Results tagged ‘ Charlie Manuel ’
Before the Phillies opened their 10-game homestand last weekend Ruben Amaro Jr. said a 5-5 mark “probably” would not cut it.
They’re 5-2 after taking two of three from the Braves last weekend and three of four from the Nationals this week. The Phillies open a three-game series tonight against the White Sox with an excellent opportunity in front of them. They have won 7 of 10, they are at home and they are playing a team with the third-worst record in baseball. The White Sox have the second-worst offense in baseball, averaging 3.78 runs per game, and rank 18th with a 4.07 ERA.
It lines up perfectly.
And there’s the rub.
A couple people literally told me before the homestand, “Watch, the Phillies will take two of three from Atlanta, three of four from Washington and get swept by the White Sox.” (The nerve of them.) What a disaster that would be. Asked about avoiding a letdown against Chicago, Charlie Manuel said last night, “We’ve got to play hard. We’ve got to outplay them. We’ve got to do the same thing against the Chicago White Sox as we did against Washington and the Braves. We’ve got to play as hard or harder. You don’t let up. You stay right at it.”
Take two from the White Sox and the Phillies enter the All-Star break with a boatload of momentum and .500. Sweep the Sox and it’s even better.
But they’ve got to avoid the trap.
This is a huge homestand for the Phillies. Ruben Amaro Jr. said as much Friday.
So when Amaro and his fellow front office executives witnessed Cliff Lee and others screwing around during Jonathan Pettibone‘s in-game interview Saturday in an ugly 13-4 blowout loss to the Braves, they decided to call a team meeting.
While I don’t think goofing on Pettibone had anything to do with the blowout loss Saturday and while I believe players need ways to break up the monotony of a grueling 162-game schedule, I also get that appearances matter. The season is on the line. You’re losing to the Braves in a big series. Now might not be the time to stick a paper cup on Pettibone’s head with a wad of gum. But let’s be honest about this: none of this happens if the team is winning. If the Phillies are winning, bloggers are making .gifs from Pettibone’s interview and having fun with it. (They probably still will.) The front office probably doesn’t care. The manager doesn’t care. It might be even discussed in postgame interviews. (Those wacky Phillies are having so much fun out there!) Nobody would have thought twice about it. But the team is losing so things are looked at differently. That’s the way it goes.
If the Phillies get on a roll this will be forgotten pretty quickly. If they lose and there is a fire sale, this will be just another low point to the season.
Stay tuned …
He had been scheduled to pitch Tuesday, but Charlie Manuel said they hope two extra days of rest can help.
“It’s like how I rested (Ryan) Howard,” said Manuel, who benched Howard on last night and tonight at Dodger Stadium. “See if that won’t help him some. See if we can’t get him back to feeling good about himself. He benefits just by clearing his head a little bit and resting. We’ll give him a blow, mentally and physically. Mental has a lot to do with it.”
Hamels sounded very surprised to hear one of the reasons Manuel cited is a mental break.
“I don’t know what he talking about – mental. That’s Charlie,” Hamels said with a chuckle. “I think it’s just because I’ve been going every five days and travelling a lot. Sometimes you get the stressful innings and the physical toll just kind of adds up. I think they just want to make things a little more free and easy.”
Hamels is 2-11 with a 4.58 ERA. He is the first Phillies pitcher to lose 11 games before July 1 since Claude Passeau and Wayne LeMaster in 1937. But he said a mental break doesn’t sense because he is not an everyday player and already gets a four-day break between starts.
“I could understand if I played every day,” Hamels said. “Physically, it just allows me to get an extra bullpen (session) in.”
Both Hamels and Manuel said the pitcher is healthy.
“Totally healthy,” Manuel said. “There is definitely nothing wrong with him. He’s fine. As a matter of fact, he’s very fine.”
“No, I don’t,” he said. “As a matter of fact, we might be playing better than we could play.”
In other words, this team is playing equal to its talent or playing better than its talent, which is truly something considering the Phillies are 34-37 with the sixth-worst run differential (-48) in baseball. Of course, Ruben Amaro Jr. thought differently, and said the Phillies have not played to their capabilities.
So the general manager thinks the team has underachieved. The manager does not.
