Aug 16, 2013, 5:23 PM EDT
I don’t know if Charlie Manuel should have remained the coach of the Philadelphia Phillies for next year and beyond. Chase Utley says he wanted to play his entire career for Uncle Cholly, and if he’s good enough for Chase, then that’s basically good enough for me. But obviously this Phillies team isn’t the one that Charlie won one World Series championship, two pennants, five division titles and most of his 1000 career wins with–it’s a team in at least a partial rebuild, one that’s ending the season even weaker than it began, and one that might need a different guiding hand and voice to lead into its next period of success, whenever that might be.
I get why the Phillies decided to let Charlie Manuel go. But I don’t get why they decided to do it now.
There are 42 games left in the 2013 Phillies season. The team is 53-67, 14 games under .500, 15.5 games out of the Wild Card, and 20.5 games out of the NL East lead. Injuries, underperformance and even a couple of weirdly unexpected suspensions have nullified this team’s already flimsy chances at playoff contention. Nothing about this season is salvageable, and nothing about that fact is going to change.
The next 42 games are going to mean virtually nothing to the Phillies. They could play spoiler and mess things up for some other team in Wild Card contention and maybe inch their record closer to even in the process, but it’s probably too late for this season to end in any kind of moral victory. They could just play the young guys and see who’s worth sticking with next year, but the keepers among the next generation (Dom, Darin) are generally guys we already know about, and those on the borderline (Asche, Martin) are pretty unlikely to turn into the next Utley, Rollins or Hamels for this club. Basically, this season can’t end fast enough for the Fightins.
Will it make any difference to the club to have Ryne Sandberg managing those final 42 games rather than Charlie Manuel? Maybe, maybe not, but it’s impossible to see it making enough of a difference to have any kind of material effect on the team’s future. The young players might appreciate hearing a fresher voice, but that could easily be offset by the alienation the veterans feel from Charlie’s dismissal. Perhaps the biggest impact of the coaching change was the one pointed out on Twitter by WIP’s Spike Eskin–that at least Sandberg won’t be coaching third base anymore, which might win us a game on its own.
Charlie might have reached the end of his effectiveness as the Phillies’ manager–though I think most Phils fans would concur that the blame for the Phillies’ recent fall should be first laid at the feet of GM Ruben Amaro Jr.–but he still oversaw what was by far the greatest elongated run in the franchise’s 130-year history, one which included their all-time winningest regular season, their longest streak of consecutive division titles, and of course, one of only two World Series championships the team has ever won. That would entitle him, I’d think, to at least finish out the season, be offered a chance to leave on his own terms in the winter, and end his Phillies tenure with the kind of dignity that should be reserved for such a beloved member of the Fightins family.
Instead, he was unexpectedly axed earlier today, a move that implies such an urgent nature to his removal that the team couldn’t even stand to play out the 42 remaining games of this crappy season with him at the helm. If Cholly had asked out, that’d be one thing, but according to him, he never wanted to quit on the franchise–and as many things as you could accuse Charlie Manuel of over his time with the Phillies, insincerity was never one of them. To boot him like this just makes it far more painful than necessary, for everyone involved.
Personally, I wouldn’t have minded Charlie on the bench for at least a couple more years to come. But if word of his dismissal came down in November, it wouldn’t have been surprising, and it wouldn’t have been that upsetting–no manager lasts forever in professional sports, and if Terry Francona can be shown the door in Boston after delivering two World Series titles to the most famously championship-deprived team in MLB history, clearly anyone can get fired. But it didn’t have to happen like this–there’s just no reason. It’s just another sad, disappointing story to add to season that was already bursting at the seams with them.
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