Sam Donnellon: Manuel remains true to himself, Phillies players

Charlie Manuel gets his point across to players effectively.
Charlie Manuel gets his point across to players effectively.
Posted: October 07, 2009

THIS IS THE format to the Charlie Manuel closed clubhouse speech:

"Usually he's calm for the first 3 minutes," Jimmy Rollins said after the Phillies' workout yesterday. "And then come the beep, beep, beeps. And then a joke or something, so everybody starts laughing.

"And then, 'That's all I got to say. Let's go stretch.' "

A little Gandhi, a little Patton and, yeah, the end has a little Forrest Gump. Manuel has reached for the format a few times in each of the five seasons he has managed the Phillies, always amid some horrible play and some horrible losses, always with great reluctance and as a last recourse.

He doesn't plan what he's going to say. At least he had never done that until an 8 1/2-game lead fizzled to four entering the final week of this regular season.

The Mountain. Muhammad. Muhammad didn't wait for the mountain, he told his team. He went to the mountain.

"This might be the first time," said Rollins, "that he actually massaged the story."

Manuel doesn't massage. Not the language. Not his players, not the game. He doesn't overthink things, and he doesn't outthink himself. He's all about the happy cows giving the most milk, and when he closes those doors, Manuel doesn't open them until he tells his players that he is still their greatest fan.

"I am loyal," Manuel said yesterday.

But he also said, "The game is more important than my heart.

"If I'm going to be accountable and everything, I feel like I've got to, in my mind, put us in the best position to win a game."

So . . . Goodbye, Eric Bruntlett, late-inning defensive specialist last year, who scored the winning run in World Series Games 3 and 5. Goodbye, Tyler Walker, who only 2 weeks ago was discussed as a candidate to close games in the postseason. Goodbye, Clay Condrey, whose extensive use in the middle innings this season might be one reason he was left off yesterday's first-round roster.

Manuel chose instead 35-year-old Miguel Cairo, who owns a .328 postseason average in 61 at-bats, but who spent most of this season toiling as an IronPig. He chose to keep Kyle Kendrick, who also spent the summer in Allentown, but has been more effective with the Phillies lately than Condrey or Walker.

And he added Antonio Bastardo, because, well, you can never have enough lefties against Colorado.

Condrey and Walker will travel with the team. So will Bruntlett. Each spoke sullenly at their lockers yesterday, but each spoke without even the hint of bitterness toward his manager. That's a reflection of them. And of the manager.

" By and large, we try to bring people in who will adjust and fit in to what Charlie is all about." general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "The expectation for players to play and to win and to try not to be too selfish. And understand that the real goal here is to win baseball games . . . "

"I'll serve any role they need me to," Walker said.

The Rockies are back in the postseason after a 1-year hiatus and an awful start to the 2009 season that cost Clint Hurdle his manager's job. Two Octobers ago, when the Rockies churned through the Phillies in three games, Hurdle was a postseason rock star, but his act and omnipresence wore out his core group of players, or so goes this season's turnaround story.

Charlie?

"He's pretty much been the same since spring training," Raul Ibanez said. "He says the same stuff or similar stuff. I heard from the guys that he was fun to play for and how laid-back he was. Sometimes you hear that and when you come in here, things are different.

"He stayed true to what the scouting report said about him."

Manuel's no pushover, of course. He benched Rollins in that famous hustle episode last season, sat Shane Victorino and Jayson Werth this year for similar affronts. He stayed loyal to Jamie Moyer for much of this season, then finally pulled him from the rotation. He stayed loyal to Brad Lidge as long as he could, but eventually his head won over his heart there, too.

It works because, as Rollins noted, Manuel has been through everything they have been through in his four decades of baseball.

"He had to climb up the mountain," Rollins. "He never broke. He never bent. He stayed himself. That's how everyone else is able to stay themselves."

"With Charlie, it's a genuineness thing," Ibanez said. "And when it's genuine and it's who you are and it's consistent, then guys know that it's truthful. And it's respected.

"You walk in this room and you show up in front of 25 grown men, and you act as anything other than yourself, they'll know. Not just these guys. Any 25 guys. Over time, it will be exposed. So over time, Charlie is operating from a genuine mind-set. It's 'Here's who I am. I'm not going to change it for you or for anybody. This is what we expect. This is what it is.' And guys respect that. And everyone follows suit. And you know that the boss of the club is at the end of the dugout.

"The really good managers have that." *

Send e-mail to donnels@phillynews.com.

For recent columns, go to

http://go.philly.com/donnellon.

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