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Thursday, August 18, 2005

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Jason: I take CM to task today for some of his moves last night. I also think he used his entire roster better in the first half of the season than he does now. Check it out.

A note on last night: I wouldn't have lifted Lieber to pinch hit with two outs. The last time this situation happened, he allowed the pitcher to bat.

But here we are, once again, second guessing Manuel on a move that actually worked out. That happens a lot. I guess we'll find out if the bullpen has enough juice left for the double header today.

Forget the 70 pitches with Lieber. The moment he gets tired, he drops his arm and it's all over. Maybe taking him out early was a good thing.

But getting back to my post, are we still not giving him any credit?

You mean you want us to stay on point Jason? Tall order. Seriously though, being a manager is like being president. Usually a lot of good is done behind the scenes, but all eyes are on you and we only remember the bad stuff. I tend to agree, he has done a good job overall. I'd give him a "B", but yet if you search my archives, I bet you'll find more negative stuff than positive. Humans are jerks, plain and simple.

By the way, in terms of pinch hitting for Lieber, Bill has a good comment at Phillies Foul Balls: Maybe Lieber is now an option to start over the weekend.

Boy .. I hadn't thought of that. Good point.

Does anyone know how badly I want to be at the ballpark, eating a Schmitter, watching Vinny Pads pitch this afternoon? How bout that fastball lately?

George S. sent me the following Word Doc regarding Jason's post on Charlie Manuel and said it was too long for him to copy and paste so I am posting it here for all to read: (By the way, George was watching the Phillies day game when he emailed it to me. It was only 1AM in Vietnam)

CHARLIE

You are correct in saying that the local media (and others) often mistake sophistication for intelligence, style for substance. It’s a national media trait in fact.

What’s my take on CM?

Let’s forget tactical performance. As any manager will tell you, when your switch works you look like a genius, when it doesn’t you look like an idiot. Monday-morning quarterbacking by fans and media goes with the territory, especially when a hunch doesn’t pan out. Someone once said that a wife spends 90% of her time focused on the 10% of your habits that are bad, and 10% of her time praising the 90% that are good. So it is with baseball managers and their critics.

Now for CM’s positives:

1) I cannot overemphasize how important this is, but CM (and Ed Wade) have managed to keep the players, fans and media focused on what’s happening on the playing field, and not in the clubhouse. If you can do that in this town, you are doing something. And that has the Phillies mentally well-positioned for a final push.
2) As of this writing, the Phillies are tied for the WC, and I think they still have a shot at Atlanta. Results matter, and the Phillies are playing competitive, winning baseball. As the team goes, the manager goes.
3) Generally, CM handled the Jim Thome situation very well. It had to be very tough for him as well as Thome, given their personal friendship.
4) Although I think he was partially responsible for creating the problem in the first place, he managed the Polanco/Utley situation fairly well.
5) Charley Manuel keeps things in perspective, the wins and the losses. He’s smart enough to understand that even the best teams lose 60-70 games a year, so manage with that in mind. I’m calling it a positive, as long as that view doesn’t allow you to forget the importance of the game at hand.

CM’s negatives:

1) He tends to stay with veterans too long when they are not performing. While veterans do deserve respect, there is a point where the welfare of the team dictates changes, even if temporary. I thought CM was slow to take action in those cases. You can debate whether they directly cost the team any wins, but I think the handwriting was on the wall for some time for Adams, Offerman, Worrell and Jim Thome before anything happened to deal with those situations. The corrollary to that is that I don’t think he gives the younger players much chance to play unless forced.
2) I feel he basically sacrificed games to allow players to work out their problems. This is my single biggest criticism of Charley Manuel. It was clear early on that the NL East was going to be a dogfight, where the difference between 1st and last was 1-2 games, where every team in the division was above .500. In that case, you cannot afford to throw away any games at all. So, for example, in the case of Padilla, I don’t think he or Dubee brought Padilla around by keeping him in the rotation (at the cost of 4-5 losses). Padilla didn’t need to work himself into shape. I think you could mark the Padilla turnaround the day the Phillies said (pretty much in public) “This is it. We want a solid outing this time out or you’re done”. Amazingly, Vicente focused and has remained so since. That could have and should have been done sooner.
3) The Worrell situation should never have happened as it did. Both Wade and CM should have been aware sooner, and addressed the issue long before Worrell’s performance completely disintegrated. This was surprising given the generally high marks CM gets for communicating with his players. Lidle was a similar case on a much smaller scale, and I think how that was handled showed that CM learned from the Worrell affair.

