COMMENTARY | It was a day you knew was coming, yet that doesn't make it any easier.
Charlie Manuel has been fired as the manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, a move that appears to have been delayed long enough to allow him to win his 1,000th career game as a major-league field boss. But this moment in Phillies history was not an "if" thing. It was a "when" thing. It was as inevitable as inevitable gets.
There will be members of the Phillies faithful who will not understand why Charlie wasn't simply permitted to finish this moribund season, thereby allowing him to exit with a semblance of dignity. Had his team not played so pathetically since the All-Star break, it may have panned out exactly that way.
But when a team goes 5-19 and plays like 25 guys who are double-parked and can't wait for games to end, it becomes obligatory for upper-management to react. That's just baseball. Teams have to show fans they actually give a damn about the product before them. Firing managers is the accepted method for doing that. There wasn't much choice.
Now Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg takes over. Since the Phillies made him third base coach before spring training, everybody with a semblance of realism knew he would take over at some point. Manuel was in the final year of his contract. He'll be 70 years old in January. It would have taken at least a National League pennant to consider bringing him back, and maybe that wouldn't have done it. Had Sandberg not been manager of the Phillies in 2014, he would have likely been managing some other major-league team. Given Sandberg's excellent minor-league track record, the Phillies couldn't allow that to happen.
While it may seem callous to unceremoniously dismiss a man who had led this team to five straight division titles, back-to-back pennants and the second world championship in franchise history, it does go with the territory for managers. With the exception of John McGraw, Connie Mack, and I'm sure one or two others from a bygone era, all managers get fired sooner or later. Seasons like the one through which the Phillies are currently suffering happen to every franchise. Scapegoats are needed. Those scapegoats aren't found playing very often.
Charlie Manuel knows this as well as any baseball man. He went through it after flourishing in Cleveland for a while, only to flourish for a longer while when he got the chance in Philadelphia. From here, he may get a job in the Phillies' front office. He may surface elsewhere as a hitting coach, as he's considered one of the best in that genre. It's hard to imagine Manuel being done with the game, or the game being done with him.
So now it's time for bouquets for a job well done. Charlie has had his critics. You can't be on an athletic stage in Philadelphia without critics. But Philadelphia never forgets sports figures who gave it their best. Manuel took this franchise to heights seldom seen in its long history. He'll be a hero in Philly. He'll be on Citizens Bank Park's Wall of Fame before too long. Maybe a statue of him somewhere around the ballpark is in order as well. Maybe a spot in baseball's Hall of Fame is in order.
But sooner or later, it was going to be time for the Phillies to move on. Today was that day.
We suspected it would be a sad Phillies moment regardless of how it occurred. And we were right.
Ted Williams lives in Emmaus, PA and is a lifetime Phillies follower. He spent 20 years in print journalism, winning state and national awards. He covered the 1980 World Series, the first championship in Phillies history.
- Sports & Recreation
- Philadelphia Phillies
- Charlie Manuel