Charlie Manuel knows the game of baseball. He's considered somewhat of a guru when it comes to hitting and he is somewhat of a genius when it comes to dealing with players. His philosophy is basically pretty simple; he lets the players handle themselves, but they all know that they better not go astray or they'll be having a serious conversation with the big 67 year-old. And they also know that while his public speaking persona is more of a stumbling kind of delivery, he knows exactly what he wants to say to a player who is any type of distraction to the club.
That's exactly the reason why Charlie had to impose a deadline on his contract negotiations. He would no more accept a player letting his contract become a distraction to his club than he would let them get away with anything else. For that reason, Manuel had to set the deadline.
For Manuel, baseball comes first. He's not one to be impressed by the huge salaries of today's players and he believes that off the field issues should remain off the field. There is no reason for Charlie to go into the season and be continually asked about how the negotiations on his contract are going and by setting a deadline, he can pretty much end any of the discussion now. Sure, there will be some reporters who may still dare to ask contract questions once the season begins, if Charlie isn't signed by then, but rest assured that Manuel will brush those questions off quickly and decisively.
Manuel is in the final season of his contract and will be paid $2.4 million. The average major league manager brings home a little over $1.5 million per season, putting Manuel above what the "average" manager earns, which is obviously well earned. First, consider that Manuel is managing in a large market, which will drive up his price. Second, he has helped to develop this club into a winning team and many of the players have credited Manuel with helping them to be better players and keeping the Phillies on the right path on the field. When you consider all of those things and factor into the equation that the Phillies have won one World Series and have one National League championship under their belt in the six seasons that Manuel has been their manager and it's easy to see that Manuel is deserving of being among the highest paid skippers in baseball.
For the conspiracy theorists among us, there is some pondering to be done.
Over the winter, the Phillies hired none other than Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg to be their manager at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Sandberg left his beloved Cubs organization after being overlooked to manage their big league club, believing that he was in line to take over in Chicago when Lou Piniella stepped down. Instead, Mike Quade - a former Phillie - got the job first on an interim basis and then had that interim tag removed after the season. The move left Sandberg very unhappy and he quickly left the organization. After a quick glance around the majors, Sandberg saw that there wouldn't be another managerial opportunity for him and landed in Lehigh Valley. Surely though, he's going to be on a number of short lists for big league interviews when the season is over and if they're interested and have an opening, the Phillies would seem to have an inside track. Some of the conspiracy minded may even believe that there was an understanding between Sandberg and his new bosses that he would be moving into their manager's office sooner rather than later.
The Phillies would also seem to have a few other future managers in their organization. Names like Mark Parent and Dusty Wathan often show up on lists of minor league managers who would figure to make fine big league managers one day. Seated right next to Manuel in the dugout is Pete Mackanin, who is also thought to have a future as a big league manager at some point down the road. It could be that if the Phillies don't get Manuel signed to a new deal that Sandberg could step into the job in 2012 and if he does sign a deal, then either Parent or Wathan could be groomed for taking over the job at some point down the road. Yes, the Phillies are so deep that they even have a depth chart with a lot of viable names on it for their manager's job.
Of course, there will need to be a lot of hard-selling going on if Manuel delivers another parade to Philadelphia, but doesn't get signed to another deal with the club. For now, things are up in the air with Manuel, but don't ever thing that Charlie Manuel will be a lame duck. With his track record in Philadelphia, there would be other opportunities for him in other cities if for some reason, the Phillies don't give him the kind of money - believed to be around $4 million per season - that he wants to have his contract extended. That type of money would put him up with Tony LaRussa and Mike Scioscia, two guys who have very similar type resumes. And whatever you may think about Manuel, just know that he is smart enough to know that the money may be easier for the Phillies to pay than the PR hit they would take for letting a successful manager go would be to take.