I wanted to wait and see how I felt about everything after the weekend before really diving in to the news of the Philadelphia Phillies firing Charlie Manuel and naming Ryne Sandberg as the interim manager Friday afternoon. In brief, it had to be done but not quite in this fashion. Overall, I am OK with what transpired.
Removing Charlie Manuel as manager now was the right decision to make, but how it was executed could have been altered without deviating form the overall goal. I have been firm on the idea that removing Manuel during the season was a perfectly acceptable decision if it means giving Sandberg some time to fairly be evaluated as a major league manager before taking a potential plunge with him in charge in 2014 and beyond. For an organization largely criticizes recently for not being forward-thinking enough, this was the right move to be made. I would much rather the Phillies come to a decision, for better or worse, regarding Sandberg as a potential manager now as opposed to the start or middle of the 2014 season. How much can truly be evaluated now given the talent available for Sandberg to manage the final month and a half is a concern, but if Sandberg completely implodes between now and the end of the season it would be better to know now as opposed to next year when you hope the Phillies start to get back on track.
Sandberg's goal is not to deliver a miraculous 12-game winning streak to get the Phillies back in the wild card hunt (but I'd be OK if he did). His job now is to prove he can manager a club and get the most out of the younger players on the field, on the mound and in the batter's box.
But back to the timing of it all. Manuel was to be honored by the fans for winning his 1,000th game earlier in the week. Although it would have been a minor ceremony to honor the manager, it would have been nice to give Manuel one last show of respect by the franchise and the fans. you can argue Manuel deserved to ride out the rest of the season, but he absolutely without question deserved to be honored one last time in front of the home fans by the organization that achieved one of the most successful stints in franchise history under his watch. To make the decision public after Manuel knowingly managed a couple of games knowing the fate on the road just hours before the first home game and planned ceremony was despicable.
Could the Phillies have not made the managerial change today, after the weekend series against the Dodgers? I cannot come up with an explanation that suggests making the move Friday afternoon was better than making it today.
Finishing The season Out Was The Wrong Move
I am genuinely surprised how many people are upset the Phillies did not allow Manuel to manage the remainder of the season. I agree he was deserving of a more fitting end, but this is a franchise in need of better long-term vision. As I explained above, giving Sandberg the chance to manage now helps the franchise move forward and maybe even put a plan in motion for the 2014 season.
Manuel won a World Series but as we all know the team was regressing and everything demonstrates that. In all honesty, what is the benefit to having Manuel finish out this season when you have an opportunity to throw his probably successor in the role and see what he can do? The Phillies may be going nowhere regardless of who is managing, but it makes no sense to keep Manuel on board if the goal is to turn the page to 2014 now while you can.
Let's Give Ruben a Chance
We all have been critical of Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro, and for good reason. A lack of long term stability has been lacking since Amaro took over the role of GM. While I believe he has made his best efforts to capitalize on the most successful era in Phillies baseball history since the road to the 1980 World Series, the negatives through the benefit of hindsight far outweigh the positives. Amaro has many calling for his job, and I honestly cannot come up with a strong argument to keep him around. If the Phillies made a decision at the end of the year to go with a new GM, I would not be upset about the move one bit.
That said, I believe in allowing a GM to see what he can do with the manager of his choice. Technically Manuel was Amaro's first manager of choice, because he has had plenty of opportunities to choose a new manager since 2009. In Amaro's defense, replacing a manager who had won a World Series in 2008 and took them back to the World Series in 2009 and led the team to a 100-win season early in the GM's tenure would have been extremely tough to do under any circumstance. During the Friday press conference, Amaro quickly broke down in emotion before letting Manuel speak with the media. While many felt it was phony, I'll play the role of sucker and take it as a genuine sense of emotion for Amaro, a man I think was succumbing to some of the pressure placed on him after making one of the biggest decisions in his tenure and one that he probably knew would come off looking bad.
Now the pressure is really on for Amaro, who must first make a decision on Sandberg or to bring in a more suitable candidate to lead the Phillies in 2014. No doubt this will be a huge decision for Amaro and the Phillies. I am willing to give Amaro the chance to do something with the first real manager of his choice. There is still work to do with the roster, but it all begins with what to do with the manager.
I have been critical of Amaro. I have doubts about him being the guy to make the decisions regarding the future of this franchise. that said, I am willing to see what his first search for a manager yields. Instead of jumping on the bandwagon to send Amaro out of town, let's instead give him one last chance to make something work. I believe he has good intentions, but I wonder if he is in over his head.
Prove everyone wrong Ruben.