Charlie hits the wall

YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Charlie Manuel managed the Phillies to a World Series championship in 2008.
YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Charlie Manuel managed the Phillies to a World Series championship in 2008.
Posted: August 08, 2014

CONSIDERING the current state of the Phillies, it might be tempting to conclude that the team would be better off had it not fired Charlie Manuel as manager last August.

That would be simplistic and probably not accurate.

While it is likely the Phillies could not possibly be any worse, it is hard to imagine how Manuel's presence would have made them appreciably better.

The franchise was well into its free fall when Manuel was dismissed on Aug. 16, 2013 and replaced by Ryne Sandberg.

Not that Sandberg has done much yet to show that he is the right manager for the downtrodden Phils, but Manuel's time had run its course.

Still, because of how poorly the Phillies are currently playing and how bleak the near-future looks for a dramatic turnaround, tomorrow's ceremony inducting Manuel into the Phillies Wall of Fame is sure to stir memories of what has been lost seemingly so quickly.

It's hard to digest that in 2011, Manuel managed the Phillies to a franchise-best 102 victories and now it is not unreasonable to think they could lose almost as many games.

It makes you appreciate how much Manuel accomplished in his 8 1/2 seasons in charge of the Phillies.

It makes you chuckle a bit when you think back at how little a great number of Phillies fans thought of Manuel when he was named manager in 2005.

It wasn't just that an unpopular general manager, Ed Wade, was replacing a Phillies legend, Larry Bowa, with Manuel. Phillies fans had been enticed by the idea that Jim Leyland, who managed the Florida Marlins to the 1997 World Series, was interested in coming to Philadelphia.

Maybe it was because his heavy southern accent and rural Virginia roots made him stand out in an urban Northeast city like Philadelphia, but Manuel never seemed to receive the full respect that the winningest manager in Phillies history deserved.

All I know is that through all of the second-guessing, Manuel resided over the most successful era of Phillies baseball.

"All-time winningest manager in franchise history; brought a championship here, which hadn't happened since 1980, it's a well-deserved honor," Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins said of his longtime manager. "He had some great players, and he did a great job of managing personalities and getting the best out of his players.

"As I say, it wasn't Charlie Manuel. It became 'Charlie's manual.' He had something. I don't know what it was. He would tell you it was his gut feeling. People bought into it and he had success."

When you consider the history of a franchise that started in 1883, Manuel's success in his eight full seasons is staggering.

The Phillies have had 52 winning seasons in 132 years of baseball. Manuel registered 13 percent of those.

The Phillies have 14 playoff appearances with Manuel accounting for 36 percent of them.

Obviously, he's won one of the franchise's two World Series championships and made two of its seven World Series appearances.

"Charlie has done a lot for this organization," said first baseman Ryan Howard, who won National League Rookie of the Year (2005) and Most Valuable Player (2006) while playing for Manuel. "That run bringing in five division titles, two pennants and a World Series championship I think was great."

When we categorize managerial styles, one of the terms always used is "players' manager." Some take that to mean a manager is soft on players.

Manuel was definitely a players' manager but it is a complete fallacy that he was soft.

Yes, Manuel gave his players respect, but he also demanded they give it to him in return.

That made for healthy manager/player relationships and when you consider how much time baseball players and managers spend together, a healthy relationship is vital over a stretch that begins in spring training and runs into September and October.

"Charlie kept us loose," Howard said. "Sometimes he would talk seriously to guys, but sometimes he would just talk trash.

"He always stayed positive and always tried to keep us upbeat and positive. A players' manager is one who is going to go out there and have his guys' backs, no matter what. He wanted guys to play hard and play the right way. His door was always open. He tried to make us feel as good and as confident as he possibly could."

But as Rollins - who probably had as many clashes with Manuel as any player - said, the skipper demanded you reciprocate the respect he gave you.

"I'm not sure if people on the outside fully understand the type of impact a manager can have on a team, good or bad," Rollins said. "It starts at the top and, as far as the players are concerned, that's the manager.

"Obviously he had his bosses and they would tell him things, but Charlie spread the message to his players the way he saw fit. He wasn't afraid to tell [the bosses], 'I'm not saying that. This is my team. I'm going to make my decisions.'

"Charlie knew what he did want and what he didn't want. As a player you trust a guy like that. There was no agenda. You didn't question him.

"If you weren't playing good, he'd straight up tell you. He would say, 'Well, you suck, that's why you're not playing right now.' Then you would say, 'OK, he's right.' You respected that because you knew who he was and what he was about. Whether you were a starter or a role player, you knew exactly what was expected of you."


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