Charlie Manuel has had an interesting baseball life. After a sub-par career in the big leagues, he headed to Japan, where he was dubbed the “Red Devil” by fans for his tenacious play (at one point returning to play against doctor’s order after having his jaw smashed into six pieces by a beanball) and becoming the first American to win the MVP of Japan’s Pacific League. He also, legend says, once joined forces with fellow American exiles Clyde Wright and Roger Repoz in fighting the East German National Hockey Team in a Tokyo nightclub.
After retiring, Manuel’s second life began, as a scout and then as a manager. And what a career it ended up being: he made the playoffs once with the Indians before being let go after a contract dispute, and then later began the tenure that this post is about: the Phillies job. In this final year, where the Phillies have flailed and flopped and ultimately cost Manuel his job, some may have forgotten just how good the Manuel Phillies have been. Before this year, they had finished at or above .500 every single year. They won five straight NL East titles, and won one World Series and may well have won another if it weren’t for Alex Rodriguez‘s alleged artificial help (yeah, I said it). While, as SBNation’s Steven Goldman said, Manuel was hardly the second coming of John McGraw, the success must have had at least something to do with him. And, while the fall of the Phillies (the Phillies’ Phailure?) also has something to do with him, it’s not his fault. No, the end of the Phillies run can be traced primarily to Ruben Amaro, the General Manager of Philadelphia.
Amaro gave a gargantuan extension to Ryan Howard in 2010, an extension that has come back to bite the Phillies as Howard’s injuries have increased and his power numbers have gone down. Nobody is willing to trade for him, and as a result, Howard and his 125 million dollar salary will be with the Phillies until 2016. The rest of the team, while not suffering the wear-and-tear of age and injury to the extent as Howard has, still isn’t getting any younger. And bad drafts and once-acclaimed trades have left the cupboard bare for the Phillies as far as the minor leagues are concerned. And, what’s more, Amaro has refused to deal some of the best trading chips he had: he could have traded Cliff Lee for several good prospects this summer, for example, but didn’t.
Charlie Manuel may one day find another job… but the Phillies could be in the wilderness for several years in the future. Good luck, Ryne Sandberg.