'Swing batter' is a two-word chant that is often heard at Little League games. As all baseball fans know, sometimes it's better to not swing based upon the game situation. And situational baseball is exactly what Philadelphia Phillies manager Charlie Manuel needs every player in his lineup to focus upon this season.
But, has he been given the right type of tools to fix the run gap that exists within his roster?
The boo-birds began to squawk after Manuel was initially chosen to fill Larry Bowa's cleats. Jim Leyland, the people's pick, was later hired by the Detroit Tigers instead.
Rubbed the wrong way by the tone, sound and pattern of his voice, emotional intellects instantly recognized that 'Cholly' lived deeply beneath their highly cultured lives. Subsequent in-game moves, that were connected to the double-switch and pointing to his wrong arm when signaling for a reliever, proved to be intolerable mistakes that could never be digested.
The intentionally exaggerated tone of those last two sentences was generated to sound exactly like all of Manuel detractors.
After tailgating the New York Mets in 2007, like a newly licensed teenager driving behind a senior citizen on a one-lane street, the Phillies clinched the National League's Eastern Division on a wonderful September thirtieth afternoon. That undeniable truth forced a narrative lane change.
The Phillies manager could no longer be honestly portrayed as a buffoon, lest the downward thoughts of all assailants be revealed as shallow, so the focus shifted to a worshiping of the team's talent. Yes, it was solely the athletic ability of those red pinstriped men that had broken the 14-year playoff drought.
From sky to ground
With building momentum, the 2008 Phillies defeated the Tampa Bay Rays to win the World Series. The end of that thrilling October run saw Brad Lidge evoke Tug McGraw's magnificent spirit and channel his last-pitch passion by dropping to the ground, instead of jumping toward the sky.
Manuel was in the dugout during those well-pitched, finely fielded, clutch-hitting days. Fully a part of all that occurred and deserving of every ounce of credit that he received.
His greatest managerial strength has always been motivation, a skill set that he fully retains to this day.
No lifetime assignment
As of 2012, the talent in Manuel's starting pitching staff has risen astronomically since that retreating championship season. If the offense would have simply remained the same, an additional victory parade might have been held during the past three years.
The digital facts show that the Phillies offense has been in serious decline since the 2009 season. That has happened because of player changes, injuries, the natural aging process and a variety of other factors.
A combination of connected factors have created this OPS (on base plus slugging percentage) challenged group. There are also new concerns that the team's defense might take a hit this season because of various platoon necessities.
Manuel can only request that his veteran contingent fully use their physical talents to try and break this ongoing pattern of offensive angst. Like any manager, he will continue to work with the tools that he has been given to try and build a seasonal ladder that leads to postseason possibilities.
No, this Phillies manager doesn't deserve a job for life. But, he has earned a continuing shot to see if he can fix the problems that this team has.
Sean O'Brien's professional writing career began in 1990, when he first began working in the Philadelphia Phillies farm system. He was a freelance sports writer for five years and is currently a Featured Contributor for Yahoo! Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
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