Charlie Manuel: A lot to smile about.
While the exact terms have not been released, both mlb.com and phillynews.com expect Manuel to earn between $7 million and $8 million for the 2012 and 2013 seasons.
Reportedly, the team has also sweetened the payout to Manuel for the 2011 season, the last year remaining on his former contract.
This season will be the seventh for Manuel as Phillies skipper, in which time he has compiled a 544-428 win-loss record in the regular season.
More importantly, the Phillies have won the National League East the last four seasons, advancing to two World Series and becoming World Champions in 2008.
As a reward for his success, it is reported that Manuel's new contract will pay him as a top five Major League manager.
It would appear that most Phillies fans would applaud the move that will see their manager hold the reins through his 69th birthday. The franchise and the manager will have a chance to reassess his future during the next three years, but without the cloud that would hang over Manuel if he were managing as a lame duck.
It would be an understatement to say that the Phillies—despite some recent uncertainty over the health of star second baseman Chase Utley—are built to win right now.
Having the services of a manager who has taken them to the top of the mountain for at least three more years seems to be a sound decision, baseball-wise and business-wise.
Manuel's Transformation and Journey
While no public figure, in sports or out of sports, is universally liked, Charlie Manuel has become one of the more popular sports figures in Philadelphia during his six years in town.
However, it wasn't always that easy for him to win over Philly's demanding, outspoken fanbase.
Manuel started his current job in South Philly in 2005, taking over for franchise hero Larry Bowa, who was still popular with much of Phillies Nation. Popular as Bowa was with his fans, the fiery former shortstop had a bellicose manner that tended to alienate most of his players.
His teams also tended to finish in second place (if not third) in the NL East behind the perennial champion Atlanta Braves. Of course, Charlie promptly started out with two second-place finishes, piloting the clubs to be just good enough to not qualify for the postseason. Hard as it is to even contemplate now, the Phillies did not qualify for the postseason between 1993 and 2006.
With his redneck, southern drawl and penchant for sounding like a rube in postgame press conferences, the moniker Uncle Cholly was not uttered in an endearing fashion.
Although Manuel had a little success in his two-and-a-half years managing the Cleveland Indians (winning one AL Central title), he was regarded by many as a glorified hitting coach who could not even master the NL art of the double switch.
His perception started to change in 2007, when the Phillies staged a furious comeback to wrest the division from the favored New York Mets. In retrospect, it was a combination of a Big Apple collapse and a South Philly hot streak that got the job done.
By the time, the Phillies took the baseball world by storm and became—in the words of immortal broadcaster Harry Kalas—world champions of baseball in 2008, Manuel had improbably won over the hearts of most of Phillies Nation.
The inept, poor communicator became lovable and truly avuncular. Funny how that happens sometimes.
While not considered a master strategist, it was apparent that the team clad in red pinstripes fought to the finish on a nightly basis for Uncle Cholly.
And yes, the moniker Uncle Cholly now connotes a lovable, wise baseball man who loves his team and his fanbase.
For Manuel, his managerial second life mirrored his renewed life as a player. Born on January 4, 1944 in Northfork, West Virginia, Manuel mostly collected splinters (and only 384 at-bats over six seasons) as a left fielder for the Minnesota Twins and Los Angeles Dodgers. Manuel packed up his career .198 batting average and two homers and headed to Japan.
From 1977 through 1981, Manuel terrorized Japanese baseball, becoming a .300-plus hitter who belted close to 40 homers a year for the Yakult and Kintetsu franchises.
After returning to the States, he paid 17 years of dues as a scout, hitting coach or minor league manager before the Indians gave him a shot to manage the parent club in 2000.
The rest is the history that most of us have witnessed.
The man with the Southern drawl and the ability to speak Japanese is now beloved by most Philadelphians.
If Manuel helps to usher in another parade or two in the next few years, Uncle Cholly just might become a bonafide legend.
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