Ever since Charlie Manuel replaced Philadelphia Phillies legend Larry Bowa as manager of the team in 2005, his teams have seen nothing but success: including this disastrous 2012 campaign—which won’t result in a playoff berth—this team has won five NL East division titles in only eight seasons.
Manuel will forever be known among Philly fans as the man who broke the curse of William Penn. But is his time as the manager of the Phils coming to an end?
The Phillies have dealt Hunter Pence, Shane Victorino, and Joe Blanton in an effort to rebuild and reshape the team for a playoff run next season, but could the key to it all lie in firing Charlie?
For one, Manuel’s loyalty to the veterans, especially in last year’s postseason and now with Jimmy Rollins, has grown into a problem.
Many share the opinion that left fielder Juan Pierre should be the leadoff hitter, but the 68-year-old repeatedly states that Rollins is and always will be his leadoff hitter. Why? So far this season, J-Rol has hit for a putrid .245 batting average and compiled an on-base percentage of only .303. Pierre, meanwhile, has a .306 AVG and a OBP of .345. A leadoff hitter sets the table for the big hitters, something that Rollins has failed to consistently.
Having Pierre in the leadoff spot most likely would have won us some late-inning games, especially when players like Pence, Victorino and Ryan Howard are swinging hot bats but don’t get up to bat because of Rollins’ inability to get on base.
Manuel’s use of the bullpen this year has also raised some questions, at least in my mind.
His excessive use of righty Chad Qualls certainly has cost the team some games. He finished his time—he was traded to the Yankees on July 1—in Philadelphia with an awful 4.60 ERA, but was still one of Charlie Manuel’s favorites. There were dozens of scenarios where going to a younger, streaking arm like Raul Valdes or Antonio Bastardo would’ve made more sense than trying to squeeze a good outing out of Qualls, but even if Charlie didn’t have faith in the young guys, he consistently refused to pitch Jonathan Papelbon more than three outs. Again, why?
Finally, there is the issue of Charlie losing touch with his players and failing to lay down the law when the situation requires it.
There have been many such instances over the years, but a perfect one arose a few days ago against Miami: Rollins hit a routine grounder to short, but instead of sprinting up the line like he should have, the shortstop dropped the bat casually and slowly jogged to first. What Charlie should have done after that play was to bench Rollins, but he didn’t—an act that sparked outrage among both journalists and fans. Instead of asserting his leadership and using the embarrassing event as motivation, Charlie once again was relegated to an apologetic tone in which he simply chided Rollins for his behavior. Once more: Why?
The Phillies definitely have a lot more issues than simply the manager, but Manuel’s complete inadequacy thus far begs the question: Where would the team be with a guy like Jim Leyland at the helm?