Friday, August 19, 2005

Not enough on Manuel

On a day when Inquirer columnist Phil Sheridan wrote that it might be time to give Charlie Manuel some respect for the job he is doing as Phillies manager, I found this post on Phillies fan blog Beer Leaguer. It is very well done and worth the read:

Phillies' playoff push a credit to Manuel's plan
With Wednesday night's win, the Phillies are tied with Houston in the NL Wild Card race. It's time to give Charlie Manuel the credit he deserves.

Three-quarters through the season and I still haven’t read a profile on manager Charlie Manuel written by a member of the Philadelphia media, aside from a piece or two when he first got the job.

Besides the rah-rah pad quotes woven into game coverage, has anyone bothered to sit down with the first-year boss to really pick his brain on strategy, personnel, the decisions that worked and those that didn’t?

Has anyone really talked to this man, you know, the one whose team has the third-best record in the National League? It would make a good story, I bet.

The media’s small-town bias of Manuel is a total joke for a city that prides itself on progressive thinking. Isn't it about time to finally realize the guy’s not the disgraceful goon everyone thinks he is?

No. He wasn't part of the 1980 championship team. Yes. He's from North Fork, W.Va. Yes. He listens to George Thorogood and the Destroyers. Yes. It's time to get over it.

I’m not sure what others look at, but the overriding factor should be results, and the Phils have now clawed into a tie with Houston for the NL wild card. They weren't supposed to do that.

In doing so, the team has overcome injuries to their highest-paid starter, Randy Wolf, and highest-paid player, Jim Thome, leaning on a supporting cast few people picked to go anywhere.

Think back for a minute the last time you truly believed Manuel cost them a game. It’s been a while, hasn’t it? If you can, I’ll top it with a number of occasions his decisions have led to a win – small but substantial moves like using Todd Pratt to catch Jon Lieber, sticking with Vicente Padilla instead of using Ryan Madson in the rotation, and having enough faith to hand the ball to a rookie, Robinson Tejeda, to replace Randy Wolf.

Those decisions count, too.

Most of the fuss early this season centered on the platoon, and that was resolved in just over two months. It also netted a top-flight setup man, and as fans realized tonight, having a rock-solid bullpen is crucial during the stretch.

There were also early struggles in the bullpen, but that was true for almost every team in baseball. Once Tim Worrell and Terry Adams were put out to pasture, the Phils' pen became downright scary. There are plenty of teams still experimenting with their bullpens, and Manuel deserves credit for stabilizing his so soon.

All over ESPN.com, analysts are respecting the Phils’ chances. From Jerry Crasnick's piece this afternoon on ESPN Insider:

Two scouts told Insider that they think the Phillies have the goods to make a run at the wild card, in part because of a bullpen that's close to airtight with Wagner, Urbina and Madson. In the last 35 games, the Phils' pen is 9-2 with a 2.45 ERA. "I'm sure Charlie goes into every game just thinking, 'Let me get to the seventh with my starter,'" one scout said.

Before the season, there was a sickening amount of talk about the new, relaxed atmosphere, but has it worked?

Predictably, Manuel has been an easy target for ridicule in Philly, with his "Charlie from Mayberry" demeanor and occasional head-scratching dugout strategy. It's hard not to chuckle when he makes a reference to Ugueth "Oo-bina" or "Don-telle" Willis.

But ol' Charlie sure is sharp when it comes to human relations. He's coaxed a productive season (.307 with a .365 OBP) out of 38-year-old Kenny Lofton and managed to make things work when Placido Polanco was complaining incessantly about a lack of playing time in April and May. General manager Ed Wade spun Polanco to the Tigers for Urbina in June, and Chase Utley has blossomed as the Phillies' regular second baseman and No. 3 hitter.

When rookie starter Robinson Tejeda was miffed after being pulled in the sixth inning of an 8-5 win in Colorado on July 28, Manuel refused to let the problem fester. He spent the better part of an hour sharing a postgame meal with Tejeda, explaining his decision and emphasizing the value of team goals over individual performances.


I made a deliberate decision to use the word “plan” in my headline. Contrary to popular belief, he has one. I seem to recall the previous skipper fiddling with the lineup at this late stage of the season. Not Manuel. His current lineup, featuring Utley in the elevated three-spot, has been a fixture since the all-star break. What manager doesn’t need room to experiment early in the season?

I was recently interviewed for a piece on Manuel currently in the works over at "Philadelphia Weekly." I’m not sure whether writer Dan McQuade is talking to the man himself, but he talked to me, and I was very conscious about giving the Phils’ skipper the benefit of the doubt.

At the end of the interview, I gave Manuel a grade, and I believe it was a C- or a D. If I was asked again today, I'd be fair. He deserves no lower than a B- for what he's done to get them to this point.

A manager should be measured by results, not press conference eloquence. It’s funny because his harshest critics are the ones that gave the team “no shot” at a playoff birth.

