COMMENTARY | When the Phillies dropped from 102-60 in 2011 to 81-81 in 2012, it was only natural that fans and critics alike would start to call key personnel into question. Such is often the case when expectations are not met in Philadelphia. Just ask Andy Reid.
It's fitting now that Phillies skipper Charlie Manuel is next on the hot seat; even though he did the one thing Reid was never able to do in Philadelphia: win a championship. Despite the criticism, he has his fair share of supporters in the City of Brotherly Love who affectionately refer to him simply as "Charlie."
Charles Fuqua Manuel played six seasons in the major leagues, making his debut in 1969 with the Minnesota Twins. He hit .198 for his big league career with 48 RBIs and four long-balls.
You can start to see why he went into coaching and the irony of his reputation as a "hitting guru" in Cleveland.
After playing out his professional career in the minors, Charlie started coaching in 1983 in the Midwest League with the Wisconsin Rapids Twins. In 20 seasons as a manager, he has just three losing seasons. Only one of those losing seasons was at the major league level in 2002 with the Cleveland Indians.
Charlie was named as the Phillies manager in 2005, the early stages of their resurgence as a franchise. He coached the Phils to a World Series championship in 2008 and then back to the Fall Classic in 2009 in a losing effort to the New York Yankees.
As a manager, he's as old school as they come, which is why so many question if today's game has simply passed him by. Managers in the new era are expected to micro-manage each game - especially in the National League - which has never been Charlie's strong suit.
He makes questionable pinch hitting calls, lineup changes and defensive substitutions. He relies heavily on his starting pitchers and has a lot of faith in his veterans, sometimes to a fault. While everyone is calling for him to work the lineup card like a Sunday crossword puzzle, Charlie manages with the confidence that if he puts the right players on the field, they'll be successful.
For as long as the Phillies continue to struggle, those methods will continue to be called into question. When the team had the best starting rotation in baseball in 2011, Charlie's managerial methods led to 102 wins. But with injuries to key players in 2012, his lack of strategy hurt the team on a number of occasions.
Ruben Amaro Jr. called the upcoming season a "transition year" which is a four-letter word to fans who hope 2012 was just a fluke and the Phillies will be back atop the NL East in 2013. The team will have an influx of young talent they hope will blossom into stars and take over for the current core of Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley after they move on.
We'll have to wait and see if that works out, but the transition won't focus solely on the field. 2013 will also be a year where the Phillies will determine if Charlie's style fits with their future roster. As much as some fans love him for that "aw shucks" personality he brings to a press conference, and as successful as he has been over the last eight seasons, there comes a time for everyone to move on. This may be that time for Charlie.
Ryne Sandberg was promoted to third base coach and infield instructor for the 2013 season. The Hall of Fame second baseman and former Phillies draft pick is widely expected to be Manuel's successor after spending the last two seasons managing the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, the Phillies Triple-A affiliate.
Sandberg exhibits that "new era" style of management that is growing in popularity throughout the league, and may be better suited than Charlie to manage a team of younger, developing players. If 2013 ends up a lot like 2012, even with their stars back and healthy, the Phillies could make a change.
Depending on how the team responds to the injection of youth in the lineup, that change could come sooner rather than later.
Scott Lentz is an award-winning screenwriter and filmmaker from Philadelphia and has followed the Phillies since Darren "Dutch" Daulton and the '93 World Series team. He is a freelance writer for Yahoo! Sports and TheGamingAdvisory.com. For questions and comments, follow Scott on Twitter: @scottlentz27.
All stats and figures courtesy of baseball-reference.com.
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