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Big League Stew

Phillies fire manager Charlie Manuel, name Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg as his replacement

Mike Oz
Big League Stew

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Charlie Manuel won his 1,000th career game as a manager on Monday. If he's going to get win No. 1,001, it won't be in the Philadelphia Phillies dugout.

The Phillies announced on Friday they've fired Manuel and replaced him with Hall of Fame second baseman Ryne Sandberg on an interim basis. Manuel is the first manager fired in MLB this season.

General manager Ruben Amaro cried at one point during Friday's press conference and called Manuel "a very important part of the Phillies history and our success here." But Amaro said he recently told Manuel that the Phillies would not be renewing his contract for 2014 and, at that point, the two men agreed it would be better to start the transition now. The Phillies losing 19 or their last 23 games probably didn't help.

"It was an understanding," Manuel said. "I wanted to put the Philadelphia Phillies above myself."

Said Amaro: "Making this change is not easy for me — not easy of me personally or for the organization."

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Manuel, 69, didn't figure to be long for Philly given his age, that he's in the last year of his contract and that the Phillies have been a disappointment this season. They're now 53-67 and in fourth place in the NL East after their recent downturn, behind even the New York Mets.

"A new face, a new look, a new voice might help us," Manuel said during Friday's press conference.

Manuel was the longest-tenured manager in the National League with 780 wins with the Phillies in nine seasons. He won a World Series in 2008 and the NL pennant in 2009. Under Manuel, the Phillies were first place in the NL East five times, from 2007-2011. Last season, the Phillies — getting older and injured — finished third in the division.

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Picking Sandberg, the former Chicago Cubs great, to attempt to stop the bleeding wasn't a surprise. He'd been in line for the job, though most thought Manuel would finish the season and Sandberg would takeover in the offseason.

Sandberg, 53, started his coaching career with the Cubs and, at one point, it looked as if he'd be their manager of the future. When Lou Piniella retired in 2010, however, Sandberg didn't get the job and shortly after left the Cubs for the Phillies, the team that drafted him in 1978.

Sandberg managed the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs before being promoted to Phillies third-base coach after last season. With Sandberg now the main man, Juan Samuel will coach third for the Phillies and Wally Joyner will take over at first base.

"He's got the qualities that I think are necessary to be a quality major league manager," Amaro said of Sandberg. "But time will tell how he handles the situation."

Amaro says the Phillies want Manuel to stay with the organization in some role, but Manuel says he hasn't decided yet what he'll do. He thinks he can still manage for a couple more years.

"What I need to do," Manuel said. "I need to get some time off and sit down and think."

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