Charlie Manuel and Dallas Green share the honor of being the only two Phillies skippers to achieve championship glory, and did so using opposite styles ... or so we believe. [Link]
Comcast's Leslie Gudel comes through with another good interview today, just in time to flesh out a related topic I had on the backburner. The subject of that piece would have been "When did the public perception of the Phillies change from a team that needed coddling to one that functioned independently?" It seems like so long ago, but when I first started the site, the Phillies were regarded as a bunch of softies. This was, by far, the biggest complaint registered about the club. They weren't clutch, they weren't tough, and this is what was discussed every day.
Normally, the correct response to the "When did it all change" question should always be "When they started winning some damn games." Seems obvious enough, but as someone who's chronicled each and every step of this particular group, I'm uncertain. The "perception" didn't exactly change after winning the World Series; the team had already seperated themselves from the previous generation (Rolen, Lieberthal, Abreu) by clawing their way into the 2007 postseason and establishing a reputation for hard-nosed play. But even before that, the perception was slowly changing. Chase Utley foreshadowed the fearless field general he would eventually become as early as 2005, the same season Ryan Howard won rookie of the year. This was also Manuel's first season, replacing Larry Bowa and representing a change of pace from a manager considered too demanding for the modern athlete.
It's interesting, however, that the point when the Phils sold me on being different was around the time Manuel confronted Green about comments Green made on Howard Eskin's show in early 2007, which was at the center of Gudel's interview today. Coming at a time when the team had been scuffling through a rough patch of sloppy play, Green suggested that Manuel needed to do a better job of pushing his team. The next day, Manuel confronted Green in a heated pregame exchange that became public.
Looking back, I recall feeling two things: First, it was high time for Green to butt out and move on. Second, the Phils were indeed playing like crap, and I wondered if Manuel's loosey-goosey style wasn't to blame for the chronic slow starts.
Which takes us back to the Gudel interview. Not only are Manuel and Green on good terms, but Manuel actually credits Green for what he did in '07 and for showing him how to push players while earning their respect.