”We just talked about the team and things,” Manuel explained to the Daily News. He spoke pretty quietly.
And … things?
Things like, say, Manuel's job security?
After the game, Manuel indicated he is not fretting: "I have a lot of confidence in myself."
Before the game, his boss gave no reason for immediate alarm.
”That's certainly not anything we're focusing on,” Montgomery told the Daily News. "Our focus is of much more immediate concerns as to as how do we play better baseball, and who are the best components to have on the field."
Remarkable concerns, as voiced by an owner, to his manager, before a game. Apparently, Montgomery addressed Manuel with the weight of general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. behind him, as well as assistant GM Scott Proefrock.
The Phillies have several regulars playing below expectations, such as centerfielder Shane Victorino and third baseman Placido Polanco, both healthy scratches Sunday.
Certainly, the president/CEO bending (or burning) the ears of the manager and telling him he wants to see a higher quality of baseball is a seismic moment.
"He's entering into more direct communication with players than he has because, look, we're not playing clean games right now," Montgomery said. "When you're not playing clean games, there is plenty to talk about. You're watching it."
So … clean it up, and let's use the younger players … or else?
”Right now it is not about Charlie, Ruben, Scott Proefrock. It's about how can we take yesterday's disappointment and turn it into tomorrow's success and do it in a way that we are moving forward for both this year and next,” Montgomery said.
Manuel shares Montgomery's distaste for shoddy baseball.
When the pair met, the Phillies' fielding percentage stood at .984. The last time they finished below .985 was 2006 — which also was the last time they failed to make the playoffs.
As disconcerting: The Phillies' continual baserunning mistakes,
Both types of errors become magnified when the team is 13 games below .500 and 14 games out of first place.
Asked what was the worst part of being in last place, Manuel didn't hesitate:
"It gets down to how we play the game, from a defensive standpoint. Playing baseball the right way. Reading balls off the bat as baserunners. The fundamentals. Instincts. We've always caught the ball. Even if someone was having trouble, we corrected it. Playing the game the right way — that's what's hurt us. You've got to come to the ballpark thinking you're totally focused on winning the game that day.
“That's what I'm going to do right now," Manuel said, standing up.
He looked big again.
Just not quite so big.