel only has one year left on his contract, so it’s not like either side is into this relationship for the long haul.

Of course, this is a scenario that’s dependent on what kind of personnel moves the Phillies make in the next couple months. If Hamels and Victorino are both shipped out of town or leave as free agents, then it’s going to be clear that the Phillies are headed towards something of a rebuilding phase.

Manuel shouldn’t want to be around for that. And if that’s the direction the Phillies are going to go in, they may as well find themselves a new manager.

One way or the other, don’t expect Manuel to be out as manager of the Phillies as a form of punishment. If he loses his job over this season, it will be because everyone will have realized that the timing is right for his departure.

Try not to boo him if and when he leaves town, Philadelphia. This has been a rough year. But the rest? They were OK.


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Philadelphia Phillies: All-Phillies Team for the Past 20 Years

The Phillies have seen drastic ups and downs for the past 20 seasons. 

They lost as many as 97 games in 2000 and won as many as 102 in 2011.  They have been to three World Series (1993, 2008, 2009) winning one and have won the division six times (1993, 2007-11).

So who had the best seasons, by position during that stretch to make up the All-Phillies team of the past 20 years?  Who’s the manager and best coach?

Let’s find out.

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Philadelphia Phillies’ Charlie Manuel: From Hayseed to Hero

The Philadelphia Phillies won another game last night beating the Milwaukee Brewers 5-3.  It was their 93rd win of the year.  Roy Halladay was… well Roy Halladay as he allowed only 4 hits, one run and had nine strikeouts through eight innings.  He is now 17-5 with a 2.44 ERA.

Ryan Howard provided almost all the offense the Phillies would need with his three-run home run in the first giving Halladay the lead before he even threw his first pitch.  Howard now has 32 home run and a league-leading 111 RBI.

And Phillies manager Charlie Manuel got his 637th win last night moving him to second place in all-time franchise wins.  Soon he will surpass Gene Mauch, at 646 wins, to become the winningest manager in Phillies history.  And since Phillies wins are becoming as commonplace these days as Cliff Lee shut-outs, today’s post is devoted to the unlikely story of the homespun manager who became a hometown hero.  Who woulda thunk it?

Certainly not me.  Although I have long since happily jumped aboard the Charlie Manuel hayride, I mean bandwagon, I was not in favor of his hiring back in 2005.  While I certainly wasn’t alone, I am not too proud to admit that I was wrong.  Dead wrong.  So today I issue my personal apology to Charlie Manuel. But first, a look back at how it all started.

At the time I had my reasons.  After all, Charlie was chosen to be the new Phillies manager from a field that included acknowledged baseball genius Jim Leyland (my choice for the job.)  And it didn’t help matters that he would be replacing my favorite all-time Phillie, the always-outspoken and too often quick-tempered Larry Bowa who was fired after four relatively successful but tumultuous seasons.  

Bowa’s anything to win attitude which fans loved, did not sit well in the Phillies clubhouse, particularly when it involved public criticism of his team.  By the end of the 2004 season things had turned ugly. Disgruntled players complained bitterly both internally and publicly, something had to give and, even after 3 out of 4 winning seasons, Bowa was shown the clubhouse door.

Enter Charlie Manuel.  With his slow West Virginia drawl and laid back style, he was Bowa’s opposite in every way.  While Bowa was known as a meticulous student of the game, fans were dumbstruck when it looked like Manuel didn’t know how to properly execute a double switch. And his accent and now-familiar stammer made his post game press conferences punch lines for Philadelphia’s rabid sports talk radio hosts.  In short, it seemed the tough-minded fans and writers of Philadelphia would eat Charlie alive.

But again I was wrong.

Because just when it seemed like things couldn’t possibly get any worse, a funny thing happened. The Phillies started winning.

Manuel’s laid back style and overwhelming public and private loyalty to his players did wonders for a Phillies clubhouse formerly filled with bickering and discontent.  The team followed their manager’s lead and began to support each other both on and off the field.  They played hard, they played with intensity, they played to win.

And win they did.  637 times as of last night.

It turns out that this baseball lifer who many wrote off  as just a good old country boy knew more about the game of baseball and the men who play it than any of us gave him credit for.  And while he still may not be the most seasoned at the sound bite, his record speaks for itself.  In his first six seasons as Phillies manager, Manuel has guided his team to the best overall record in the National League.  And that doesn’t even count the league-leading 93 wins they have already racked up this year!

But the highlight, of course, was that magical 2008 season when Manuel led the Phillies to their first World Series Championship in 28 years and only the second in franchise history.  At the love fest that followed, no one got a bigger ovation than the man once disparagingly referred to as “Uncle Charlie.”

