This is the last of a series of posts previewing the 2013 Philadelphia Phillies prior to the start of Spring Training.
Only one other manager eclipsed Mauch’s nine-year term: Hall-of-Famer Harry Wright, who managed the Phillies from 1884-1893.
Because of season length, Charlie has already managed more games than Wright in a Phillies uniform, and is just 36 games short of Mauch, who holds the Phillies record for games managed at 1,332. Manuel will surpass that this season. The question is, how much past that will he stick around?
As we’ve seen throughout recent history, Philadelphia coaches don’t typically stick around long. In the time Manuel has been the Phillies manager, the Sixers have had four coaches and the Flyers have had three. The Eagles, with Andy Reid, were by far the exception, not the rule. And as we learned with Reid, fans, and by extension ownership, has a “what have you done for me lately” mentality.
That could spell trouble for Manuel in 2013, as General Manager Ruben Amaro hasn’t exactly exceled this offseason.
That also could spell trouble for the Phillies in the long-term. The Phillies current roster grew up under Charlie Manuel. Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Carlos Ruiz and Cole Hamels all became All-Stars under Manuel’s guidance. He helped bring the first World Series Championship to Philadelphia in 28 years. The players perform for Manuel—often exceeding expectations—and Charlie knows how to manage them.
The main knock on Manuel has been that he’s sometimes too loyal, and that he’s an inferior strategist. Both arguments have merit, but keep in mind no manager is perfect. We can over-analyze Manuel’s time as Phillies manager, but the bottom line is he wins, even when his team is decimated (see 2012, a team that had no business finishing at .500).
The good news is, Charlie has surrounded himself with a solid coaching staff. Rich Dubee has become one of the premier pitching coaches in baseball. Steve Henderson is the new hitting coach, who had success in that capacity for the Rays (and given that success, will hopefully help the offense with pitch selection). Juan Samuel and Mick Billmeyer return, to coach first and the bullpen, respectively. And last year’s IronPigs manager, Ryne Sandberg, takes over as the third base coach.
Sandberg’s presence is the most threatening to Manuel—seen by many in baseball as one of the next great big league managers.
Manuel and his staff have their work cut out for them in 2013. The teams that finished north of the Phillies last year—Atlanta and Washington—have made bold moves to improve further this season. The roster is filled with unproven, but talented youth, aging former All-Stars, and three key superstars (Halladay, Utley & Howard) returning from significant injuries last season. The corner outfield is a major question mark and the bullpen is still very much up-in-the-air, though filled with potential.
Whatever the roster looks likes, Manuel and his staff will pull every last ounce of talent out of them. The problem for Charlie is if his stars aren’t healthy, there may not be enough talent available to return this team to October baseball.