Manuel's lame-duck status will be an issue for Phillies

Posted: March 29, 2013

When the two men sat in a cafeteria at Bright House Field two springs ago, there was no acrimony. Ruben Amaro Jr. unveiled a three-year extension for Charlie Manuel, a contract that would make him one of the highest-paid managers in baseball.

"More than likely," Manuel said then, "I'll stay around as long as they'll have me."

When a disappointing 81-81 season ended last October, the two men faced a row of cameras in the basement of Citizens Bank Park to explain what would change. Manuel's contract, now one year from expiration, was untouched.

"I'm not worried about it," Amaro said, "because I don't think Charlie is worried about it."

"No, I'm not worried about it," Manuel said.

When spring training began in February, the questions were louder, and Manuel wanted to answer them without his boss, Amaro, at his side. Win 100 or lose 100, Manuel said, he did not want his drama tied to that of his team's.

There is no escaping it.

"I shouldn't have to explain it to anybody - the team or President Obama or anybody," Manuel said Feb. 17. "Seriously. That's kind of how I look at it. I'm not worried about my contract. I've been in baseball 51 years, and right now I definitely plan on staying in baseball, and I plan on managing."

Manuel is 69 years old and without assurances beyond Sept. 29, when the 2013 regular season ends. His potential successor, Ryne Sandberg, is his third base coach. There is but one older manager in baseball, Washington's Davey Johnson, and he has already indicated this will be his final season.

Nine of baseball's 30 managers enter 2013 on one-year contracts. Among them are successful skippers such as Jim Leyland, Joe Girardi, Don Mattingly, and Ron Gardenhire.

A defiant Manuel has resisted the notion he will quietly walk away at season's end. A slow start will spawn chatter about Manuel's fate. A resolution is unlikely until autumn.

To the team's decision makers, Manuel has earned that right. He is the franchise's winningest manager with 727 victories. Manuel needs 37 games to become the longest-tenured manager in Phillies history, passing Gene Mauch's 1,332 games. Barring postponements, Manuel will achieve that feat May 10 in Arizona.

If asked about his unsettled status that day, Manuel is likely to answer with passion. It is how he has approached his nine seasons in Philadelphia, and that trait is guaranteed how he will continue to approach the job until the day his nameplate is removed from the manager's office.

Contact Matt Gelb at Follow on Twitter @magelb.

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