Sunday, August 18, 2013

Cholly's Gone

Thank you, Charlie Manuel, for that authentic frontier gibberish

Cholly's gone.

Uncle Charlie Manuel, the marble-mouthed hitting maven who led the Phillies to the best run of sustained success in their history, is out, and designated successor Ryne Sandberg is in. Sandberg's got the "interim" tag on him, but nobody this side of the ghost of Danny Ozark thinks that anyone else is going to be in the dugout next year. Sandberg's been the guy-in-waiting for too long, and Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has this habit of locking in long-term to His Guy. (see also: Ryan Howard contract)

It's an unceremonious end for Manuel. The guy who managed the Phillies to five straight post-season appearances, he was let go - his words about the exact nature of his departure were a little cryptic, even for him - with about forty games left in a lost season. RAJ and a couple of diehards had dreamed on this one all year long - dreamed that Halladay and Hamels and Lee could carry a team that was also relying on John Lannan, dreamed that Ryan Howard would get back to 2007-era Ryan Howard, dreamed that Chooch Ruiz could repeat his magical season and Michael Young still had something in the tank and Mike Adams wasn't a dead arm walking in the 8th. And like so many dreams, those all came crashing down. They out-won their stats to a .500 mark at the All-Star break, but really, all that did was provide a sliver of false hope. 

Regardless of Amaro's expectations, a combination of Casey Stengel, Leo Durocher and Gary Coleman in The Kid From Left Field couldn't have pulled them into the first division. To expect Cholly to have done so was to expect the impossible, and blaming him for the fact that the wheels finally came off this Phillies team - one without Howard, with a suddenly powerless Jimmy Rollins, without Halladay or Adams or any production from half the spots in the lineup - is just RAJ shooting his buddy in the knee so the zombies are temporarily distracted from their pursuit. 5-19 out of the blocks after the ASG wasn't getting it done. Of course, the Phillies are 0-2 since Charlie got sacked, but hey, they had to do something.

Sure, Manuel had flaws as a manager. His use of his bullpen was clearly based on tea leaves. The responsibility for jerking Dominic Brown around for years is partially his. His lineup construction was often...unusual. But he got the Phillies that ring in 2008 and a return trip in 2009. And if Cody Ross hadn't had one of his patented freak-out weeks that every fantasy baseball player knows and loathes, and if the Cardinals hadn't gotten a rain delay that let them throw Chris Carpenter one more time, then 2010 and 2011might have ended up with hardware as well. 

If you're a Phillies fan, you can't be upset with that run. Dynasties end. Teams age. And the manager is often the one who pays the price for being unable to squeeze vampire snacks out of a stone. You can blame Charlie for going to Chad Qualls too often, but Charlie's not the one who spent $50M on Jonathan Papelbon or gave that extension to Howard or, well, yeah. 

So goodbye, Charlie, and thanks for the memories. It would have been nice if you'd gotten the chance to walk away on your own terms, but only the LaRussas of the world get that kind of particular luck. Godspeed, and here's hoping you find your way to another dugout, soon.
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