Manuel not worried at lack of contract extension from Phillies

Charlie Manuel has managed Phils to four straight NL East titles.
Charlie Manuel has managed Phils to four straight NL East titles.
Posted: January 12, 2011

JUST A MONTH until pitchers and catchers gather once more on the emerald fields of dreams at the Carpenter Complex. It's almost that time again, and all the items on the winter checklist have been marked off.

Well, almost all of them.

Manager Charlie Manuel is going into the final year of his contract, and that's a mild shock. Most baseball teams don't like to open a season with their skipper in a lame-duck situation. It's an article of faith that it can erode his authority in the clubhouse. Not to mention that it can become a trigger for idle speculation every time the team hits a little bump in the road.

The Phillies have won four straight division titles under Manuel, gone to the World Series twice, won it all once. Even after being upset by the Giants in the National League Championship Series last October, general manager Ruben Amaro seemed to indicate that an extension was little more than a formality.

"At some point, we'll probably address it with Charlie," he shrugged during the postseason postmortem a couple of days after the season abruptly ended.

Except that spring training is on deck and it still hasn't happened.

Now, this isn't necessarily a big deal. There's still time. The Phillies want him back. He wants to come back. It's just a little curious that the issue has been allowed to dangle this long.

"Right now, there's negotiations with [agent] Pat Rooney going on. Basically, what I can tell you is that I hope it gets done by the end of the month. Or into spring training or whatever," Manuel said yesterday, sitting in his office at Citizens Bank Park while in town to speak at the Phillies' prospect development seminar.

"That's about all I want to say. We're in the process of going through a negotiation. I think everybody would like to have a contract. That's kind of where we're at. We did some things this winter. Signing Cliff Lee. Getting our roster ready. Those were definitely the things to do, and I think this is probably the last thing on their agenda."

Understand this: Manuel is not politicking. He didn't bring the subject up, but agreed to answer a few questions about his status. In the process, he conceded that managing without a commitment beyond the current season can be difficult.

"I think any manager in baseball would like to have a contract, because that definitely gives him more of a hammer. That gives him a better position," he said. "Everything about it, the whole environment. And that goes through the organization and the team and the players and everything.

"Hopefully, we'll get it taken care of. I hope we get it done."

Amaro remains unfazed.

"I think it just becomes a distraction like everything else," he said yesterday. "The same as when Jayson Werth wasn't signed [going into last season]. It just gives people stuff to talk about. It doesn't mean we don't want him back."

Rooney did not return repeated calls, but, clearly, the sticking point is money.

It's difficult to pinpoint what top managers make these days. That's largely because those salaries aren't as public as player contracts. It's also complicated by the fact that many of the more successful - and better-compensated - managers retired at the end of last season: Joe Torre, Bobby Cox, Lou Piniella, Cito Gaston.

But a fair working number would be $4 million per year. That's what Terry Francona reportedly will make with the Red Sox this season and less than what Tony La Russa will earn in St. Louis. It's less than the average annual value of the 10-year deal Mike Scioscia got from the Angels. It's thought to be about what Joe Girardi is getting from the Yankees.

Manuel did not discuss his salary, but, according to Cot's Baseball Contracts, he made $1.5 million in 2008 and '09 and $1.7 million last year. There are accounts that suggest he'll make around $3 million this year.

Which isn't bad, if accurate. Then again, Manuel's record since taking over the Phillies (544-428) is the best in the National League. His winning percentage (.560) is third-best in franchise history. He's only 103 wins - less than a season-and-a-half at his current pace - from surpassing Gene Mauch as the winningest manager in Phillies history.

Again: What's a manager worth?

Yes, he's had talent. But it takes a certain skill to keep the egos of a clubhouse full of millionaires all pulling in the same direction, too. The Yankees had great players while winning four world championships under Torre, but nobody seems to hold that against him.

Manuel isn't a greedy person and doesn't live an extravagant lifestyle. By the same token, everybody would like to be paid what they believe they're worth.

He went through the entire 2006 season without knowing whether he'd be back in 2007. Even on the last day of the season, in the dugout at what was then known as Dolphin Stadium in Florida, he was left in limbo.

"The year when I went through the fact that my contract was up, I felt like I stayed pretty focused on what was going on on the field," Manuel said. "At the same time, it's always great to have a contract."

After the Phillies won the world championship in 2008, he got an extension, even though his deal still had a year to run. And that's what will almost certainly end up happening this time around.

It's just a little surprising that it hasn't happened yet.

Send email to hagenp@phillynews.com.

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