October 5 Philadelphia Inquirer:
“The Phillies had just clinched the National League East title and manager Charlie Manuel’s players were spraying champagne and beer around the visitors clubhouse at Nationals Park in Washington.
Alone in his office, Manuel entertained questions about his growing legacy. He had just joined Atlanta’s Bobby Cox and the New York Giants’ John McGraw as the only National League managers to take their teams to the postseason four years in a row.
“I’d like to run off 14 in a row like Bobby Cox,” Manuel said. “I got 10 more to go. Hell, I’d only be 76 years old. That would be pretty good, wouldn’t it? But right now, I’d like to win another World Series.”
To fully understand how surreal that moment was you have to flash back four years to October 2006, when Manuel was still perceived as a bumbling bumpkin and the fan base wanted him fired. The letters to The Inquirer were not flattering, especially since Jim Leyland, the man the Phillies could have hired after Larry Bowa was fired in 2004, was in the midst of taking the Detroit Tigers to the World Series.
Here’s a sampling from one letter: “Three years ago, the Phillies had a chance to get a great manager, but they went the cheap way and hired Charlie Manuel. Now the manager they would not pay the big dollars to is in the American League Championship Series, and the Phillies are watching at home. I believe a great manager is worth 10 victories a year and a bad manager is good for 10 losses a year, and that puts the Phillies out of the playoffs the last two years.”
That was the prevailing opinion at the time.
It was not Pat Gillick’s opinion.
“I didn’t see any reason to make a change,” the former Phillies general manager said. “I never thought about making a change. When I was around the players, I was convinced that he had their respect. When the players lose respect for the manager, you have a problem on your hands. It’s difficult to turn that around.”
In Gillick’s estimation, Manuel needed better players and that’s something the former general manager and current GM Ruben Amaro Jr. have given the manager during the franchise’s unprecedented run of success.
Even though the Phillies won their fourth straight division title by pulling away from the second-place Atlanta Braves, this season had its share of challenges.
There were the injuries – six of his eight position players, two of his starting pitchers, and four of his relievers spent time on the disabled list – including the prolonged absences of shortstop Jimmy Rollins and second baseman Chase Utley.
There were the offensive lapses – 75 times the Phillies scored three runs or fewer. And there was another stretch when everyone wondered if Brad Lidge was the right man to be the closer.
Manuel stood by his men, although he admittedly did not always practice the patience he has become known for. He said he had more meetings this season than ever before, although he was not exactly sure why or sometimes what he was saying.
“A lot of times I don’t even know what I’m saying, especially when I get upset,” Manuel said. “I curse a lot. I’m not afraid to call you out. I’ll tell you where it’s at. I’ve heard people call me ‘Uncle’ or say that I’m soft – I’m definitely not that.”
Asked why he thought he had more meetings this season, Manuel said he was not happy with the way the team played at different points of the season.
“There were times that I did not like how we reacted to things and our energy level,” he said.”
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