There's no question Charlie Manuel improved his tactical game over the course of his Philadelphia tenure, but did he benefit most from time on the job or the presence of bench coach Jimy Williams?
Following a disappointing end to the 2006 season, that resulted in Charlie Manuel sitting on the hot seat, GM Pat Gillick sacked half of Manuel's coaching staff, including bench coach Gary Varsho, opting for veteran replacements in Williams, Davy Lopes and what was originally to be Art Howe at third base. These were measures taken by the front office itself, and it sent a clear message: the Phillies needed to surround the tactically-challenged Manuel with some experienced baseball minds. The difference was night and day; the subtle improvements were clear even to those standing on the outside looking in. Lopes taught the players how to run and catch, while Williams instructed the pitchers on how to bunt. But the biggest transformation occurred gradually. By 2008, Manuel was committing fewer glaring tactical blunders, and on several occasions, outwitted the opposition, a concept that would have been considered laughable just a few years earlier.
After the season, Williams opted not to return, an unexpected surprise explained away with some vague reasoning. He was replaced by 57-year-old Pete Mackanin, a highly regarded ex-scout and stat cruncher for the Yankees who spent last season with the Reds. Mackanin, tasked with analyzing scouting reports and offering strategic help for Manuel, was the focus of a March 10 article in the Inquirer. "You bounce ideas off the manager and either validate what he wants to do or offer another suggestion," Mackanin said. "Numbers don't lie," Mackanin said. "If you walk a lot, that gives you an idea of what your plate discipline is. We look at a lot of stats, and it's a combination of that and instinct that you base your decisions on."
Notes: Joe Bisenius was reassigned to minor league camp. The 26-year-old reliever was a considered a rising star at one time, but he's been batting practice for well over a year. He departs with a Grapefruit League ERA over 12.