Charles in Charge

Okay, let’s talk, for a minute about Uncle Charlie.  And, yes, I went the route of a cheeky headline because, well, if anyone deserves it, it is Our Manager.

I am not in the position (at work) or mindset (on no sleep because of these stupid baseball games) to speak as eloquently or intelligently as I should about just what Charlie Manuel has done for this Phillies franchise since he’s arrived, but something makes me believe that he would rather have it this way, if it were up to him.

Charlie was chosen as the manager of this team pretty much because he was the anti-Bowa.  The Phillies made the common sporting “mistake” of choosing a coach/manager for the mere reason that he is the exact opposite of the coach/manager whom they are trying to replace.  Larry Bowa was seen as “too fiery” and “too demanding.”  Players were seemingly pressured, instead of inspired.  The atmosphere appeared tense, not intense.  In striving for success, they seemed to do so not for themselves or the fans, but to avoid the wrath of their manager.  So, the Phillies brass decided to go another direction.  They wanted a “player’s manager.”  They wanted a guy who created a relaxed atmosphere.  They just wanted to erase the Bowa Era.  Like many of the moves that Ed Wade made in his tenure as General Manager here, this move was tunnel-visioned and incredibly simplistic.  But, was accidentally ingenius.

Charlie did bring a loose atmosphere.  But, what he also brought was a demand for respect from the very beginning.  Not necessarily from the fans, certainly not from the media, and not even from the front office.  The only place he demanded respect is the only place that it matters–in the clubhouse.  He, famously, has just two rules–(1) be on time, and (2) always hustle.  Everything else is up to the players to take care of.  And, honestly, they are adults, that should be enough.  And, the key component to this method is that there is no leeway for breaking these two rules–as Jimmy Rollins found out concerning both of them.

Now, Charlie is beloved by the fans, exalted by the media, and fully entrusted by his front office.  And, the players, well, they have never changed.  They love him.  They play hard for him.  They believe in him.  And, most of all, they respect him, just as he respects them.

Charlie is a man from the rural Virginia countryside, and nothing in his speaking habits or physical mannerisms does anything to veil his roots.  He is slow-speaking and a bit bumbling, at times.  He despises public speaking, but he is a proud man, whose intelligence and wit were so often lost on the fast-paced Northeastern fanbase of Philadelphia.  But, the beauty of Charlie is that he has no shame in the way he speaks and asks only that he be judged on the decisions he makes, not on how he explains them in the postgame press conference.  The only time I have ever seen him visibly upset is when he was openly mocked by a member of the Philadelphia media not for his decision when to remove the starting pitcher, but for his apparent lack of the “correct” words to explain it.

Charlie Manuel is now the leading man for, arguably, the best team in the 130+-year history of the National League.  The Phillies have won five consecutive playoff series and done so without ever trailing, in games, going an astouding 18-5 in the playoffs.  This year, they handily defeated two teams that combined for close to 190 wins this season, and they are doing it with a patchwork bullpen.  Charlie has simply and undebatably OUTMANAGED his opposing manager is five consecutive series, including two straight NLCSs against Hall of Fame manager Joe Torre, a division series against the likely NL Manager of the Year, and a World Series against the media darling and so-called “genius” who likes to quote Nietzsche and Whitman (all the while completely botching simple baseball strategies and spinelessly and cowardly ripping his own home town).

And, now, Charlie is four wins away from standing on another parade float in front of millions of Philadelphians on Broad Street, all chanting his name.  And, it could not have happened to a more humble, more genuine, more compassionate man.  When he broke down last year in talking about his late mother, it was one of the most human moments I have ever seen in sports.  As much as I love to see Jimmy Rollins in goggles, I will tell you honestly that the one sight that makes me the most happy in seeing the Phillies win is the look on the face of Our Manager.  He is so happy, so full of life, so proud of his team.

Charlie Manuel reminds us that these sports appearing live on our big screen TVs from thousands of miles away in front of 50,000 paying customers are played and managed by real people.  Charlie Manuel is one of the greatest I have seen at unveiling the human side of these actors performing our country’s greatest dramas.  Thank you, Charlie, for your wisdom, your humility, and your simple joy in what we so often forget is just a game.  Just a game from which simply playing makes us happy–and winning makes us legendary.

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2 Responses to Charles in Charge

  1. boot says:

    Manuel has been great, and I have no quibble about your commentary on him. But the Phillies being “arguably, the best team in the 130+-year history of the National League”? Recency effect, thy name is bry!

  2. BLynch says:

    In professional sports there are few things as refreshingly human as Charlie’s attitude and candor. From his response to the Philly crowd at last year’s trophy presentation to any of the silly sideline reporter/press conference questions, he exudes sincerity and integrity.

    I’m with Boot on this one Bry. The Phillies are clearly the best team in the 130+ year history of BASEBALL, not just the NL!

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