The cliche is that it's rare to see a head coach or manager last as long as Andy Reid did with the Eagles. Interestingly, the end of Reid's tenure in Philadelphia ends just as Charlie Manuel enters the final year of his contract with the Phillies.
Reid, of course, lasted 14 seasons with the Eagles and won a franchise-best 130 games. Meanwhile, Manuel is headed into his ninth season with the Phillies and already has the franchise record with 727 victories. In the modern era, only Gene Mauch managed the Phillies for nine seasons and Hall-of-Famer Harry Wright lasted a record 10 seasons before the turn of the century. By early May, Manuel will have managed the Phillies for more games than anyone in history.
So with the end of the year and Reid's demise providing the impetus for reflection, are we headed into Manuel's final season as the manager of the Phillies? And if so, is Big Chuck the greatest manager in Phillies' history?
Certainly one can make a strong arguement in Manuel's favor. After all, only one other skipper, Dallas Green, won a World Series with the Phillies and no manager has ever put together a string of winning or playoff-bound seasons like Manuel. Perhaps if the 2010 and 2011 seasons ended differently, Manuel could be polishing up his resume for Cooperstown.
Regardless, the most important part of Manuel's (and Reid's) legacy in Philadelphia is he changed the way every one thought about the Phillies. Simply getting to the playoffs is not good enough anymore and that all changed when Manuel first got the Phillies there in 2007 and then won it all in 2008.
As general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said when announcing the manager's contract extension in 2011, Manuel "changed the culture."
It could be that Manuel, the old throwback from Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, found his success because he is very much a progressive, modern manager. No, he's not pouring over statistical analysis and is far from interested in the popular advanced metrics. However, his players are relaxed and the atmosphere around the team is such that all the ballplayers have to do is worry about the game. Part of how this is fostered is that Manuel takes the slings and arrows. He puts himself out in front so that all his players have to do is show up for work without a sideshow-type distraction.
“When Charlie first got hired, we had to change the attitude and the mind set,” Amaro said. “That’s not just with the players, but with regard to everybody. That includes the clubhouse people and the people on the training staff — it was across the board. Instead of the glass being half-empty some of the time, we’ve gotten to the point where it’s half full. Charlie deserves the credit for that in the clubhouse.”
In this age of baseball, this method is pretty important.
“Over the course of my baseball career those are things I’ve learned,” Manauel said. “Being consistent … I’m me. That’s who I am. I’m comfortable with who I am and I pull for everybody. Even [with the media], hey look, I pull for you. That’s just how I am. That’s communication and delegating and sometimes leadership goes unnoticed because guys are allowed to do their thing. That’s the quality I bring. I have a lot of passion and love for the game and the Phillies have been a great fit for me.”
Anyway, with Reid out one can only guess that Manuel, who will be 69 at the end of the season, is close to the end of his run with the Phillies ... but is he finished with managing? When he signed the extension in 2011, Manuel didn't act like he was working on his final contract.
"More than likely I'll probably stay around as long as they'll have me," Manuel said. "I don't think I'm going to catch [Penn State football coach Joe] Paterno. I'd like to, but he's got a head start on me. But at the same time, I think I made it pretty clear to Ruben, I'm not planning on getting out in the near future."
The future is now for Manuel and the Phillies.