No one is laughing at Charlie Manuel nowby Eric Schwartz
It wasn’t so long ago that Charlie Manuel was looked at as a laughing stock in this area.
Manuel, the Phillies skipper, seemed to know nothing about National League baseball after spending his entire career in the American League as the manager of the Cleveland Indians.
Two years into his term with the Phillies it looked as though Manuel still didn’t understand how to properly execute a double switch – something Little League managers could figure out.
Manuel’s speech was Southern and slurred he had trouble putting two sentences together and hardly seemed like a motivator.
It got so bad that 610 jockey Howard Eskin nearly got in a fight with “Uncle Charlie” during a press conference halfway through the 2008 season.
People laughed at Manuel.
No one is laughing any more.
While he is still much the same coach he was when he came to Philadelphia after the 2004 season, Manuel has led the team to consecutive World Series appearances. Beginning Wednesday, Manuel and the Phils will face either the New York Yankees or Los Angeles Angels in what they hope will be the first of four necessary wins to become two-time World Champions.
Charlie has always been loved by his players, even when he wasn’t by the fans. You see the players talking and joking with Manuel in the dugout during the game, something you would never see with some of the stricter managers such as Joe Torre and Tony LaRussa, both of whom are back home watching.
It is hard to say exactly what Manuel does as a manager. In fact, baseball managers as a whole are tough to figure out. They don’t design plays like basketball or football coaches and they don’t shuffle lines like a hockey general.
Pitching coaches deal with issues that come up with the rotation and bullpen and base coaches deal with the tough decisions of when to send a runner. Sure some baseball managers call signs for pitches (most leave that to the catcher) and put on calls such as bunts and hit-and-runs.
But maybe the biggest responsibility of a baseball manager is controlling the clubhouse and making sure everyone on the team is on the same page.
In that area, Manuel excels.
You hear nothing but good things about Manuel from his players. The coach is willing to listen to his players at any time and they are willing to listen to him. Manuel doesn’t care about the spotlight; he leaves that to the players. When it is time to celebrate, Manuel shakes a few hands, gives a few hugs and goes back to his office.
Manuel is far from perfect. He makes mistakes from time to time like he did in NLCS Game 2, when he decided to take out Pedro Martinez after seven dominant innings that produced a 1-0 lead, which turned into a loss.
Manuel had a plan that game and he was going to stick to it. He didn’t want Martinez to go past 90 or so pitches and he wasn’t going to change that, no matter the circumstances.
But that’s Charlie. He’s the same guy who wouldn’t replace Brad Lidge when 99 percent of the fan base and media thought it was the right thing to do. He understands things the rest of us don’t.
Manuel may never be the best tactical manager in baseball and he certainly won’t become the greatest speaker.
Instead he will continue to be the same laidback, friendly guy that puts out a plan and stays with it.
In other words, he will continue to be the perfect manager for the Phillies.