Phillies' Charlie Manuel: A Class Act
With two outs in the top of the 9th, Charlie Manuel emerged from the top step of the dugout.
Scott Eyre, returning from the disabled list, had quickly recorded the first two outs, getting former Phillie Michael Bourne and Miguel Tejada.
But here comes Uncle Charlie, waving for the bullpen.
There goes the Philadelphia faithful, waving the white rally towels.
And out comes Brad Lidge to collect the final out.
The fans loved it.
The bullpen loved it.
Even Eyre loved it.
And one pitch later, the Phillies had gained admittance into the 2009 playoff dance and a chance to repeat as World Series Champions. And the man who closed out that last victory last year was the on the bump again to collect the final out.
The way this season has gone for Brad Lidge, you would have excused Manuel if he had just left Eyre in there.
After a perfect 2008 -- both regular season and postseason -- Lidge's 2009 season has been a perfect nightmare, blowing 11 saves to lead the majors.
But Charlie Manuel stuck with Lidge through most of the season, giving him every chance to regain that dominant form that propelled the Phillies to its first championship in 28 years.
It never happened.
So a week ago, with time running out on the season, Manuel made the tough decision to remove Lidge from the closer role.
It wasn't Manuel's first difficult decision this season.
With the emergence of vintage Pedro Martinez bolstering the Phillies rotation, Manuel had to tell Jamie Moyer that despite leading the team in wins he was heading to the bullpen.
It was a difficult decision to make. Manuel is fiercely loyal, and he has the utmost respect for Moyer, whose season just ended last night with a just-awful-sounding tendon tear in his groin and abdomen.
Last season, Manuel won a World Series, and lost his mother during the campaign. But you never saw him get too high or too low.
Through the tough decisions, Manuel has remained unflappable.
Through the losing streaks, Manuel maintained a steady hand.
And whether the gesture tonight helps Lidge to reclaim his masterful form remains to be seen. But what was seen is a man that's been around long enough to know how to play the game.
And play it with class.
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