Ok, so he might not be the most underrated, but he's up there (how many comments will I get from people who just read the title? I'll go with three to seven).
Charlie Fuqua Manuel is the current manager of the Philadelphia Phillies.
After being fired by the Cleveland Indians in 2002, Charlie Manuel signed on with the Phillies as a special assistant to the general manager.
Then, in 2004, Manuel was hired as the Phillies' manager.
In his first year (2005), the club went 88-74. They finished one game back of the wild card.
In his second year (2006), the club went 85-77, three games back of the wild card. But he was just starting to get his crew together. Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Cole Hamels were blossoming and things were starting to mesh.
After his first two seasons, he had the best winning percentage for any Phillies' manager in their first two years.
And then there was last season (2007). He led the team to an 89-73 record, while winning the National League East. He also finished second in the National League Manager of the Year Award voting.
All three of those seasons really impressed me, as he was starting to build the Phillies into a winning team. So what if he didn't scout that talent, he's the one coaching them and doing a great job at it. Plus, his bullpen and starting rotation were putrid those years and he got the team to the playoffs.
Anyway, to this current date, his record as a Phillies manager is 338-224 (.663).
But what really impressed me the most was what happened this season.
He started out the season saying the right things. He never puts any of his players in the line of fire. If Charlie is unhappy with the player, he takes care of it in the clubhouse and away from the media. He respects his players and doesn't want them to always be in the news because of what he says. I really respect that.
A perfect example is the incidents with Rollins and the "incident" with Myers.
Brett Myers did not want to be taken out of the game, but Charlie took him out. Myers had some words for Charlie in the dugout, and Charlie doesn't take that from his players. They were videotaped nose-to-nose, jawing it out, but all true Phillies' fans knew it was just two stubborn guys giving their opinion.
The media made a hoopla about it, but Charlie said nothing to the media because he knew everything was fine. Myers, of course, ended up knowing it was the right move.
And with the Rollins incidents (benched for tardiness too many times and benched for not running a ball out that would have given him a double but he only got a single), he did the same. He respected the player and kept it in the clubhouse.
Even his players stood up for Charlie and said that he had two rules, hustle and be on time, and Jimmy broke them so he faced the consequences.
But the thing I like most about Charlie Manuel is the relationships he has with his players.
At all the Phillies games I go to, I always see every player up walking to him and talking with him for five minutes at least one time during the game. They put their arm around him and talk to him about their at bats and the game and everything going on in it.
Every player just loves Charlie. He's respected throughout the entire clubhouse; he's just a very well liked guy. That's huge for a ballclub.
Finally, the thing I like the most about Charlie is the fact that he is a winner. Does he have the history that other managers do? Nope, but he just wins. Somehow he always finds a way to win and put his teams in position to get to the playoffs.
He's only finished below second place once in his eight-year career, and that one time was third place with the Indians in 2002, but he didn't coach the entire season that year.
He's won a division twice and even though he hasn't been past the NLDS, he still gets to the playoffs or gets very close to the playoffs. Although the moves he makes do seem confusing at times, he gets the calls right nine times out of 10.
All in all, Charlie Manuel isn't the flashiest manager. He isn't the best speaker. He isn't viewed as a "smart" guy, but Charlie Manuel is a truly smart guy. In fact, I view him as one of the smartest manager's in the league.
Sure, he's no Joe Torre, but he's up there with the likes of Ozzie Guillen (well, I'm basing that off of the media's view of Ozzie, which is around the 10th best manager in the league).
Charlie for President? Nah...
Charlie for underrated manager of the year? Maybe...