Sunday, August 18, 2013

Pic of the Week

Charlie Manuel heads for the exit of
the stadium in Philadelphia after being
fired Friday as the Phillies manager.
There aren't a lot of people in baseball who were already there when I became a fan in 1969.

Charlie Manuel was one.

I use the past tense because right now he isn't in the game, having been fired Friday as manager of the Philadelphia Phillies.

Manuel was a reserve outfielder on the 1969 Twins, the team of Harmon Killebrew and Billy Martin and Tony Oliva that caught my attention. He hung around the roster a few years, never getting a real shot at a regular job even though we fans were regularly assured by the broadcasters that Manuel could hit.

Maybe he could. Maybe his defense was why Martin and Bill Rigney and Frank Quilici, and, after he went to the Dodgers, Walter Alston, never saw fit to stick him in the lineup and let him play. In the playing time Manuel did get in the majors, he didn't hit.

Manuel played for years in Japan. He managed in the minors — he skippered the Twins Triple A team in 1987, a lousy Portland team that featured two other future division-winning managers in Ron Gardenhire and Ron Washington, plus a notable future general manager in Billy Beane.

Manuel was the hitting coach in Cleveland when the Indians came up with that marvelous lineup in the 1990s — so loaded that Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome were in the bottom half.  Then Manuel followed Mike Hargrove as skipper of that team and won a division title of his own, then he quit when the Tribe started rebuilding, then he took the Phillies job.

And the Phillies won the World Series in 2008 and lost the Series in 2009 and lost the NLCS in 2010 and lost the Division Series in 2011 and ...

Now the Phillies are at a crossroads. The core of what was a great team is old. The farm system is dry. The win-now days are past, and the team needs what figures to be a painful rebuild, painful  because the roster is riddled with bloated contracts that won't be easily moved, and because the big bosses don't seem convinced that the rebuild is needed.

And Charlie Manuel is 69 years old. The bosses let him get to 1,000 career wins — 1,000-827 is his career won-lost mark — and then they cut him loose.

The Phillies will go with Ryne Sandberg now, and he's an interesting choice — a Hall of Fame player who accepted the grind of managing in the minors and paid a separate set of dues to get a big league dugout job. Great players who become managers, as a rule, don't do that. Sandberg did, and good luck to him. He'll need it.

Manuel is leaving a high standard for him to aim for.

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