May 14, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies third base coach Ryne Sandberg (23) in the dugout during the seventh inning against the Cleveland Indians at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies defeated the Indians 6-2. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
If you think the Phils’ inability to score runs, pitch effectively, and make any kind of progress towards playing consistent, winning baseball is driving you nuts, it’s nothing compared to what it’s doing to manager Charlie Manuel.
In recent weeks, Manuel has gotten testier and testier, clearly agitated that no matter how many different ways he flips his lineup around, he cannot find a combination that will consistently score runs.
A lot of that has to do with the fact he’s been handed a poo-poo platter of players that consist of light-hitting Ben Revere, no-hitting Delmon Young, severely limited Ryan Howard, and a catcher position that has been a black hole of nothingness.
Did I mention Delmon Young?
Manuel was dealt an inferior hand by Ruben Amaro this off-season. One look at the lineup can tell you that. Losing Chase Utley and Carlos Ruiz for a month sure hasn’t help. Neither has the mysterious struggles of Cole Hamels or the injury to Roy Halladay. Starting pitching was supposed to be the strength of the Phillies, covering up offensive flaws. That hasn’t happened.
But simply put, nothing is working right now. The rotation, outside of Lee and Kyle Kendrick, is not very good. The bullpen is an unmitigated disaster. And the offense, boy, don’t get Charlie started.
In an epic rant with radio host/reporter Howard Eskin last Friday, Manuel ripped Eskin for what seemed like an innocuous question about the offense’s struggles (per CSN Philly’s Mike Wisniewski).
"“I thought Utley hit tonight with some guys on base, but at the same time, the first ball he hit to first base and the line drive he hit to center field was hit hard,” Manuel said. “He’ll be fine.”But, reporter Howard Eskin asked, is the rest of the lineup going to be fine?“Stop thinking about that — ‘Is the rest of the lineup gonna be fine?'” Manuel retorted. “Do I know if the rest of the lineup is gonna be fine? If I knew that, don’t you think I’d do something about it?“Does anybody else know that Howard? Do you know it? I don’t think so. I know you don’t as a matter of fact. Who does know it?”“But the point is,” Eskin interjected, “is there anything left to do if the rest of the lineup…”And that seemed to put Manuel over the edge.“I don’t know what I can do,” Manuel said, loudly and clearly, without a bit of hesitation. “If we don’t hit and score runs, I don’t know what we can do. I don’t know what nobody else can do about it and I know you can’t do a damn thing about it.“So what else you wanna know? Anything else?”“When you gonna score 10 runs?”“When I knock you out,” Manuel said. “That’s when.”"
Losing is tough, no doubt about it. And everyone is entitled to lose their cool once in a while. But in this case, the rant seemed uncalled for, especially the “threat” of violence (which was admittedly likely a joke). Eskin rightly noted that it seemed as if Manuel was trying to be tough and combative with a reporter rather than be tough on the guys in his own locker room (per CBSPhilly.com).
"“Charlie uses me as the whipping boy, because he’s afraid to yell at the players,” Eskin told Angelo Cataldi and the 94WIP Morning Show on Monday. “He can say he’s tough with them and all that, that’s a bunch of nonsense. Obviously they don’t pay attention to him. In the news conference I hear the media just dwells on—the reporters just dwell on Cole Hamels. Granted, Cole Hamels should have locked that down with a 3-0 lead. I get it. But when the team doesn’t score after the second inning, they scored three in the second, then they don’t score the rest of the game.”"
Now of course, we are not inside the locker room during sensitive moments when yelling or scolding might take place. And it’s fair to wonder just how much of an effect yelling at players actually has. The talent level around Manuel isn’t as good as it used to be. And really, yelling at the media isn’t a fireable offense most of the time. You pretty much have to light a sportswriter on fire in order to be reprimanded by the team or lose your job.
But, as Eskin, noted, the most troubling part of the outburst wasn’t the outburst itself. It was the admission that Charlie Manuel simply doesn’t have any answers anymore.
"“But his big mistake,” Eskin told Cataldi, “and I’m pretty sure I heard you point it out this morning, is when he says, ‘I don’t know what to do.’ Well, I do so he challenged me to say, ‘you don’t know what to do, you don’t know what to do either’. Well I do know what to do. You got to force the players to do things that they need to do, and not that they want to do, and Charlie won’t do that.”"
Neither Manuel nor his two hitting coaches have any idea how to fix an offense that remains among the worst in MLB. That admission may be reason enough to ask Charlie Manuel to leave his post as manager of the Phillies.
This has nothing to with last night’s ridiculous 4-3, 10-inning loss to the Padres in San Diego. Manuel did the right thing leaving Cliff Lee to pitch the ninth inning last night. The bullpen has been a rotting cesspool of toxic waste. Last night’s loss is not on Manuel.
June 24, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies manager Charlie Manuel (41) prior to the game against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
However, it seems obvious Ryne Sandberg is going to be the manager of the Phillies next year. And Ruben Amaro has noted he expects this team to be a contender at all times, including now. The Phillies, with all its flaws, does not seem to be responding to Manuel, and Manuel doesn’t seem to know what to do.
It’s hard to imagine keeping on a manager as the team leader when he doesn’t know what to do.
Would the promotion of Sandberg automatically make the Phillies better? Maybe for a short time it would energize the roster and the result would be a few more wins here and there. But obviously the main problem with the Phils is injuries and a lack of talent.
Still, perhaps a new set of eyes and a new sense of accountability is in order. Sandberg was not around during the glory days of 2007-2011 and has no emotional ties to any of the players left over from those glory years.
At the very least, putting Sandberg in charge now could give him a head start on 2014.
Charlie Manuel is the most successful manager in Phillies history. He helped bring a world title to Philadelphia and has had a great run.
But now he seems lost, without a map or GPS to find his way back. Perhaps it’s time to let someone else try steering the ship.
It can’t get any worse, can it?