One month until pitchers and catchers gather once more on the Elysian fields of dreams at the Carpenter Complex. It’s almost that time again when rawhide, horsehide and man-hide emerge from the winter slumber to stretch on the warm, dewy baseball diamonds of Florida and Arizona. Grapefruit League and Cactus League games are slated for March. Free agents are still negotiating contracts while arbitration cases are scheduled for February. Once all that is over, the science of baseball can proceed. All the items on the winter checklist have been marked off or will be by February 14… Well, almost all of the winter checklist…
Manager Charlie Manuel is going into the final year of his contract. Most MLB teams don’t like to open a season with their skipper in a lame-duck situation. It’s an article of faith that it can erode his authority in the clubhouse. Not to mention that it can become a trigger for idle speculation every time the team hits a little bump in the road. Speaking of idle speculation, have we met?
The Phillies have won four straight division titles under Manuel (2007-2010) and are the odds on favorite heading into 2011. Two World Series trips (2008-2009), won it all once (2008). Even after being upset by the Giants in the National League Championship Series last October, general manager Ruben Amaro seemed to indicate that an extension for Manuel was little more than a formality.
“At some point, we’ll probably address it with Charlie,” he shrugged during the postseason postmortem a couple of days after the season abruptly ended. That was 3 months ago. Now, spring training is on deck, 60 players have been invited to camp, Cliff Lee is the happiest citizen of Philadelphia, Jayson Werth could reconcile the National Debt with a month’s paycheck in Washington, Joe Blanton has been shopped to every team in the league (and three in Argentina, but they don’t have good BBQ)… but one thing hasn’t happened…
Now, this isn’t necessarily a big deal. There’s still time. The Phillies want Charlie Manuel back. He wants to come back. It’s just a little curious that the issue has been allowed to dangle this long – and we’re not just confused by Charlie’s choice of words to explain the situation!
“Right now, there’s negotiations with [agent] Pat Rooney going on. Basically, what I can tell you is that I hope it gets done by the end of the month. Or into spring training or whatever,” Manuel said yesterday, sitting in his office at Citizens Bank Park while in town to speak at the Phillies’ prospect development seminar. “That’s about all I want to say. We’re in the process of going through a negotiation. I think everybody would like to have a contract. That’s kind of where we’re at. We did some things this winter. Signing Cliff Lee. Getting our roster ready. Those were definitely the things to do, and I think this is probably the last thing on their agenda. One of the last things.” Classic Charlie.
Understand this: Manuel is not politicking. He didn’t bring the subject up, but agreed to answer a few questions about his status. In the process, he conceded that managing without a commitment beyond the current season can be difficult.
“I think any manager in baseball would like to have a contract, because that definitely gives him more of a hammer. That gives him a better position,” Manuel said. “Everything about it, the whole environment. And that goes through the organization and the team and the players and everything. Hopefully, we’ll get it taken care of. I hope we get it done. Soon would be good too!”
Amaro remains unfazed.
“I think it just becomes a distraction like everything else,” Amaro said this week. “The same as when Jayson Werth wasn’t signed [going into last season]. It just gives people stuff to talk about. It doesn’t mean we don’t want him back.” Hello, idle speculation, have we met?
Manuel’s agent Pat Rooney did not return repeated calls, as he is not discussing the matter with the media until there is something concrete to report. Clearly, the sticking point is money.
It’s difficult to pinpoint what top managers make. That’s largely because those salaries aren’t as public as player contracts – in fact it is considered bad form to negotiate managerial or coaching contracts in the media. It’s also complicated by the fact that many of the more successful – and better-compensated – managers retired at the end of last season: Joe Torre, Bobby Cox, Lou Piniella, Cito Gaston.
Assume a fair working number would be $3-$4 million per year. That’s what Terry Francona reportedly will make with the Red Sox this season and less than what Tony La Russa will earn in St. Louis. It’s less than the average annual value of the 10-year deal Mike Scioscia got from the Angels. It’s thought to be about what Joe Girardi is getting from the Yankees. The real quandary is how long do you want Manuel under contract?
Manuel did not discuss his salary, but, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, he made $1.5 million in 2008 and ’09 and $1.7 million last year. There are accounts that suggest he’ll make around $3 million this year. Remember the Phillies opted to let
Davey Lopes (http://prosportsblogging.com/mlb-baseball/philadelphia-phillies/phillies-coaching-staff-loses-lopes/)go because of a salary dispute for far less money. Lopes, 65, had been offered a one-year contract (to continue as baserunning coach, infield coach and first base coach), but the two sides weren’t able to agree on a salary.