That brings me to the point of this post. I get tweets every day from Phillies fans saying, “Fire Charlie Manuel!” I got one last night when Manuel replaced Mike Adams with Antonio Bastardo to face Adam LaRoche in the eighth inning. If Bastardo doesn’t get this guy out, Manuel should be fired immediately! (Never mind it was the correct move.) Asked about Manuel’s job performance yesterday, Amaro said, “Charlie’s had a tough task just because, like I said, the team’s been a little incomplete. I think he’s tried to be creative with some of the lineup changes, shifting some people into the lineup. He’s doing everything he can to try to spark plug us and at some point it is up to the players to try to do it.”
It is wise Amaro sticks with Manuel through the end of the season because unless he is truly convinced the Phillies will play significantly better under new leadership, he only would be pointing more targets at himself. If he replaces Manuel and the team with the sixth-worst offense and seventh-worst pitching staff in baseball continues to lose, he will have fired the winningest manager in franchise history, one of only two managers in Phillies history to win a World Series, only to reinforce the opinion the personnel is bad, regardless of who is filling out the lineup card and making the pitching changes. And who supplies the talent? Who makes the trades, the free agent signings, the roster moves? Who gave Manuel this roster? Amaro.
Once the season is finished it probably is time for a new voice, especially if the Phillies miss the postseason for the second consecutive year. Sometimes a change just needs to be made, and Manuel has had a heck of a run. But before the end of the season? I just don’t see Ryne Sandberg or anybody else markedly improving a team that on paper — injuries or not (everybody has them) — is one of the worst in baseball. Good or bad, Manuel has earned the right to finish the season. He shouldn’t be fired because the front office’s offseason moves haven’t worked to this point and some of his core players continue to decline.
A few thoughts on the Phillies following their 3-7 road trip:
- There is a level of frustration settling into the Phillies’ clubhouse, an amount I haven’t seen in Charlie Manuel‘s nine seasons here. Just read Cliff Lee‘s comments Thursday in Minnesota, or what Cole Hamels told reporters after yesterday’s loss in Colorado. Is this a playoff team? “I’m not going to comment on that one,” Hamels said. “You can ask the other guys that one.” Remember, those comments are being made publicly, which certainly means the apathy/resignation/frustration is worse behind closed doors. That is troubling. I remember in seasons past, somebody like Jayson Werth would say confidently and almost nonchalantly, “Relax, everybody. We’re fine. We’re much better than this. We’ll pick it up when we need to pick it up.” They knew they would. You don’t hear that talk right now.
- The Phillies are 25th in baseball in runs per game. They are 24th in ERA. In seasons past, the Phillies always had one thing going for it: a great offense or a great pitching staff. You could always say, “Well, if they add a bat (Hunter Pence) or if they add an arm (Lee or Roy Oswalt) at the trade deadline it could push them over the top.” You can’t say that with this team. There are too many holes. Where would you even start?
- Look at where the Phillies rank in OPS at every position. Catcher: 23rd at .651. First base: 17th at .763. Second base: 20th at .671. Third base: 13th at .727. Shortstop: Ninth at .747. Left field: second at .876. Center field: 27th at .616. Right field: 23rd at .691. Second base would be better if Chase Utley had remained healthy, but other than that the only two positions holding their own against the best in baseball are left field (Domonic Brown) and shortstop (Jimmy Rollins).
- If you say, well, the Phillies are only 8 1/2 games back in the NL East (I’m not sure why anybody would say that, but still …), remember the NL East is probably the worst division in baseball.
- Looking for a reason to keep the faith? That’s tough, but I guess if you’re going to hold onto something hold onto this: Manuel’s teams traditionally are much better in the second half (.610 winning percentage after the All-Star break from 2005-12 is second-best in baseball). Of course, if they keep playing like this they could be buried in the standings and some of their top players could be traded by July 31. That traditional second-half surge might not matter.
- Take a look at the upcoming free agent class at MLB Trade Rumors. I don’t see a lot of guys that could help the Phillies turn around their fortunes quickly. Is there anybody that gets you excited enough to say, “I’d be OK if the Phillies shelled out a ton of cash for him?” There is Shin-Soo Choo and Jacoby Ellsbury and that’s about it as far as high on-base percentage bats the Phillies could use. (Forget about Robinson Cano. I can’t believe the Yankees will let him sign elsewhere.)
It might be the most frustrated I’ve seen him when talking about his offense.
It started innocently enough with a few questions about Ryan Howard’s recent struggles and if they might be connected to his ailing left knee. Howard entered tonight’s game at Target Field with just one home run in his past 107 plate appearances. He is on pace to hit just 17 home runs with 77 RBIs this season and his .735 on-base-plus-slugging percentage ranks 100th out of 163 qualifying players in baseball.
