Since early summer, when it became clear that the Phillies’ season would once again be mired in futility (this year’s theme: We Suck, Version 26.0), everyone from casual fans to columnists to prison inmates has concluded that manager Charlie Manuel must go. We disagree. Granted, Charlie may not be a baseball genius, but this season isn’t his fault. Three reasons why he ought to be given another chance:
1. If insanity is defined as repeating the same actions while expecting different results, the Phillies are — to use language that Charlie would understand — crazier than a rabid ferret trapped in a burlap bag. They have pretty much been the same type of team since 2003: They can hit, but their pitching is far too inconsistent to get them into the playoffs. From 2003 to 2005, in fact, they were among the better-hitting teams in the National League. The difference between this year and ’05? Their hitting — or lack thereof — is simply no longer able to mask how truly god-awful their pitching is.
2. By not addressing the team’s pitching problems, the Phillies’ front office almost guaranteed Manuel would have the same results as the man he replaced, Larry Bowa. Which is exactly what’s happened: Charlie had a slightly-better-than-Bowa season last year (88 wins), and a slightly-worse-than-Bowa season this year. Let’s remember that Terry Francona, in his final season managing the Phils, won 65 games. Four years later, he seemed to do a pretty decent job with the Boston Red Sox, winning 98 games and a World Series ring.
3. Everything in baseball is about how long you can go, from starting pitching to running out the ball. Given time, managers usually do make the playoffs. Since 1980, 20 of them have held their jobs for seven or more consecutive seasons; 17 of these made the playoffs at least once, after an average of 2.6 full seasons. Based on that, the Fire Charlie crowd ought to pipe down until next July. With few exceptions, short-term stints simply don’t work, and getting rid of Manuel after only two years would be to cheat him of a true opportunity to manage with the right pieces. Manuel may in fact turn out to be an idiot — but it’s unfair to judge him before he’s had the requisite time to actually prove he’s an idiot.