Before autumn 2007, Charlie Manuel had about the same chance of ever being Manager of the Year as Michael Vick had of ever being the Eagles' starting QB, right?
Guess a lot has changed in three years.
But can the skipper of a team that was an overwhelming World Series favorite in the preseason actually win Manager of the Year?
Well, The Phillies are on the doorstep of their franchise-record fourth straight NL East title. Ho hum. Nothing too surprising.
Right now the Phillies are where everyone expected them to be back in March, but the road they’ve taken over the past six months to get here has been anything but routine.
The Phils have trailed in the division for the majority of the season, slept-walked through inexplicably prolonged spells of offensive stagnancy, and sustained a mind-boggling rash of injuries.
Yet, these Phillies have overcome all the adversity that everyone quickly assumed would derail them in the regular season, and you could actually make a point that Charlie Manuel has done a more impressive job of managing in 2010 than he did the past two seasons.
Yes, the 2008-09 Phils made it to the World Series. Yes, Charlie didn’t blow up when things got rough. Yes, managing Phillies games wasn’t always easy. Remember last year's Brad Lidge situation?
But the Phillies were one of the healthiest teams in baseball each of the past two seasons. They had very, very few injuries. Charlie had the luxury of relying on, for the most part, a set lineup and a set pitching staff where everyone knew their roles.
The 2008 Phillies had four players that started at least 145 games, four starting pitchers with at least 30 starts, and four relievers who pitched in over 70 games.
The 2009 Phillies didn’t have that same kind of health in the pitching staff, but made up for it in the starting lineup. Remarkably, six of the Phillies eight regulars played in over 150 games.
Having so many talented players so healthy over the prior two seasons was a great gift for Manuel and the Phillies. John Russell, currently the proud manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, would look like more of a baseball genius if he had the chance to write Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard and company into his lineup card on a nightly basis.
But obviously the Phillies haven’t had health in 2010. Raul Ibanez and Jayson Werth are the only regulars that will play in at least 150 games, and a grand total of 18 Phillies have been on the DL.
Actually, Manuel’s managerial job in 2010 is quite reminiscent of his outstanding 2007 season, when he finished second in the NL Manager of the Year voting behind only Arizona’s Doug Melvin.
While the ’07 Phils had one of the worst pitching staffs in baseball, the 2010 Phillies have had one of the most erratic offenses in the league. Yet, in each year, Manuel relied heavily upon his reserves and less-proven players as his club sought to navigate the rough seas of a team constantly riddled by injuries.
The Phillies were also given up for dead by most followers on several occasions during ’07 and ‘10, yet somehow managed to rebound from the countless times a total collapse seemed imminent. Of course, the on-field resilience that the 2007 and 2010 Phillies showed was partially made possible by the positive attitude of their man in the dugout: Charlie Manuel.
Turning our full attention back to 2010, the never impulsive Manuel has shown faith in his players, and they have rewarded him for it, as usual.
If Charlie had listed to the fans he would have benched Ibanez in June and demanded the promotion of Domonic Brown.
If Charlie had listened to the fans he would have canned Mr. Valdez just for the sake of making a change after Wilson had grounded into about 40 double plays in his first 10 games.
If Charlie had listened to the fans he would have replaced closer Brad Lidge with Jose Contreras in July (I was one of those fans).
Then again, if Charlie had listened to the city’s pulse in August 2008, he would have sent his struggling second-year, eight-hole hitting catcher to the bench for the rest of the season. Oh by the way, Carlos Ruiz is now one of the most popular players on the team and one of the finest catchers in MLB.
Well, right now, this particular author doesn’t question any of Charlie’s moves in 2010, except for perhaps giving Roy Halladay a slightly longer leash than need be.
The patience, and dare I say poise, that Manuel has shown in his team has really paid off over the past four seasons, but especially in 2010.
So, Will Charlie Win?
Unfortunately for Mr. Manuel, there’s at least a little bit of truth to the old cliché, “A manager is only as good as his players.”
That saying tends to stack the deck against the Manager of the Year chances of any skipper guiding a team as well assembled as the 2010 Philadelphia Phillies.
Charlie won’t win manager of the year.
Both the extremely young Padres and Reds have won without much proven big-league talent, and, despite being overlooked by mainly everybody in the spring, appear poised for the postseason. Their managers deserve the recognition they’ll get.
And yes, Charlie deserves accolades for the job he’s done in 2010. But they just won't come in the form of a Manager of the Year award at the end of the season.