And what did Charlie say at that great moment of personal victory and vindication?  Did he hold a grudge against the city that had disparaged and underestimated him?  The fans who had publicly second-guessed and mocked him from the day he was hired?  Here was his well-deserved “I told you so” moment at last.

Wrong again.

Charlie Manuel grabbed that World Series trophy, held it high for the fans in the stands to see and yelled,

“This is for Philadelphia!  This is for our fans!  I look around here and who’s the World Champions?  I thank you!”

No, Charlie.  We thank you.  So I’ll finish with the apology I promised at the start.  And this is said with the utmost respect and appreciation.

“Sorry Cholly.”

Now get back to work and bring us home another one!  Please?

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Philadelphia Phillies Hitting Does Not Match Their Quality of Pitching

Yet again, the Philadelphia Phillies’ hitting does not show up, only this time, it resulted in a 12th inning 2-1 loss at the hands of the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on Friday night.

Throwing eight innings, allowing only one run and one hit, Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels continued to show why he is a reliable starter for the team.

But although Hamels pitched a terrific game, he, along with other Phillies pitchers this season, didn’t receive the run support needed to capture the win.

Jimmy Rollins acquired two of the Phillies’ minuscule six hits, and he obtained the only Phillies run of the night.

The Phillies have averaged four runs per game so far this season, which seems pretty favorable when you consider that the Phillies have four aces in their starting pitching rotation who, when healthy, shouldn’t need more than four runs in support to win.

However, if the Phillies’ season up to this point is dissected, it is evident that if the Phillies could have compiled at least four RBI a game, they could have an additional 10 wins instead of losses.

The team has had unfortunate run-ins in the past with hitting slumps and cold streaks, so the team not generating run support isn’t anything new.

The Phillies have not scored more than two runs in three straight games, including this game.

If the Phillies’ hitters and pitchers don’t get on the same page and become a formidable cohesive unit, then the Phillies could see another team hoist the championship trophy for the second consecutive year.

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Philadelphia Phillies: Never Question Halladay in the 9th Inning

No true ace willfully gives up the ball with a game on the line.  As a fan, you admire this, but sometimes, you still have a hard time trusting them.  Maybe the closer should be called you think.

But when Roy says he’s got it under control, you just have to trust him, no matter how bad things might look.  Halladay has earned the right to be his own closer.

I learned this last night in the ninth inning as the Phillies played the Nationals.  Through the first eight innings, Halladay was on cruise control, allowing only two hits and shutting out Washington.  Although he had thrown nearly 100 pitches, things seemed to be in control.

That was about to change as Rick Ankiel led off with a double.  Jayson Werth followed with a single.  Just like that, Halladay was in his first jam of the night as the tying run came to the plate.  The bullpen came to life.  Surely, Charlie would be out on the mound to congratulate Roy on a game well pitched, and put the ball in the hand of closer Jose Contreras. 

But Manuel stayed in the dugout.

Halladay struck out the next hitter, Adam LaRoche, but the next two batters singled, driving in two runs and putting the tying run on second. 

Now, Manuel came running out of the dugout. 

The announcers assured those of us viewing at home that when Charlie runs out of the dugout he is not ready to make a pitching change.  The game seemed to be slipping away, a loss in a game like this could wreck the rest of the week and kill a team’s momentum, especially following a loss the night before. 

Surely Charlie must realize Halladay was done, I thought.  The 100-plus pitches having taken their toll, Halladay simply would not be able to finish what he had started, no matter how badly he wanted to.

Halladay, however, did not see things my way.  He assured his manager and teammates that he had things under control and would protect the Phillies lead, which was now perilously close to slipping away.

As Manuel walked back to the dugout, without taking his ace with him, I implored him to reconsider. He did not and Halladay stayed in the game.

What followed was some of the most focused, clutch pitching that I have ever seen in the ninth inning of a game.  The Nationals called for pinch hitter extraordinaire Matt Stairs to the plate, the same Matt Stairs who became a Phillies folk hero for his late game heroics.  I had a bad feeling about this matchup.  Stairs could end the game with one swing.  Given a fastball middle-in, Stairs would send the Nationals home winners.

Halladay simply fired three straight fastballs on the outside corner.  Stairs didn’t even move the bat from his shoulder.  I had never seen a hitter so overmatched at the plate.  Pudge Rodriguez followed.  The game now seemed safe.  Again, Halladay disposed of the hitter with three pitches.  The last a filthy curveball on the outside that buckled Rodriguez.

With this performance, Halladay has, in my opinion, earned the right to dictate whether or not he will stay in the game.  The way he bore down in crunch time was incredible.  To strike out the final two hitters on six pitches, with the tying run in scoring position, shows that Halladay is a true ace.

Charlie Manuel obviously knew better than to take the ball from Roy Halladay.  Next time I see Halladay in a jam in the ninth inning, I will know better as well.

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