Every time I make a comment to my dad about Charlie Manuel’s poor decision-making when it comes to baseball, he points to his ring finger.
Yes, Charlie Manuel has a World Series ring. And yes, Charlie Manuel does a great job of managing people. But what Charlie Manuel doesn’t do a great job of is managing a baseball game.
Case and point: James Anthony Happ.
Charlie Manuel has been dropping the ball with J.A. Happ since spring training. First Happ was slighted a spot in the starting rotation in favor of Chan Ho Park, then told he was “in contention” for the final spot in the bullpen. Happ finally sees light in the rotation only after Park proves that he can’t get the job done. Meanwhile J.A. proves that he was the man for the job all along.
Then Roy Halladay gets put on the trading block and the Phillies float Happ’s name out there like ticker tape during the World Series Parade. (Don’t let TBS announcers fool you—not wanting to give up Happ isn’t the reason Roy Halladay isn’t on the roster. That reason would be Kyle Drabek.) But to be fair, I’ll hold Ruben Amaro accountable for that one, even though Manuel had his input.
Happ strengthens his bid for National League Rookie of the Year start after start. Then Pedro Martinez arrives, and once again Happ is fighting for his spot in the rotation. A complete game shutout featuring 10 strikeouts and a double at the plate (against the Rockies, no less) takes the decision out of Charlie’s hands.
The postseason rolls around and where do we find J.A. Happ? In the bullpen, right where he doesn’t belong.
Let’s humor Charlie for a minute and pretend that his decision to use Happ out of the bullpen for the beginning of the series and to start a game late in the series makes sense. The bullpen hasn’t been reliable closing out games. Ok, fine. J.C. Romero and Jamie Moyer are hurt; there is a shortage of lefties. Ok, fine.
On to Game One: Cliff Lee carries a shutout deep into the game with a low pitch count and a five-run lead. Lee starts to show signs of being human and all of a sudden Happ is warming up in the bullpen along side Ryan Madson.
You can’t blame the man for getting someone up in case things turn sour, but you can blame him for making Happ throw pitches he didn’t need to be throwing. With a five-run lead that late in the game, Madson is more than enough. And if having a lefty up was that important to Charlie, Scott Eyre and Antonio Bastardo are on the roster for a reason.
On to Game Two: Cole Hamels throws five innings, gives up four earned runs and gets replaced by another pitcher who shouldn’t be in the bullpen: Joe Blanton. Blanton gets into trouble in his second inning of work and Charlie calls on Happ to bail him out. Facing his first batter, Happ gets nailed right in the knee by a line drive and has to leave the game. That one’s on you, Charlie.
Obvious reasons why a good manager wouldn’t have made that decision:
1) The Phillies are already losing the game.
2) If they don’t come back to win it, they need a strong start in Game Three to avoid going down two games to one.
3) There isn’t a starter set for Game Three and two of them have already been used today.
4) There is a bullpen for situations like this.
5) Happ got up in Game One and if he’s up and used in Game Two, he probably won’t be used to start Game Three.
6) Happ threw a complete-game shutout against the Rockies earlier this season and shouldn’t be wasted in a relief appearance.
7) There is a bullpen for situations like this … oh, wait.
Did the Phillies win the World Series under Charlie Manuel? Yes, they did.
Did they win the World Series because of Charlie Manuel's? No, they didn't.
They won because they worked hard, played the game the right way, and left it all out on the field. The ring argument need not apply here—that group of guys could have won a World Series under Mr. Met.