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Manuel is Our Man

Last night, the Phillies and Charlie Manuel agreed to a new contract that will keep the manager behind the helm in Philadelphia for at least two more years.  The club will have an option to extend the contract to 2010 however financial details were not disclosed.  This past season he earned $800,000 for his services excluding bonuses.  Since taking the job through a contrived interview process before the 2005 season, Uncle Charlie has amassed a record of 262 wins and 224 losses (0-3 in the postseason).

I doubt anyone is surprised by the move, as many have hailed Manuel as the underlying reason for the Phillies success this season. The common argument is that he held the team together throughout a season plagued by injuries.  Pat Gillick noted, “He helped lead our club back to the playoffs, and he and his coaching staff did a great job, especially with the injury issues they faced throughout the season with a number of key players.”  Although I agree with the move to bring back Charlie, I find this line of reasoning a bit hard to swallow. Injuries are a part of the game, and more so than the manager, the replacement players bear the responsibility of keeping the team on pace.  Kyle Kendrick, Tad Iguchi, Brett Myers – those are the guys who should be getting the credit in this case.  Furthermore, I am hesitant to say Charlie actually lead this team to the playoffs.  How does this guy lead?  Looking at his statistics from the Japanese league, he surely doesn’t lead by example, as say Mike Scioscia or Larry Bowa.  He’s not a brilliant tactician like Tony LaRussa or Joe Torre, and can barely manage his way through a double switch.  Plus throughout Ryan Howard’s seven month struggle with his swing, Manuel has done not nothing to help remedy the situation. He’s definitely not a vocal guy either, rallying the troops in the face of adversary does not suit his persona.

Thus I would be careful of all the different streams of praise we shower down upon Manuel. Nonetheless he is deserving of the job for one reason: players play for him.  His hands off approach suits this ballclub which is filled with a range of talented young leaders.  This may just be a matter of him being in the right place at the right time because if he were managing the Royals, and they played their hearts out for him, I still don’t think they would be in the playoffs.  The Phillies core roster is young but not immature, they need a wise old manager to nudge them along but for the most part allow them to play their game.  That is where the foundation of the Phillies success lies.

Between the Uncle Charlie we’ve come to respect and ridicule, and the Phillies confident two-year commitment, there is the prospect of a Manager of the Year award for the 2007 season.  There is no denying that as a playoff team, the Phillies’ manager should receive automatic consideration for the honor and deservedly so.  However, is he more deserving than Ned Yost of the Brewers or Bob Melvin of the DBacks?  Melvin did more with less experience and talent, and Yost took a team that was six games under .500 in 2006 to the brink of the playoffs.  Yet, although I think one of these guys will take the manager of the year, I am optimistic on the prospect of having Charlie Manuel back next season.

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