NO MATTER HOW the rest of his managing career goes, Charlie Manuel has won a permanent place in the hearts of Phillies fans by claiming one of only two World Series ever won by the Fightin’s. Everywhere he goes now, he is adored, congratulated and thanked. As a former CEO, I was excited for the chance to chat management with Charlie. Over the course of our lunch, what impressed me most was his genuineness, and how comfortable he is in his own skin — a teacher in the best sense, and above all, a baseball man.
Sam Katz: Your public persona has gone from country bumpkin to genius in the past two years. How’d that happen?
Charlie Manuel: I think some folks decided to make judgments about me that were based on what they heard, not on what I did or said. But I’m the same guy. I love comin’ to the ballpark every day. Things changed here because of what our team did together — not because of me.
SK: How does a career .200 hitter become such a great hitting teacher?
CM: I was always a good hitter. I had great numbers in Japan and in the minors. And I’ve always had great interest in the technique of hitting. I once got into a major debate with Ted Williams over whether his power came from his left hand — as a left-hand hitter — like he thought it did. I told him the right hand pulled the bat through the swing and created the whip on the swing. He left dinner saying he was going to think about it.
SK: I didn’t think anyone ever won a debate against Ted Williams.
CM: He knew I was right but had a hard time admitting it.
SK: What’s your philosophy on managing ballplayers? They make a lot more money than you do, right?
CM: That’s for sure. You win with good baseball players. But it starts with their character — and we’ve got great players who love to play baseball. Utley doesn’t care much about attention or talk. He just loves the game, and he comes to play every day. Same with Rollins and Ruiz, Ibáñez and Victorino. And when guys really want to play, they become manageable. They want to get better, and they want to win. The guys on this team know me and know that I might not say too much, but they understand what is expected. I respect them, but I also know how to make them want to achieve more. I’m not fancy. And our coaching staff is excellent. You get people who want to be in this game, and you’re on your way to somethin’ good. It’s not just me.
SK: What upsets you most in this game?
CM: I try not to get upset too much. I sometimes watch guys doing dumb things and I get flusterated. They’ve been given such talent, but they don’t work hard enough, haven’t taken care of themselves, squander opportunities or get too selfish. But I’m surrounded by guys who really love the game and want to be everyday players, and around that, there isn’t much to get upset about. Of course, we don’t like to lose. But we try to fix what isn’t working for the next game.