Numbers weren’t disclosed but it can be safely presumed that Lopes was asking for significantly less money than Jayson Werth or Cliff Lee. Lopes, a former manager had been considered in the line of succession to eventually replace Manuel and was replaced on the staff by Juan Samuel. Larry Bowa had been considered as well as Ryne Sandberg. Bowa opted to take a year off from coaching after time with the Dodgers and Yankees. Sandberg, who had been coaching in the Cubs minor league system and lost the major league job to Mike Quade, opted to take the AAA Lehigh Valley managerial job in the Phillies organization.
Manuel’s potential salary range is respectable, if accurate. Then again, Manuel’s record since taking over the Phillies (544-428) is the best in the National League and unparalleled amongst his MLB peers. His winning percentage (.560) is third-best in franchise history. He’s only 103 wins – less than a season-and-a-half at his current pace – from surpassing Gene Mauch as the winningest manager in Phillies history. Yes, he’s had talent. But it takes a certain skill to keep the egos of a clubhouse full of millionaires all rowing in the same direction. The Yankees had great players while winning four world championships under Torre, but nobody seems to hold that against him or expect the same success with the Dodgers.
Manuel isn’t a greedy person and doesn’t live an extravagant lifestyle. By the same token, everybody would like to be paid what they believe they’re worth. He went through the entire 2006 season without knowing whether he’d be back in 2007. Even on the last day of the season, in the dugout at what was then known as Dolphin Stadium in Miami, Florida, he was left in limbo. The Phillies would win their first division title in 14 years that 2007 season.
“The year when I went through the fact that my contract was up, I felt like I stayed pretty focused on what was going on, on the field,” Manuel said. “At the same time, it’s always great to have a contract.”
Subsequent to the Phillies 2008 world championship, Manuel got an extension – even though his deal still had a year to run. That’s what will almost certainly end up happening this time around. It’s just a little surprising that it hasn’t happened yet. If you’re still confused, just ask Charlie to explain it…
“I don’t want my contract to be any kind of distraction to our team or our organization. I have a contract that runs through the season, and I don’t think I should let my contract interfere with what we do.”
Winning the World Series, the veteran manager said, is his No. 1 priority.
Manuel, 67, noted that he would like to manage at least three more seasons. At the Phillies’ helm since 2005, Manuel has guided Philadelphia to four straight National League East titles, plus the 2008 World Series crown.
“I know as good as I sit here I could manage at least three more years,” Manuel said. “From there on out, I think it would be a situation where I could sit down with my general manager [Ruben Amaro Jr.] and [Pat] Gillick, and they could look me in the eye and tell me if they think I’m getting too old or I don’t have the energy or I don’t have a life. At the same time … I think I am a Phillie.”
Does Charlie Manuel deserve a contract extension – and for how long?
· Yes, 1 year
· Yes, 2-3 years
· Yes, 4+ years
· No, he should play out the final year and retire
Feel free to submit your vote via comments below!!!
PHILLIES COVERAGE: http://prosportsblogging.com/sports/mlb-baseball/philadelphia-phillies/
About the Author
Written by Christopher Rowe
Contributing writer Comcast Sports, NY Times contributing stringer 1996-2000, Contributing writer Yahoo Sports (2001 World Series). Contributing writer Newsday Long Island (1992-1994, Jets Training Camp) and Newak Star Ledger. Freelance Copywriter, Editor/Founder Atlantic Times Weekly (1993-2003) fantasy football magazine, produced screenwriter and general humorist. Hofstra University grad, Marist College honorary alum, Salesian; Purveyor of the Value and Valor of Philadelphia Eagles 1960 NFL Championship; Adrent believer that Eagles could have won Super Bowl XV...and Super Bowl XXXIX...plus modern decade of Eagles 5 NFC Championships... Believer in the Broad Street Bullies and the 1983 Sixers... Witness to Philadelphia Phillies World Series championships 1980 & 2008, Suffered Phillies first pro sports team to reach 10,000 losses,witnessed "1980 Cardiac Kids," 1983 "Wheeze Kids," 1993 "Macho Row" and many, many, many not-so-memorable seasons in-between... until the Philadelphia Baseball Renaissance of 21st Century, Five NL East division titles 2007-2011, 3 NLCS appearances 2008-2010, 2 consecutive World Series berths 2008 & 2009. 2008 World Champions of baseball [miss ya Harry and Richie]; "collector" of MLB ballparks (42 stadiums including 15 which are gone); Fantasy Football & Baseball player since 1992. Always a sports fan... Tenui Nec Dimittam Contact me firstname.lastname@example.org