First base coach Marc Bombard, third base coach Bill Dancy and bench coach Gary Varsho will not have their contracts renewed by the Phillies, according to the Phillies official Web site. Dancy, who’s been with the organization for 32 years, was offered a position within the organization.
Joining Manuel, pitching coach Rich Dubee, hitting coach Milt Thompson, bullpen coach Ramon Henderson and catching instructor Mick Billmeyer had their contracts extended for one year. Manuel is in the final year of a three-year contract.
According to Ken Mandel’s piece for MLB.com, possible replacements could include former Phillie Juan Samuel and Cubs' bench coach Dick Pole. Samuel managed the Double-A Binghamton Mets this season.
Varsho, Bombard and Dancy were all successful minor league managers within the Phils organization before taking over spots with the big club. Varsho, who joined the organization as a manager in 1999 and was twice named Best Managing Prospect in the Eastern League (AA) by Baseball America, won a share of the EL championship in 2000. Bombard joined the organization in 1997 as manager of Scranton Wilkes-Barre (AAA). Before his 2004 promotion, his 1,556-1,350 (.535) record ranked as the most wins among minor league managers. Dancy began his Phillies managerial career in 1979 and led teams to championships three times.
Today’s decision comes after Manuel met with general manager Pat Gillick in a series of end-of-season meetings. According to Mandel’s piece, when asked about the status of his field manager, Gillick reiterated Manuel contract status.
"I said he's under contract, and if he's under contract, it sounds like maybe a decision has been made," Gillick said.
It’s very difficult to speculate on the reasoning behind today’s decisions, but according to the Inquirer, today's changes should signal "an effort to improve in-game strategy and fundamentals and get the team better prepared coming out of spring training." Amen to that.
Starting with Varsho, who appeared on the fast track to a big-league skipper’s job before spending the past few seasons stuck as a bench coach, this dismissal is probably a blessing. To the team's credit, you hear so little about the inner-workings of the dugout, but to my knowledge, Varsho was in good standing.
Dancy was often criticized by readers for making poor decisions at third base, but I have doubts it factored heavily into this decision. Dancy is 55-years-old and could simply be ready to transition into an interior position with the club, instead of spending his summers out on the road with a big-league team.
Bombard had also been a very successful minor league manager and may have been ready for a change of his own. With his minor-league experience, he'll land on his feet. Both Dancy and Bombard have always struck me as temporary solutions, inserted by Ed Wade to help guide Manuel through his first year and to reward organizational loyalty.
One name worth mentioning as a potential replacment is former Phils catcher John Russell, who had a great season managing Scranton. Russell, 45, was named International League Manager of the Year and is considered a terrific up-and-coming skipper.