And here we are.


But like any good fan, Jason Weitzel, the author of the blog, followed this by ripping Manuel for his pitching decisions in the second game of the doubleheader, a 5-4 loss to the Nationals. Entertaining stuff.

7 Comments:

At 11:41 AM, Blogger Jason Weitzel said...

Thanks for the link and the nice words, Jim!

J. Weitzel
www.beerleaguer.com

 
At 1:32 PM, Anonymous AndyW said...

The reason Manuel is not getting much attention is that he has really done nothing to deserve it. Looking at the Phillies lineup, they have the most talent in the division (at least offensively). They SHOULD be fighting for a playoff spot with the roster that they have. If Bobby Cox or Tony LaRussa managed this team where would they be? I'm guessing at least 5 or 6 up on the Braves. Manuel is a liability, plain & simple.

 
At 7:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

and even a country hick like Manuel should see that J Ro and his lousy OBP should not be leading off

 
At 8:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amid all your praise of Manuel, you failed to point out their winning percentage is exactly where it was when they finished last year, a year so bad that they fired their manager, mostly because the media called for his firing,including one brilliant scribe who called for his head while the Phillies were in first place. The fans sure didn't want him fired. And Bowa did it without Thome hitting for half a year and 40% of the rotation out for the year and their closer out for 2 long stretches. Can you say media bias? There have been at least 10 games this year lost directly because the manager either didn't do a double switch or because he was too stupid to play polanco instead of bell or he was too stupid not to play Utley or he was too stupid to have Lofton leadoff instead of J-Rol. Manuel was talented enough to be recruited by colleges but never offered a scholarship when they received his transcripts. So to review, Manuel has the same record as Bowa with less injuries and more talent, yet Bowa deserved to be fired while Manuel gets praised. Can you say media bias?

 
At 8:42 AM, Anonymous belkind said...

Has Manuel ever argued really with an umpire on a call? Has he been thrown out of a game? I do not mean that he should be Bowa like but he is so laid back he is almost comatose. He needs to show some backbone with the umpires or they will take every advantage on calls etc because they know he will never confront them and they are just human. And this love affair he has with Bell with the .950 fielding percenatge and worst batting average against righthanders in the league. If it weren't for hits he gets against southpaws he would be challenging Mendoza and we could start calling it the Bell Curve. OK the players love him granted but is that the reason they are where they are? I just do not see any deep thinking or strategy on his part . They are winning because they should be with that line up and the bullpen for the 7th -9th innings. Also as to losing games, the other day Bell came up in the game against the Nationals with the Phils clinging to a 4-3 lead with men on 1st and second and no outs and it just called for a bunt to move the runners over. Even the TV commentators noted that should be the strategy particularly since Bell leads the league in hitting into dp's with 20+. Sure enough instead of bunting Manuel has him hitting away and he grounds into a dp and the Phils eventually lose when Urbina gives the game away. And Urbina should not even have been in there at that time because as the commentators noted the nationals were hitting him the previous 2 days but their line drives were going right at the outfielders and Urbina was just lucky. No thinking by Manuel or realizing that the nationals had seen him the previous 2 days and were hitting him. If it is the 8th inning in goes Urbina- yes that was a game Manuel lost for them. And then the game that Padilla was pitching against SD about 2 weeks ago leading 1-0. Manuel brings in Urbina in the 8th. Urbina gets an out, walks a guy, gets another out and then walks another guy. Urbina was all over the place and Manuel should realuze there are some days a pitcher just does not have it. Instead of bringing in Wagner to get the final out in the 8th he lets Urbina stay in and he gives up the tying run. The Phils won in the 9th by scoring 4 runs but not because of Manuel. And yesterday he brings in Cormier -a lefthander to pitch to all the righthanded sluggers of the Pirates who immediately tie the game The Phils eventually win but not because of Manuel -but because of a great slide by Michaels to score the go ahead and eventual winning run. No I am not impressed by him at all and I hope they get rid of him next year and bring in someone who thinks

 
At 11:04 AM, Anonymous LouSmith said...

I'll amen on any criticism of Manuel. Wasn't there a balk in yesterday's game vs Pitt? MLB.TV didn't mention that time was called so I assume it wasn't. So where was Charlie Manuel? Hanging by his fingers on the protective mesh without even a question with a "what happened?" look. As for strategic decisions? He's in a 1 - 1 game and in bottom 8th Lieberthal starts with a single. Manuel calls on Lofton to bunt Lieberthal to 2nd where a double is needed to score him. Nothing worked and the game was eventually lost in the 10th (1st game Washington series?). What would Bowa have done? Put Lofton in to run for Lieberthal and attempt a steal. If successful, bunt him to 3rd and try to score a go-ahead run. If not successful, nothing lost and game is still 1 - 1. He just doesn't think.

 
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