Let me preface this post by saying that I’m a huge Charlie Manuel fan. I’m not alone in this, as many fans have come to love his slow country drawl, and immense knowledge of the game.
Winning a World Series will do that for a manager.
Charlie finds himself in a tricky position entering the 2013 season. It’s been five years since that magical championship season, and a year removed from post-season play. But, the most important number to know about Manuel is one.
The Phillies manager has one year left on his contract, giving him the ineffectual “lame duck” status. We’ve all seen what a lame duck session of Congress can get done (mutters under breath). The corollaries aren’t perfect, but how much sway can a manager have if he’s on his way out?
It’s hard to imagine someone else at the helm for the Phillies, but that is a reality that is looking more and more likely. In addition to his contract status, Manuel will be turning 69 which is on the senior side even for baseball. He’s never been a spring chicken, but his long slow strolls to the pitcher’s mound have gotten slower over the years (if that’s even possible).
I could speculate about Manuel’s potential retirement until the cows come home, but let’s leave that for the end of the season. Right now, Charlie’s ability to continue to motivate this group of guys is at stake. They’ve been through a lot together over the course of his tenure, but if the horse starts to buck out of control can Manuel bring in the reins?
It might be a lot to do about nothing. Very few of the actual journalists who cover the team have made the manager’s contract a point of concern. CSNphilly.com’s John Gonzalez made it a footnote in his 5 things that freak him out.
“This is a veteran group, so perhaps they can handle the lame-duck manager thing with aplomb. But what happens if the Phils lurch and sputter to start the season? What happens if they aren’t playing well? Will they listen to the manager, or will they wonder about his demise and eye a future that doesn’t include him? It is a potentially unstable situation for Manuel. That’s unfortunate. He deserves better.” – John Gonzalez
Manuel’s status may be the least of the team’s worries if they struggle out of the gate. Despite missing the playoffs last year, expectations are still high, particularly with this veteran group. Jimmy Rollins has a history of going rogue with his effort, and a lame duck Manuel may not be able to real him in.
The Phillies promoted Ryan Sandberg to the big league coaching staff this year, and many have whispered (quite loudly) whether he’s in line to take the throne. Sandberg did a great job with the AAA piggies, but we’ll see how he blends in with the guys in the clubhouse and with Manuel. One thing is certain — If the Phillies have a losing April and May, fans may get their wish with Sandberg sooner than expected.
In a perfect world, Manuel will be able to ride off into the sunset, guiding the Phillies to another (highly improbably) championship season and call it a career. There are lot of obstacles the team will have to overcome for this vision to become reality, but Manuel deserves the chance to see this season through. A World Series winning manager has earned that right.