Well, we should all rejoice in the fact that the Phillies did not lose last night. Tonight they look to avoid their worst start since going 1-8 in 1987 as Cory Lidle takes the mound against Jorge Sosa and the Braves. In the last spring training meeting between the two clubs, the Phillies tagged the righty for 4 runs off 5 hits including a monstrous 3-run homer by Ryan Howard. But alas, this is obviously not spring training anymore, if were, the Phillies would probably be winning at a rate of more than once a week. Yes, things are looking down for the Fightins’ and statistics have been flashed everywhere explaining the poor performance – paltry average with RISP, low run production, opposing pitchers hitting the ball well, just to name a few. To add insult to underachieving, these stats all converge to give the Phillies the penultimate position in Baseball Prospectus’ first power rankings. All this bad news notwithstanding, I hope everyone retains confidence that the Phillies will turn it around, they are a much better team that what we have seen the past week.
The numbers will improve, but can the same be said for the on-field decision-making? I’m not ready to start calling for Charlie Manuel to be fired…wait…on second though, yes I am. After the litany of questionable calls on opening day, we’ve seen more of the same from the manager – the decision to sit Rowand, Burrell, and Howard during the second game of the Dodgers doubleheader, not pinch hitting Dellucci for Bell against a righty in the first game – the list continues to grow. And that’s the sad thing, Charlie entered the season with this stigma attached knowing he would be scrutinized and he’s not helping his cause.
In regards to the Bell situation mentioned above, Manuel said he thought about pinch-hitting, but decided against it because he was down to two extra players. Well not surprisingly, the beleaguered third baseman grounded into a double-play in the at bat. Everyone knows he’s awful against right-handed pitching and this was an at bat with the game on the line, that’s the only information you need to make that call, anything else is second guessing. That right there is the crux of the issue. I wholeheartedly believe when you peel back all the layers of Charlie Manuel there is a decent manager, but his major malfunction is that he constantly outthinks himself. I’m not talking the crazy Darren Daulton outthinking or the overly tactical Tony LaRussa or Terry Francona kind, it’s other factors including player loyalty and always heeding the unwritten rules of baseball. That’s why we call him "Charlie from Mayberry" and "Uncle Charlie," because he manages with his heart and not his brain. Anyone who has been as baseball as long as he has can’t help but pick up a wealth of knowledge, the problem with Charlie is just that he doesn’t know how to use it. It’s one thing for an opposing team to beat the Phils outright, on any given day one team can be physically better than another; but to lose games due to factors that can be controlled – like managerial decisions – is something I cannot tolerate. Unfortunately I have no faith that this issue will resolve itself, rather only debilitate the club as the season progresses – they’re already wasted too many games. For that reason, I feel it’s time for Manuel to go.