January 12 Philadelphia Daily News:
JUST A MONTH until pitchers and catchers gather once more on the emerald fields of dreams at the Carpenter Complex. It’s almost that time again, and all the items on the winter checklist have been marked off.
Well, almost all of them.
Manager Charlie Manuel is going into the final year of his contract, and that’s a mild shock. Most baseball teams don’t like to open a season with their skipper in a lame-duck situation. It’s an article of faith that it can erode his authority in the clubhouse. Not to mention that it can become a trigger for idle speculation every time the team hits a little bump in the road.
The Phillies have won four straight division titles under Manuel, gone to the World Series twice, won it all once. Even after being upset by the Giants in the National League Championship Series last October, general manager Ruben Amaro seemed to indicate that an extension was little more than a formality.
“At some point, we’ll probably address it with Charlie,” he shrugged during the postseason postmortem a couple of days after the season abruptly ended.
Except that spring training is on deck and it still hasn’t happened.
Now, this isn’t necessarily a big deal. There’s still time. The Phillies want him back. He wants to come back. It’s just a little curious that the issue has been allowed to dangle this long.
“Right now, there’s negotiations with [agent] Pat Rooney going on. Basically, what I can tell you is that I hope it gets done by the end of the month. Or into spring training or whatever,” Manuel said yesterday, sitting in his office at Citizens Bank Park while in town to speak at the Phillies‘ prospect development seminar.
“That’s about all I want to say. We’re in the process of going through a negotiation. I think everybody would like to have a contract. That’s kind of where we’re at. We did some things this winter. Signing Cliff Lee. Getting our roster ready. Those were definitely the things to do, and I think this is probably the last thing on their agenda.”
Understand this: Manuel is not politicking. He didn’t bring the subject up, but agreed to answer a few questions about his status. In the process, he conceded that managing without a commitment beyond the current season can be difficult.
“I think any manager in baseball would like to have a contract, because that definitely gives him more of a hammer. That gives him a better position,” he said. “Everything about it, the whole environment. And that goes through the organization and the team and the players and everything.
“Hopefully, we’ll get it taken care of. I hope we get it done.”
Amaro remains unfazed.
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