Philadelphia Phillies: 5 Things Charlie Manuel Should Do to Save His Job
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
He has 947 major-league managerial wins. Barring a midseason firing in 2013, he will get to 1,000 in a Phillies uniform.
In seven prior seasons as the Phillies' manager, he had never won fewer than 85 games in a season. That is, until the 2012 Phillies staggered to 81-81.
He enters the 2013 season as a lame duck whose most recent contract extension will run out at the end of the season. Seeing this, the Phillies already seem to have his heir apparent, Ryne Sandberg, training on the job in the coming year.
Given that Manuel left the Indians in 2002 under strained contractual circumstances, that may not bode well for his job prospects in Philadelphia beyond 2013.
But what jumps off the page of statistics depicting Charlie Manuel's managerial career is his birthdate. Manuel will turn 69 on January 4, 2013. Does he even really need this aggravation any more?
The Phillies' 2013 results will almost certainly dictate whether the club gives Manuel another contract extension or decides to change course.
If Manuel wants to stay, though, there are some things he really needs to do as soon as possible.
Get off to a Fast Start in 2013
Fast starts often follow hot bats.
Hunter Martin/Getty Images
That the Phillies' April of 2012 was the first time the club had a losing record in April since 2007 has been well-documented.
Sure, having a marginal or losing April is nothing like a death sentence for a baseball team. The season is six months long, after all.
But Phillies fans have very short memories these days, and if the 2013 Phillies stagger out of the starting block again this season, the voices calling for a managerial change will start to gather and strengthen.
In that same stretch the Phillies will go to New York to play the Mets, to Miami and to Cleveland to play the Indians. None of those teams did much in 2012. And the Phillies do not even play the Washington Nationals until May 24.
So the Phillies had better start fast, because after the soft beginning comes an avalanche of games with the likes of the Nationals, Atlanta Braves and the Boston Red Sox (who will not be as bad in 2013 as they were in 2012).
Put Ben Revere to Good Use
Revere has no pop to speak of, but he runs and he defends.
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images
You were hoping for B.J. Upton? Well, the good news there is you will see him play 19 times this season. Regrettably, he will be wearing an Atlanta Braves uniform on those occasions.
And Shane Victorino proved that sometimes teams do pay you for what you used to be, taking the Boston Red Sox for three years and $39 million after hitting .255 in 2012.
Michael Bourn is still out there, too. But speed guys have some trouble holding their value after they turn 30. Ask Carl Crawford for details.
So the Phillies gave up Vance Worley and highly-regarded pitching prospect Trevor May to pry Revere from the Minnesota Twins.
Unless the Phillies conjure another shocker by acquiring Hamilton or Bourn after all, Revere will start in center field for the Phillies in 2013.
Manuel needs to decide quickly whether Revere can depose Jimmy Rollins as the Phillies' leadoff hitter (doubtful, according to mlb.com).
If Revere is not leading off, Manuel needs to figure out what to do with a player like Revere—74 career stolen bases, zero career home runs—in a lineup premised on the long ball.
Does Revere do the team much good hitting seventh or eighth, spots where you ordinarily do not want base-stealers to hit because of the risk of getting thrown out on the basepaths and not getting the pitcher's spot in the lineup out of the way?
Can Revere hit second behind Rollins, setting the table with speed to burn for Chase Utley and Ryan Howard?
How Manuel deploys Revere will probably have a lot to do with how the Phillies finish in 2013.
Fix Michael Young's Swing
How much does Young have left?
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. is saying all the things about the newly-acquired Michael Young that Phillies fans want to hear.
"I know that last year was not his best year. But after talking to the scouts and discussing it intently with the rest of our front office, we felt like this is an excellent person to bring to our club," Amaro said shortly after the trade bringing Young to Philadelphia was announced.
Young hit .338 in 2011. If he had done that again in 2012, it is doubtful that he would have been so expendable to Texas this offseason. But Young hit .277 in 2012 (with only eight home runs) on a playoff team in a hitters' park surrounded by offensive superstars (Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre, Ian Kinsler.)
Texas was eager enough to move Young that the Rangers are paying $10 million of Young's $16 million salary in 2013.
Manuel is a renowned hitting guru. Manuel's tutelage and guaranteed playing time may restore Young's status as a hitter who, if not feared, can at least be relied on to produce.
If Young does not hit, though, it will be serious problem for the Phillies since as of this writing they have no other right-handed middle-of-the-order bats they can trust.
Manuel needs to get Young fixed quickly.
Coax 200-Plus Innings from Roy Halladay
Too hittable in 2012, Halladay is pitching for another contract.
Rich Schultz/Getty Images
Fresh off winning the National League Cy Young Award in 2010 and finishing runner-up in that voting in 2011, Roy Halladay posted this line in 2012: 11-8, 4.49 ERA, a half-dozen starts missed and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 3.67, his worst since 2007.
The Phillies will pay Halladay $20 million next season, when he will be 36 years old. What will they get for that money?
Manuel has a very tricky job on his hands where Halladay is concerned in the upcoming season. For one, Halladay comes into the season in the unaccustomed position of being the third starter in the rotation (behind Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee).
Halladay has been nothing but professional during his time in Philadelphia, but then until last season he did not have much to complain about, either.
Regardless, if Halladay loses his first three decisions or suffers some similar trouble, Manuel will have no choice but to be patient with him and hope he can get things turned around quickly. After the recent trade of Vance Worley, the rotation after Halladay is a serious mystery.
Manuel must find some way to get Halladay through 2013 as healthy and as strong as Halladay can be.
Keep Utley and Howard on the Field
Not what they were, but still formidable if they are right.
Alex Trautwig/Getty Images
Chase Utley's first game of the 2012 season came on June 27, 2012.
By the time Howard returned to live action in 2012, the Phillies were 37-47 and buried in the National League East basement, 13 games behind the Washington Nationals.
That they rebounded to 81-81 is a testament to what Utley and Howard bring to the Phillies offense, even if their numbers will never return to the levels that made them MVP candidates.
So Charlie Manuel has to do whatever he can to keep these two in the lineup.
Sit them against tough left-handed pitching? Yes. Day games after night games off? You bet. Late inning substitutions in games that are out of hand? Absolutely.
And don't pinch hit them on the days they need to rest, either. Just let them sit. Maybe the Sunday season ticket holders will be disappointed to see Freddy Galvis and John Mayberry Jr. at second and first on those days off. Too bad.
Besides, Manuel has probably reached a point with these two where he will probably squeeze as much production from Utley and Howard playing them five days a week against favorable matchups as he can from playing them seven days a week against everyone.