Phillies manager Charlie Manuel does it his way
AP Sports Writer
CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) – Wherever he goes, Charlie Manuel leaves a trail of laughter.
The Philadelphia Phillies manager can lift anyone’s spirits with a simple greeting. Whether he’s chatting with reporters, talking to players or sitting in a meeting with coaches, the folksy skipper almost always has something funny to say.
After the Phillies held their first full-squad workout of spring training, Manuel was asked about the speech he gave to his team.
This time, the message was simple.
“Win. That’s what we’re here for,” Manuel told his players.
The Phillies fell two wins short of repeating as World Series champions last year. They’re trying to become the first NL team to win three straight pennants in 66 years.
Surely, Manuel had more to say than just, “win.” Or, did he save his best stuff for opening day?
“I don’t got no A-material,” said Manuel, entering his sixth season as Phillies manager. “I had a little pad and, hell, I never even looked at it. Whatever comes into my mind, I let it out. My talks are always different because different stuff comes out. One day it’s lingo, one day it’s hillbilly, one day it’s Northern Virginia. Some of it might be in Japanese. I just let it come out. Whatever you get on that day. Are my speeches inconsistent? Without a doubt.”
A few minutes later, Manuel zoned out while pitching coach Rich Dubee answered some questions. Then, with Dubee still talking, Manuel interrupted to chat with a reporter.
That’s typical Charlie. If something comes to mind, he says it. Doesn’t matter what else is going on around him.
“I think one of the enjoyments of life is being a people person just because I can go somewhere and sit and talk to somebody,” Manuel said. “Where I come from, I could go and sit on the fountain, that’s where people drink a lot of wine and stuff. I could sit there and talk to them, too. Seriously. I mean that. I tell people all the time, people I’m around and people I like, I pull for you. That don’t mean you’re soft or mean or happy.
“I’d like our players to feel the same way, then I could get the most out of them. If you work for me and I make you happy or I try to make you happy and I pay you good and take care of you, I think that you’ll work better for me. If I can treat you as good as I possibly can, you’ll work harder for me and you’ll play harder for me. If you’re honest and consistent, you need those kind of people around you, too.”
Manuel is very popular in the clubhouse. Veteran players love playing for him and he makes young guys feel comfortable right from the start.
“He’s making me feel like I’m at home,” said outfielder Domonic Brown, a top prospect in his first major league camp. “He’s a player’s coach. In batting practice, he’s talking to you, helping you out. He’s one of those guys you want to play for.”
Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt, a member of Philadelphia’s 1980 championship team, said Manuel is the “perfect manager” for these Phillies.
“He knows how to let them play. He knows how to crack the whip when he has to,” said Schmidt, in camp as a guest instructor. “He’s more like a father to them. It’s important in today’s game to have the personality he has.”
Manuel was far from the people’s choice when former general manager Ed Wade hired him to replace Larry Bowa after the 2005 season. Most fans wanted Jim Leyland, who was available at the time. The media criticized the move and Manuel was scrutinized intensely. He was unfairly ridiculed for his accent – a thick Appalachian drawl – and people poked fun at his use of grammar and elocution.
When Pat Gillick replaced Wade as GM after the 2005 season, fans were hoping the new man in charge would bring in his own guy. But Gillick had a strong feeling about Manuel.
“I didn’t think I needed to make a change,” said Gillick, now a senior adviser to GM Ruben Amaro Jr. “The most important thing is not the Xs and the Os. The most important thing is keeping the players in a frame of mind that they want to come to the park, they want to have fun and they want to win every day. Charlie is able to do that. He’s a player’s manager. They know he wants to win and he has a passion and love for the game and they feel that he wants every one of his players to succeed. He’s very supportive of his players.”
Manuel finally won over the city when he led the Phillies to their second World Series title in ’08. Instead of booing him when he makes a pitching change, fans chant “Charlie! Charlie! Charlie!” anytime he comes out to argue with an umpire.
Manuel even has his own weekly television show in Philadelphia. Suddenly, that goofy accent is cute and unique. Everybody wants an interview, and Manuel doesn’t mind the attention – though he’s not too fond of the spray makeup some television stations use on guests.
“I knew I wasn’t very handsome, but Jesus Christ,” Manuel quipped.
Everyone in the room cracked up.