That clearly is not the production the Phillies need from their cleanup hitter.
Asked if Manuel could hit somebody else fourth, Manuel said, “What the (heck) are you getting at? Who’s going to hit there? Let me ask you a question. Let me turn that around some. Write what you want to write.”
Well, how about Domonic Brown?
“I could put anybody in there, OK?” Manuel said. “I’ll do the managing. Whoever hits there, hits there.”
But it must be alarming for more than just Manuel that Howard’s production has been declining in recent seasons. The Phillies owe him $85 million following this year.
“Of course I’m concerned,” Manuel said. “I’m concerned with everybody. Hey, look, I’m concerned with every (single) player I’ve got. Yeah, I’m concerned. I want to win. We say that we want to win the division and we want to go to the World Series, right? I’m concerned about every one of our guys. I’m concerned about that (.247) batting average. I’m concerned about that. I’m not only concerned about one guy, I’m concerned about them all. How about that? I don’t know what I can do about it. I can go back to my room and sit there and look at the walls, and get up and come to the ballpark and look at the walls. I don’t know what I can do about it. The only thing I can do is to put them out there and let them play.”
Asked if he was upset about the offense or the questions concerning his offense, Manuel said, “A little of both, probably. We are inconsistent performance-wise. And when you’ve got that, it’s hard. We won five games in a row, then we lose four. That’s kind of how we’ve been playing.”
John Mayberry Jr. hit a game-tying home run in the 10th inning and a game-winning grand slam in the 11th inning in a 7-3 victory over the Marlins. Mayberry is the first player to hit two extra-inning home runs in one game since Baltimore’s Mike Young in 1987. He is the first player in baseball history to hit two extra-inning home runs in one game with the second home run a walk-off grand slam.
“It feels pretty good, I can’t lie to you,” Mayberry said. “That’s definitely a first. This is one of those days I’ll remember forever.”
Mayberry’s heroics are even more impressive, considering he started the game on the bench. He pinch-hit in the seventh inning and remained in the game as a defensive replacement for Delmon Young in right field. He became the fourth player in Phillies history to hit two home runs in a game as a substitute. He joined Ryan Howard (May 14, 2006, at Cincinnati), Steve Jeltz (June 8, 1989, vs. Pittsburgh) and Jack Knight (June 24, 1926, vs. New York Giants).
He also is the first Phillies player to hit a walk-off grand slam in extra innings since Dale Murphy on Aug. 6, 1991, against the Cubs.
The victory puts the Phillies (29-30) in position to be .500 for the first time since April 14 with a victory Wednesday. Can they finally get there? They only need to beat the Marlins, who are on pace to lose 115 games.
“We’re going to be trying like hell,” Charlie Manuel said.
Read the entire game story here, including thoughts from Manuel and Ben Revere on Bob Davidson‘s horrendous interference call in the eighth inning.
He had something to say about it.
“You can get down if you’re not careful,” he said. “That’s what you don’t want. You’ve got to stay together. You’ve got to keep plugging at it. You’ve got to grind it out. Actually, that’s how you build heart and strength about your team. That’s how you become a team. A lot of times in the second half you notice we play a lot better baseball. And that’s because we stay together and we don’t give up and quit and things like that. Almost every team goes through periods where they’re down. If you’re not careful you will get depressed and you will forget about the main object and that’s winning and you give in and you quit. But if you’re good and you’ve got heart and you want to win and you want to try, just stay together. It’s not how many times you get knocked down – I think Vince Lombardi said it – it’s how many times you get back up. When you’re struggling that’s when you really stay together.”
It sounded like he was saying the Phillies are showing those tendencies, getting down, getting depressed, giving up.
“I’m not saying that we’re quitting,” he said. “Not at all. I’m not saying that. What I’m saying is we’re in that period right now where we start doubting ourselves instead of just keep firing. You stay aggressive and keep working on trying to find a good ball to hit and not try to overdo it. Just stay within yourself and do something. Just try to score one run. Do something. Just keep going. Never get down. Play 27 outs. A lot of times when you’re young and there’s not a lot of expectation for them they’ll keep playing and you’ll say, ‘Hey, they hustle. They battle. They keep playing.’ A lot of times when you’ve got a lot of experience and things get tough you kind of get in position because of how long you’ve played and how many years you’ve been in the game that you kind of look up and see the score and you say, ‘It’s going to be hard for us to win.’ That’s kind of a negative. Say we’re talking about hitting. You don’t give no at-bats away. I’m not going 0-for-4. If I’m 0-for-2 or 0-for-3 the last time I’m up I want 1-for-4 or 1-for-3. I don’t care what the score is. You stay together and you keep fighting. And that’s what you’ve got to do. But if you don’t well that’s kind of sending a message of what kind of player that you are. That’s how I look at it. Like I said, I played for 20 years. I’ve been on a lot of teams. Your character is revealed. They say the game builds character. I don’t know about building, but it’ll definitely reveal your character. Does that makes sense? And that’s kind of what you see. You’ve got to fight to really not go there. Once that you get there you’ve got to do some real hard searching to get back to where you should be and things. That’s what I believe.”
