From the moment Charlie Manuel stepped into the dugout as manager of the Philadelphia Phillies through the end of the 2011 National League Division Series loss at the hands of the eventual world champion St. Louis Cardinals, the franchise was relevant to an extent rarely witnessed in the history of the organization.
The former Indians manager, long-time hitting guru and down-to-earth West Virginian had a style that worked: His players played hard, worked hard, and, most importantly, won baseball games.
From 2006-2011, the Phillies were the class of the National League. Over those six seasons, Manuel guided the team to an average of 93 wins per season, five consecutive NL East crowns, three appearances in the NLCS, two trips to the World Series and a parade down Broad Street in Philadelphia after the 2008 World Series victory.
Of course, that was then.
Now, to put it bluntly, the Phillies, led by the same manager that will one day be inducted into the franchise's Wall of Fame, are an awful baseball team.
After dropping two of three games at home last weekend to the equally awful Mets, the 2013 Phillies sit at 36-40, but actually are lucky to have that record. With a run differential of minus-58, the only two teams to have been outscored by more runs this season reside in Miami and Houston.
The franchise is desperately in need of a reboot, should consider trading any and all veteran assets at the trade deadline and is teetering on fielding an unwatchable group in the second half of the season.
For all the good that Manuel presided over during the early days of his tenure, it's turned bad now. In the aftermath of another disappointing series, the manager questioned whether it can be turned around, knowing full well it probably can't.
The roster is decrepit, farm system is showing little hope of providing help and expectations are out of whack. To expect Manuel to "shake things up" to achieve results, as WIP host/reporter Howard Eskin alluded to after a loss on Friday night, is ridiculous.
Of course, it's almost as ridiculous as Manuel's reaction, threat and childish behavior.
Baseball managers are as good as the hands they are dealt. Manuel looked good when his team was crushing the baseball because he had healthy and prime-aged hitters like Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and Jayson Werth destroying opposing pitchers.
That same manager looks much, much worse when those stars are questioning his tactics, older, hurt, gone or replaced with below-average and fringe major leaguers.
It's time, whether immediately or in the aftermath of the 2013 campaign, to remove Manuel from the drivers seat in Philadelphia. Not because he can't manage talented players, but because he's 69 years old, doesn't have the patience or time to manage through a rebuilding process and can't escape the weight of expectations that surround the franchise since the days of his early success.
Ultimately, the team's play is much more of a reflection on general manager Ruben Amaro than it is on Manuel, but of the two, Amaro is seen as the one who will be around for the long haul.
At some point, the team will have to get younger and infuse cheap, dynamic talent to the everyday roster. The job of guiding that young talent should go to a manger on the upswing, with youth and communication skills playing almost as big of a role as pitching changes and batting orders.
Charlie Manuel was a good manager of an excellent baseball team. He's the same manager now, albeit with a team that has considerably less talent.
The Manuel-Philadelphia relationship is coming to an end sooner than later. Eventually, both sides will agree that it's time to turn the page.
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