By WEEU Sports Director Mitch Gerhart
So the Phillies have finally put Charlie Manuel out of his misery. The most successful manager in Phillies history; the man who oversaw what was certainly the most successful period of Phillies history since 1976-80, perhaps ever, was “relieved of his duties” last Friday, just as his frustration appeared to be approaching nuclear levels. A lot of folks appear to agree with me – the move either came 6 weeks to early, or at least 8 weeks too late (I think you could argue the move should’ve been made in May or June, before those slim playoff hopes disappeared completely). Certainly, you can’t blame Phillies fans for being upset – for fans under the age of 33, “Uncle Charlie” delivered their only Phillies World Series Championship. But watching this team play for much of this season, it certainly appeared that the veteran core had stopped paying attention; Charlie Manuel always had two rules – be on time, and hustle. Certainly, hustle & enthusiasm were missing in action for this team more often than not. And yes, in Major League Baseball, that is considered the manager’s responsibility, fair or not. Let’s be honest here – as a baseball manager, Charlie Manuel was a terrible tactician; Charlie dug the long ball, which was fine for the sluggers of 2007-2010. But as the aging core broke down and the homers began to disappear, Charlie was ill-prepared to do what was necessary – bunting for a run in the first inning when you’re team only scores 3 a game seems to make sense, but you never saw it. Charlie was famously instinctive as a manager (managing “with his gut”), which explains why some elements always seemed to sneak up on him, like getting a pitcher up in the bullpen at the start of an inning, having a pinch-hitter ready in advance, or anticipating what the guy in the other dugout might do. And for five years, managing with his gut worked, because the Phillies outscored people. But that team doesn’t exist anymore, and Charlie Manuel paid for that last Friday.
From all accounts, Ryne Sandberg is a much more intuitive manager – he’s baseball smart, so the things Charlie sometimes missed in the course of a game shouldn’t get missed anymore. But Sandberg still has to rely on an aging, physically-faltering core of players with few younger options waiting in the wings, so don’t look for a dramatic turnaround anytime soon. Just seeing John Mayberry not get picked off at second in a close game would be a step in the right direction. Good luck, Ryno. Maybe you should start penciling the coaching staff into the starting lineup – Sandberg, Wally Joyner, Steve Henderson and Juan Samuel would make for a pretty formidable lineup!