Philadelphia Phillies: Will Ryne Sandberg Replace Charlie Manuel in 2013?

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Philadelphia Phillies: Will Ryne Sandberg Replace Charlie Manuel in 2013?
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Not "Dead Man Walking," but maybe not "A Man for All Seasons," either.

Imagine you have had your present job, as a manager for a large local concern, for eight years.

The company you joined in 2005 had long been both a punching bag in its industry and a local laughingstock. Only by virtue of its effective monopoly in providing its product in the region had it even survived.

Your first year in the job, though, you turned a profit. You did it again the next year, and the year after that. In your fourth year running things, the company had one of the two greatest performances in its largely unremarkable 140-year history. You followed that success with another hugely profitable campaign.

In your eight years, you have overseen five of the company's best performances. In fact, though shareholders were disappointed with 2009's return, it was still one of the company's six most successful efforts ever.

2010 and 2011 saw diminishing returns, but the business was still quite profitable despite surprising, late-year downturns that ultimately dinged the bottom line.

And then, in 2012, for the first time, you and the company only broke even. You have not been scapegoated for this outcome—not specifically. But the board which pays your salary and the shareholders have not exactly absolved you of responsibility for the return to mediocrity, either.

During a year-end press conference with your immediate supervisor, he introduced one of the company's former employees, who left the company under regrettable circumstances. Universally, the former employee's departure is seen by everyone involved with your company as a horrible error.

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No one smiles more than the guy who is trying to pick your pocket, Charlie.

This former employee has been back with your company for the past two years working in the field. 

And now he is back in the home office. And he will be working alongside you next year.

That's not good, is it?

The extended metaphor above, obviously, is that of Charlie Manuel's eight-year tenure as the manager of the Philadelphia Phillies. Everyone who wants Manuel gone (and there are quite a few) plainly ignore the fact that in his first seven seasons running the team, these were the results: seven seasons better than .500, a World Championship, two pennants and five division titles.

Manuel presided over the longest extended run of success the Phillies have ever seen, by a long shot. Even the Danny Ozark teams of the late 1970s, which ultimately produced a champion under Dallas Green in 1980, were not this good.

But professional sports have little room for nostalgia. Manuel's team, expected to win another division title with the second-highest payroll in baseball, only won half of its games.

So you could excuse Manuel for feeling a bit unsettled about having Ryne Sandberg, the Hall of Fame second baseman the Phillies gave away so long ago, introduced at a press conference presided over by Ruben Amaro Jr. early this month.

Not one of the three men said Sandberg is Manuel's heir apparent. Probably because it is so obvious that it did not need to be spoken aloud. Manuel is under contract for more than $3 million in 2013, the last year of the contract extension he signed in March of 2011.

The big question for Manuel is whether he can survive the 2013 season with his job. The answer to that question will probably be decided by June 1, 2013. If the team starts fast and is in contention, he almost certainly will survive the season. 

The schedule-makers did Manuel some favors. The Phillies do open with three in Atlanta, but then they do not see the Braves again until July 5. Similarly, the Phillies do not see the Washington Nationals at all until May 24. So for seven weeks or so, Manuel will have a chance to compile wins against the likes of the Kansas City Royals, Pittsburgh Pirates, New York Mets and Miami Marlins.

If the Phillies get to June 1 with the division lead or a solid hold on a wild-card spot, Manuel should be fine as far as finishing out his contract goes.

But it is still not going to be much fun, with his likely replacement watching and waiting all the while.

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