Manuel still talking baseball

Posted: November 05, 2013

The Phillies held their organizational meetings in Clearwater, Fla. last week and for the first time in more than a decade Charlie Manuel was not present to offer his opinions. The former manager is an outsider now, albeit one with an open invitation to rejoin the organization in a different role.

Reached by phone Thursday, Manuel said he was too busy to think about what he might be missing in the conference rooms at Bright House Field and the Carpenter Complex.

"I was back in Virginia for a charity event at my high school," Manuel said. "I got to spend some time with my brother, too. It wasn't really strange not to be there. I haven't given it much thought. I go to Gold's Gym in the morning, then I've been doing things around the house when I come home [to Winter Haven, Fla.]. We have a lake house we're about to rent, so I've been cleaning the gutters and pressure washing, getting it ready."

Even with those distractions to keep him busy, the baseball lifer couldn't get the game entirely out of his system. He said he watched the postseason from beginning to end, just as he watched every Phillies game after being fired in mid-August. He was elated for his former centerfielder, Shane Victorino, the hitting star of Boston's World Series-clinching victory Wednesday night, and for Red Sox manager John Farrell.

"Know [Farrell] real well," Manuel said. "He pitched in Cleveland when I was there. He did a great job of finding the right combination of pitchers for that team. I was real happy for Shane. He got some big hits for them."

Manuel, of course, would love one more opportunity to take a team to the World Series as a manager, but he knows that's not going to happen.

"I think my agent [Pat Rooney] had some discussions with a couple clubs, but they never got anywhere," Manuel said.

It would have been different if Manuel was going to turn 60 years old in January instead of 70. His resume - 1,000 wins, six postseason appearances, two National League pennants and a World Series title in 12 seasons - would have been too tempting for another team not to take a shot.

Now, Manuel must contemplate the offer the Phillies have on the table.

"I haven't talked to any other teams," Manuel said. "I think the job the Phillies offered me, it's a good job if I want to work and want to have some input and do some things. I definitely think about it and I will consider it until I have to make a decision.

"I think who I work with and the circumstances surrounding the job have something to do with it. I still want to be a help and be part of the solution. I want to enjoy baseball. I still want to teach. Those are the things I have to make my mind up on.

"I don't have any animosity toward anybody," he continued. "I love our fans. The last two years were kind of rough going, but I'm sure they're trying to get to where they were before."

It is interesting how Manuel goes back and forth between calling the Phillies us and them. He's in the middle of that world right now, but he is not shy about offering opinions that were not heard this week in Clearwater.

"For them to do what the Red Sox did - worst to first - they know what they have to do," Manuel said. "They have to retool their team. Everybody in baseball knows the Phillies have good pieces. [Cole] Hamels and [Cliff] Lee in the rotation, [Jonathan] Papelbon as the closer. They need [Ryan] Howard to come back and hit for them. Chase [Utley] played 130 games, so I like that. They have to make up their mind about [Carlos] Ruiz."

What would Manuel do?

"Catching is hard to find," he said. "I think they view that the same way and if they think he can catch more than 120 games they'll likely try to sign him. Of course, they need to beef up their pitching - starting and bullpen. I hear Ruben [Amaro] and Ryne [Sandberg] talk. They know what they need."

It has been suggested that a change in chemistry would also help the Phillies, but Manuel disagrees. He believes the bad chickens in the clubhouse only hatched after it became apparent that the team did not have enough talent to win in 2013.

"I don't think we had a chemistry problem," Manuel said. "I've heard people say that. I think on every team some things happen, especially when you're losing. That's when people start to look for all those reasons. I wouldn't call our chemistry bad.

"We started losing games and we had a lot of inexperienced players. The established players - the core of our team - looked around and saw how hard it was going to be to win. That creates a bad atmosphere. You're not up. You don't have that energy."

Manuel, two months shy of his 70th birthday, still has enough energy to clean gutters and pressure-wash homes. He still has a passion for the game he has loved for so long, too. It would be too bad if that energy and passion ended up with any other team except the Phillies.

bbrookover@phillynews.com

@brookob

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