Charlie Manuel is out as Phillies manager after nearly nine years at the helm and will be replaced on an interim basis by third base coach and long-rumored successor Ryne Sandberg. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. became emotional while making the announcement at a press conference at Citizens Bank Park Tuesday afternoon.
Amaro and Manuel said they had frequent discussions about the future of the organization during the just-completed road trip (on which the team went 1-5), during which Manuel was informed that his contract would not be renewed at the end of the season. Further discussions led to the decision for Manuel to be replaced now, rather than at the end of the season. Manuel was clear to point out that he did not resign, but appears to have reluctantly accepted the decision. During Tuesday's press conference he seemed relatively upbeat and spoke very graciously about his time in Philadelphia. Amaro said that he would very much like Manuel to remain in the organization in a different role, but Manuel said that he is going to take some time to evaluate his next move, adding "I think I can manage for a couple more years, maybe two or three years," before acknowledging that his doing so would require finding a team willing to hire him.
Manuel, who will turn 70 in January, was the second-oldest manager in baseball and just a year younger than the Nationals' Davey Johnson, who will retire at the end of this season. That distinction now belongs to the Tigers' Jim Leyland, who will turn 69 in December. Manuel was also the longest-tenured manager in the National League and the third longest-tenured in all of baseball behind the Angels' Mike Scioscia and Twins' Ron Gardenhire. With the Phillies clearly in a period of transition, the time was indeed right for the Phillies to make a change. They will now get six weeks in which to evaluate Sandberg before having to decide whether or not to retain him on a permanent basis for the 2014 season. Sandberg, a Hall of Fame second baseman, will turn 54 in September and will be making his major league managing debut Friday night against the scalding-hot Dodgers.
As for Maunuel, he leaves Philadelphia with his legacy firmly intact. The raw facts are undeniable. He managed more games than any other man in the Phillies' 131-year history (1,416), was the winningest manager in franchise history (780 wins, not counting 27 postseason victories), managed the 2008 squad to one of just two World Series titles in team history, brought the Phils back to the World Series in 2009, won five consecutive NL East titles from 2007 to 2011 and departs with a .551 winning percentage, which translates to an 89-win pace over 162 games.
Prior to his success with the Phillies, Manuel managed two and a half seasons in Cleveland, leading the Indians to two 90-win seasons and an American League Central title in 2001. As recently as 2011, Manuel had never managed a team to a finish lower than second place in nine full seasons as a major league manager, a streak that was broken only by the Phillies' recent age- and injury-based decline. Manuel had previously been the Indians' hitting coach during their post-strike renaissance, overseeing some of the most potent offenses of that offense-friendly period.
A big, slow-footed slugger as a player (he won the Japanese Pacific League's Most Valuable Player award in 1979 for a season in which he hit .324 with 37 home runs and 94 RBIs), Manuel was known as a player's manager, earning praise from the sabermetric community for avoiding the sort of small-ball tactics and overmanagement that, over the course of a season, can do more harm than good. Manuel typically let his players play. It certainly helped that he had the quality of players that he did in both Cleveland and Philadelphia, but his approach was perfect for both teams, and the results reflect that.
Even with big names like Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Jonathan Papelbon under team control for next year, it's hard to see the Phillies being a playoff team in 2014. Their 53-67 record this year on the heels of a .500 finish in 2013 certainly suggests they should be in a rebuilding mode, and Manuel's dismissal may be a long-awaited sign that the front office is starting to feel the same way. JAFFE: Halladay makes rehab start but future very uncertain