The Washington Nationals have been a rather significant disappointment this season. The Nationals won 100 games last season and now are struggling to get back to playing .500 baseball in the middle of August. Yet, despite their recent struggles the Nationals showed once again just how bad the Phillies are in 2013. If nothing else was learned this weekend, it was that the Phillies are just a bad team as currently constructed. Mediocre teams beat bad teams, and this weekend in the nation's capital one mediocre team swept a bad team. As a result, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel remains sitting on the doorstep of his 1,000th career victory as the team moves down to Atlanta for a three-game series that begins tonight.
We are beyond the point of wondering if the Phillies would actually bring Manuel back in 2014. There is no reason to do so. The Philadelphia Phillies should have a new manager in 2014. I saw this as one who respects Manuel and all he has done during the most successful stint in franchise history I consider myself fortunate to have watched, but for a franchise to move forward they must make the decision to not allow past success to cover-up the current state of the team. Take a cue from across the street, with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Andy Reid had coached in Philadelphia for 11 seasons, leading the franchise through the most successful stretch in franchise history during the Super Bowl era. Despite becoming the franchise's all-time leader in victories, five trips to the NFC Championship Game and a handful of NFC East Division titles, the Eagles were falling behind the competition. Something needed to change for the Birds and that meant it was time for a new leader to give the team a new pulse. Nobody knows how successful or how much of a failure Chip Kelly will be as the new Eagles head coach, but sometimes you have to enter the unknown and take a chance instead of continuing to follow the same path over and over. For the Phillies it appears to me as though it is just a matter of when Manuel is relieved of his managerial duties.
Last fall as the Eagles were floundering, there was plenty of talk about when the team should fire Reid. I was always on record of saying the team will move on from Reid but there was no sense in canning him before the end of the regular season. Why? The team was going nowhere anyway, regardless of coach, and there was nobody on the coaching staff who would have been a realistic potential coaching candidate anyway. If there is nobody on the staff worth evaluating as a head coach, why go through the trouble unless Reid had decided to clean out his office before the end of the year. Keeping Reid for the full 16-game schedule was a perfectly acceptable decision made by the Eagles, but in the case of the Phillies it may not be the same situation.
Many have thought all along the Phillies have a succession plan ready to initiate when the time comes to replace Manuel. Adding Ryne Sandberg to the coaching staff after getting his feet wet managing in the minor leagues between the Chicago Cubs farm system and with the Triple A Lehigh Valley IronPigs was thought to be the first step of the plan to have a replacement manager ready to take over at the first sign of trouble. The Phillies have not confirmed that plan of course, but it seems to make sense. Contrasting to my opinion last fall when it came to the Eagles and Reid, it makes perfect sense to see what a guy like Sandberg might be able to do with managing the team no or in September. If the decision to relieve Manuel is made in-season, it should be done with a good amount of time to properly evaluate what Sandberg does as a manager now. If Sandberg has a month to manage, then the Phillies should have a feel for what his strengths and weaknesses are at managing in the majors and that should carry weight in to a more long-term decision to stick with Sandberg in 2014 and beyond or to pursue other options.
Manuel will get his 1,000th win in a Phillies uniform, but the question is how many more will he pick up after that?