Other factors to consider when evaluating CM, neither positive nor negative:

1) CM did not come in as manager from another organization. He was with the Phillies all of last year. So he should have had a solid idea about the roles and abilities of the players he was getting right from spring training. Plus, the Phillies did not undergo any significant roster changes over the winter. So I do not think he should get undue credit for defining roles a quarter of the way through the year.
2) For every Robinson Tejeda, there’s a Gavin Floyd. The handling of both should be considered, not one or the other.
3) The Phillies have a talented team. On paper many consider them to have the best everyday lineup in the NL East. CM did not turn a bad team into a good team, and perhaps more importantly, he hasn’t let a good team turn into a bad one.
4) CM has had 100% support from Wade and Montgomery, even when Wade’s head was rumored to be on the chopping block. So although I think he had the authority all along, this reinforced it in the clubhouse if/when changes needed to be made. That makes your job easier.
5) Although both Thome and Wolf are key players to lose, overall the Phillies have not been hurt by injuries as much as they were the past few years. It’s basically a non-issue. Last season saw Wagner, Burrell and several starters go down for extended periods.

My personal take on CM is that he (and his coaching staff) has evolved over the season. Far from being old-fashioned, stubborn or set in his ways, as he may want people to think, CM has adjusted his approach and has made many of the changes that others have suggested if he felt they were valid. After all, some of the criticisms were valid.
CM seems smart enough to realize some of that and flexible enough to make those adjustments, being careful to disguise the changes so they did not look as if they had been made under pressure from fans and media. The mid-August CM is not the May 1 CM by any stretch. He adjusted to the NL, and he adjusted his strategy to his players, not demand that they adjust to him.
I think you can see the changes in approach with the early-season Floyd experiment and the current Tejeda one. I think he learned from what happened with Floyd. Perhaps Lidle’s personal problem was picked up earlier based on what was learned from the Worrell situation (obviously guessing there). I don’t have the data, but it seems that even things like the one-batter situational pitching changes have been fewer, as he realizes what that does to your bench in the NL, and perhaps realizes that his pitchers are not well-suited to such a strategy, no matter how much he might believe in it.
If I’m right in that, then CM deserves high marks indeed. And any success the Phillies might enjoy from here on out would not be a testament so much to a single management philosophy or blueprint, as much as the willingness (and controlled ego) to learn and change as you feel necessary. This is understanding that you don’t already have all the answers and that if someone suggests a better way, it’s not a threat or a sign of weakness to adopt it. You don’t see that very often in veteran managers.

I’d give Charley a B- right now, trending a bit upward.

Great articles there. I was delighted to see the Phillies catch the wildcard. Let's hope they get both of the games today; they'll need it with Clemens on the mound in Houston.

Also, weirdoes from West Virginia who have poor taste in music have been great for the Phillies in the past. Just look at John Kruk.

You did it again, George. Best point I didn't touch on was your first positive:

"1) I cannot overemphasize how important this is, but CM (and Ed Wade) have managed to keep the players, fans and media focused on what’s happening on the playing field, and not in the clubhouse."

CM hasn't been spotless, and the early problems in the bullpen shouldn't have happened as long as they did. I had more patience with Worrell than the average fan, simply because he was a darn good setup man heading into the season. But forcing a fat, ineffective Adams into games was horrendous. He should have been given a chance, maybe two - that's it. You let those guys go, and don't turn them into projects.

Manuel has learned from the mistakes of April-May, and has figured out a way to make it work.

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