Tuesday, October 09, 2007
Oh, what a difference a month makes. The 2007 Phillies pulled off the impossible upset and secured the first playoff berth and division title for the team since 1993. Despite the Phillies playoff flame-out, Charlie does deserve, and hopefully will get, an extension to coach the Phillies again in 2008.
It is hard not to like Charlie Manuel. The Norfolk, West Virginia native played briefly in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s for the Twins and Dodgers before moving into Japanese league baseball, then on to the realm of managing. At age 56 he got his first chance, managing the 2000 Cleveland Indians to a 90-72 record, while narrowly missing the playoffs. The next season Manuel led the Indians to a 91-71 record and an A.L. Central division title. In the post-season his Indians lost to the 116-win Seattle Mariners three games to two. Ironically, Jamie Moyer helped pitch the Mariners to victories in game two and five of that series.
The next season Manuel was fired on July 11th, after the Indians got off to a 39-48 start and were hopelessly out of the playoff race. Manuel found his way to Philadelphia to help advise General Manager Ed Wade as an assistant. When Wade and the Phillies fired Larry Bowa in 2004, Manuel was given the reins.
While Manuel wasn’t won 90 games like he did with the Indians, his record does speak for itself:
2005: 88-74 2nd place
2006: 85-77 2nd place
2007: 89-73 1st place
Total: 262-224 (.539)
I’ve always been a big fan of Manuel’s because the experience of managing in the American League has shaped a lot of Manuel’s thinking. In contrast to the fiery, small-ball oriented Larry Bowa, Manuel was been a calm, stabilizing influence on the team and has really tailored the Phillies strategy on the field to their strengths: the power offense. The 2005-2007 Phillies ran modestly, bunted rarely and relied on power in their cozy ballpark to make the difference.
But Manuels’ finest performance has been this season. How chaotic has it been? Well, the Phillies began the season with six starting pitchers: Jon Lieber, Cole Hamels, Jamie Moyer, Freddy Garcia, Adam Eaton and Brett Myers. The Phillies were expected to deal Lieber for help in the bullpen and rely on new acquisitions Eaton and Garcia to give the Phillies the edge over the Mets and Braves for the division. Instead, Freddy Garcia injured his arm on his way to throwing just 58 innings and posting a 1-5 record with a 5.90 ERA. Eaton was a major bust, going 10-10 with 6.29 ERA. Lieber ended up pitching well, but injured his foot and was lost for the season after getting off to a very, very impressive start. Sure, his 3-6 record with a 4.73 doesn’t seem impressive, but you have to see that Lieber allowed few walks and home runs and was generally done in by shoddy defense. Myers got shelled and was moved to the bullpen, which was shattered after Tom Gordon got injured.
Suddenly the Phillies deep pitching staff was thin and the team stumbled to a 4-11 start that saw the phillies with the worst record in the majors and left them six and a half games out of first place, just fifteen games in. The Phillies rallied, and since that point posted the best record in the National League. Along the way they started rookie pitchers Kyle Kendrick and J.D. Durbin thirty times, saw second baseman and MVP candidate Chase Utley miss a month with a broken hand, saw former MVP Ryan Howard struggle and dealt with numerous other bad breaks. Overall, the Phillies 89 wins were second to just the Arizona Diamondbacks 90.
Any man who could pull off the job of keeping the Phillies stable with all of their injuries and get them to the playoffs deserves another year as Manager.
Tomorrow, I'll review both LCS series, as promised.
We want a World Championship. We want it next year. We wanted it this year.
Charlie Manuel may be a likable character but his management skills especially with pitchers leaves much to be desired. Essentally, he is no different from previous managers since 1980 in that they all ended up losing before the goal was reached. In Charlies' case,it just took him a little longer this year.
The Phillies are going to do what they want about his contract regardless of whether we think he should get one or not.
I subscribe to the axiom applicable to all sports in this case. That axiom states that there is no excuse for losing and no reward.
To win in 5 and 7 game series you need to be able to have good pitching when your hitting fails and vice versa. Unfortunately, Pat Gillick put together a team that was fatally flawed, and it should really be no surprise that the Phillies are out so quickly. And it certainly has nothing to do with Manuel, who seems to have a hand in the careers of some of the greatest hitters of our generation like Manny and now possibly Utley and Howard.