Just because you were part of a championship team or even a really consistently successful team (don’t get me started on Andy Reid), doesn’t make you perfect and immune to criticism, right? Sometimes I wonder if the rewards of winning (such as fear to criticize) can hamper future successes created by comfort when fans keep quiet.
I’d like to point out how Phillies skipper Charlie Manuel continues to weaken this team, psychologically and more importantly, physically, through his “style”- a style that may have hurt us since 2008. A recent three-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals offers a case study into Manuel’s shortcomings as manager and possible long-term negative impact on team success. On Tuesday, June 21, the Phils won 10-2, scoring nine runs in a 43+ minute inning. During this inning, both Ryan Howard and Placido Polanco were plunked. I realize that both incidents were unintentional on the part of Cards pitching. In the top of the ninth, with the ultimate goal of winning securely intact … no Cardinals went down. I’m not asking for blood with Dickie Thon-type results, but the right message should have been sent: that no team would be allowed to risk our ultimate prize through either intentional or careless actions. In addition to this, Howard seemed agitated and the team should have responded on behalf of our star player. Polanco also left the game as a result of being hit. Any or all of these reasons should have directed our leader to authorize retaliation. To me, this is an example of a softness that comes from the top.
The following night demonstrated a more pressing, typical flaw in Manuel’s handling of the team. Cliff Lee was masterful in his 4-0 complete game. It was bittersweet for me in light of the 120+ pitches tossed in total. The ninth inning should have gone to someone else in order to protect Lee’s arm. Folks, the top of our rotation is our meal ticket to another parade. I don’t want Lee, Halladay, or Hamels in the game because Manuel is such a player’s coach that they have “earned” the right to stay in a game they don’t need to be in. These guys are competitors; I get it; that’s what makes them great. However, Manuel has got to have the final say, manage for the game and manage for the long haul. We need to conserve them. He recognizes the need for position players to get rest via a day off. He practically gave away a game this year at the Mets, fielding a team that resembled Lehigh Valley… for the sake of the long haul. Since it would be silly to skip their spot in the rotation, simply give these pitchers breaks if the situation allows it.
I know… they are in first place…I know… they continue to win two out of three despite a suspect offense…but I’m not concerned about now, the regular season. Will his strategies, or lack thereof hurt our playoff run? I’m just asking if the 2008 glow has worn off yet. I just don’t want to look back on this era and wonder why we only got one. By then, it will be useless to be a critic of those who helped bring it home in 2008.