A couple facts:
- The Phillies have been shut out six times in 43 games. They were shut out six times last season.
- They have scored two or fewer runs in 17 games. Only the Marlins (26) and Nationals (20) have had more punchless nights.
- They have allowed 10 or more runs six times to lead the Majors.
- The bullpen has allowed a mind-blowing 25 of 52 (48 percent) base runners to score, easily the worst mark in baseball.
Roy Halladay felt soreness in his right shoulder following his April 24 start in Pittsburgh, but said nothing until yesterday after he had allowed a combined 17 runs in six innings (25.50 ERA) in his last two starts.
Some people thought Halladay should have told the Phillies immediately. Charlie Manuel feels differently.
“I’ve been around the game a long time,” Manuel said before tonight’s game at AT&T Park. “I never liked to tell anyone I couldn’t play. If you asked me if I could play, I would have never told you I couldn’t. You know? I don’t want to get into that. I played with a broken arm, I played with a whole lot of things. I got hit in the face and my lip was over my eye and I missed one day. I would never tell you I couldn’t play. So, yeah, I could understand that. He felt he could go out there and still pitch. He wasn’t thinking about not pitching bad or something like that; he wanted to try. Roy is an upstanding guy, a straight guy. Hey, there should be more guys like that. You say, ‘Well he’s hurt, he’s hurt.’ But evidently he didn’t feel that way, he felt like he could play. Nowadays guys, they get out of the game real easy. That means he has some integrity, that the game means something to him, that he wanted to see if he could help us. It wasn’t like he was trying to hurt us. Knowing him like I do, he thought he could pitch.”
I understand both sides to the argument, but here’s my take: Either you want players to try to play through pain or you don’t. That’s it. There is no gray area. You can’t say, “Well, because Halladay struggled he should have told them immediately after the Pittsburgh game and been placed on the DL.”
What if Halladay thought he could pitch through it (he did) and performed well? Fans would have called him a gamer. In fact, remember Game 5 of the 2010 NLCS? Halladay strained his groin early in the game. You could tell immediately something was wrong. Should he have pulled himself from the game, even though he thought he could pitch through it? He was hurt, after all. No, Halladay stayed in the game, gutted out a win and extended the series. Fans applauded Chase Utley for playing through a hip injury in 2008. Nobody said, “Well, Chase really shouldn’t have played if he wasn’t 100 percent. He could have hurt the team.”
In both cases the players felt they could compete, so they tried to compete. Twice they succeeded. Once they failed. But you can’t pick and choose when the player pulls himself from competition. They’re not wired that way. They’ll always try first. Always.
“It’s Charlie!” a few strangers behind him shouted.
“That kind of felt good,” Manuel said with a chuckle.
Manuel, 69, remains a well-known figure in Cleveland. He managed the Indians from 2000-02, and served as their hitting coach in 1988-89 and 1994-99. He recalled his best times with the Indians before tonight’s game at Progressive Field, including trips to the World Series in 1995 and 1997. But he also talked about other things, like his desire to keep managing and how former Indians and Phillies slugger Jim Thome is doing.
Manuel’s contract with the Phillies expires after the season.
“I want to manage as long as I can,” he said. “I’ve never told nobody I was going to retire. We’ll see. … I’m not worried about nothing. I want to keep managing.”
(Manuel saying he wants to continue managing beyond this season is nothing new. He has been saying this since the Winter Meetings. But it seems every time a writer asks him and he says it, it gets turned into a headline, so I thought I’d include it here.)
Thome is hoping to continue his career, but so far he has not found a job. He called Manuel a couple weeks ago and asked if he could swing by the clubhouse in the future.
“You can come and live with me,” Manuel said he responded. “I hope he does. … He still thinks he can play. He misses the game. Baseball is his identity. That’s all he’s done for 20-some years or so. He’s kind of having a hard time adjusting.”