Inside the Phillies: Phillies owe Manuel an answer now on his future

Charlie Manuel , who likely won't be back next season, is the winningest manager in Phillies history. YONG KIM /Staff Photographer
Charlie Manuel , who likely won't be back next season, is the winningest manager in Phillies history. YONG KIM /Staff Photographer
Posted: August 12, 2013

Plenty of business needs to be resolved in these final seven weeks of the Phillies' season.

Some of it is being conducted right now down in Clearwater, Fla., a fitting location, considering the 2013 season has been relegated to a second spring training of sorts.

Two players - Ryan Howard and Roy Halladay - making more money than two entire teams - Miami and Houston - are trying to get healthy.

The recovery of Howard's surgically repaired left knee is considered as important as any plate appearance the Phillies will have in the big leagues between now and the Sept. 29 regular-season finale in Atlanta.

"I fully expect Ryan to come back and be much closer to what he was in 2010 than what he was in 2012 and the end of '11," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "I told him point-blank: 'Ryan, you're one of the best run producers in baseball and there is no reason you can't get back there if you get healthy.' "

The other "get-healthy" project is Halladay, although there's no guarantee he'll be on the Phillies' payroll beyond this season, because he can be a free agent. Halladay, on a rehab program from mid-May shoulder surgery, said he sees a lot of good things about this team that could lead to the Phillies being better next season. He also said Philadelphia was his No. 1 choice of places to play.

What somebody says in August does not always match what he does in November or December, which brings us to another order of business that the Phillies would rather not talk about right now.

The biggest elephant in the room is manager Charlie Manuel's future, and it's only going to grow larger as we approach the finish line.

"It's not something we're going to deal with until after the season," Amaro said after second baseman Chase Utley received a two-year extension the other day. "Nothing has changed in that sense since the beginning of the year."

Well, that's not entirely true. The Phillies can make believe that they are still in contention for the second wild card if they'd like, but they went into the weekend 11 games out of that position, with four teams in front of them.

At some point, even Amaro is going to have to publicly wave the white flag, and when that day comes the Phillies should be clear about their manager's future. At that point, there's no reason to pretend the focus has to be entirely on the field.

Manuel, 69 and the winningest manager in franchise history, deserves that kind of respect.

The assumption is that Manuel is going to step aside, take an advisory position with the club, and let third-base coach Ryne Sandberg become the 52d manager in Phillies history.

If that's the case, Manuel has maintained an exceptional poker face all season when confronted by questions about his future. He is in the awkward position right now of answering questions about next year's team when it's entirely possible he won't be in charge of that team.

"I don't even want to talk about that," Manuel said the other day when asked about his own situation. "I think somewhere down the line the Phillies will talk to me. I'll do my work until somebody says it's time to talk. More than likely we'll work something out."

Anything other than a harmonious conclusion would be sad and shameful, because the Phillies have meant so much to Manuel and vice-versa.

If the Phillies plan on keeping Manuel around for another year, which I do not think is the case, then they should get it done.

If they're hoping for a smooth transition from Manuel to Sandberg and the current manager knows it, then why not get that message out to the public as soon as possible?

It would accomplish several things.

Manuel could spend the remainder of this season taking a bow for all he's done. It doesn't matter if you have not agreed with his managerial moves because his bottom line is this: more wins than any Phillies manager in history and soon to be one of 59 managers to win 1,000 games.

That's 59 out of 679, which comes to 8.7 percent.

Manuel doesn't deserve to twist in the wind. If he already knows his fate, he should happily accept the applause and appreciation he is due. It would also allow him to stop answering questions that he should not have to answer after nine years on the job.

If Sandberg is indeed going to be the next manager, then it would also be wise to make that clear before the end of the season. That move would give the players who will be around when the real spring training opens in February an idea of what they can expect from their next manager.

The Phillies love to keep secrets, and some things are worth concealing.

This isn't one of them.


Contact Bob Brookover at bbrookover@phillynews.com. Follow @brookob on Twitter.

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