During the postseason, I remarked that Charlie Manuel might be the Phillies greatest manager ever. Haste aside, we can all agree that Manuel is one of the franchise’s best skippers. The track record solidifies that. But let’s dig deeper:
All-time managerial records (percentages above .525, minimum 100 games):
Arthur Irwin – 149-110 – .575
Dallas Green – 169-130 – .565 (1 World Series)
Pat Moran – 323-257 – .557 (1 NL pennant)
Bill Shettsline – 367-303 – .548
Charlie Manuel – 354-294 – .546 (1 World Series)
Danny Ozark – 594-510 – .538
Pat Corrales – 132-115 – .534
Harry Wright – 636-566 – .529
Billy Murray – 240-214 – .529
Irwin managed between 1894 and 1895, and the Phils lost out on the National League title both years. … Green managed the 1980 champions and the 1981 team, which coasted out to a first-half division crown. His core included Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton and Greg Luzinski in their primes. … Moran managed the 1915 NL champs, and had a nice run with Gavvy Cravath and the ridiculously successful Grover Cleveland Alexander. … Shettsline had two great years and two horrible years in the 1800s. … Ozark guided the young Phils through the dynasty days of the 1970s. … Corrales had the dynasty at the end, but Paul Owens took them over to win the NL in 1983. … Wright had a bunch of pretty good seasons early in franchise history, but never took first place. … Murray had two good seasons, but nothing great.
Then there’s Manuel. All four seasons have been winning seasons, doing it sometimes with pretty bad pitching, sometimes with spotty hitting. Still, he has the core of Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Pat Burrell, Cole Hamels and Brett Myers, a core that arguably trumps the late-70s core of Schmidt, Luzinski, Garry Maddox, Larry Bowa, Carlton and Larry Christenson. So while Manuel has had to manage through troubles, he’s had the benefit of maybe the best pure team in franchise history.
I can’t break down each manager’s style, because I just don’t know. We do know Green was a bit of a rough one, especially as some members of the 1980 Phils said they won in spite of him. Conversely, the 2008 Phils in no way won in spite of Manuel — from what we saw, Manuel was like a father to the team.
As a team leader, role model and captain, Manuel might fit the bill better than any skipper in team history. As a tactician, he made more correct decisions in 2008, though he has a history of sticking a little too much to conviction. Still, the right moves he made in the postseason (completely outweighing the wrong moves) turn the case back in his favor.
Most older fans like to throw Green at the top of the heap, but I once wrote — and I’ll stand by it again — that Green is overrated. Especially if the spite admissions are true. He inherited a three-time division champ and left with a third place team. To me, Ozark was a much better manager — someone who molded the young Phils into a winner. Green just got them over the hump.
Manuel did both. He molded a young team (only Burrell, Rollins, Myers and Ryan Madson were regulars on the 2004 Phils), and got them over the hump after a few optimistic seasons. Moran — maybe the best case against Manuel — took a young team to the World Series, but couldn’t finish the job. After two more seasons of missed opportunities, his 1918 Phils couldn’t break .500. Mainly, that was because Alexander had left for Chicago.
So I’d say right now that yes, Manuel is the greatest manager in franchise history. But the next year or two will truly decide his fate. If he can guide this team — with younger players Lou Marson, Carlos Carrasco and Jason Donald possibly — to the postseason or better again, he gets my unquestioned vote. If he stumbles, I’d put Ozark at the top.