Out of Left Field: Sorry, Charlie

Let me state right up front - again - I never advocated for this manager. I'm on record as stating that the man I believe the Phillies should have hired instead of Bowa, Willie Randolph, is now wearing a Mets uniform. I also advocated last year for Marc Bombard and thought that Jim Leyland or Terry Pendleton would have been good, solid choices too. The problem is that the Phillies decided to let The Sporting News make their managerial decision for them, a full season ahead of time.

Remember that august publication that opined that Charlie Manuel would be named the National League Manager of the Year after replacing Larry Bowa at mid-season in 2004? Based on that, the Phillies apparently thought Manuel was worth a shot. If it wasn't that then I'd like to know, what were the hiring criteria, exactly?

Charlie Manuel has admitted that he is having difficulty with the subtle differences between American League baseball, where he spent most of his career, and the National League variety. You know, rocket science stuff, like the double switch. Forget the fact that Charlie has been in professional baseball for over 35 years (beginning before there was something called a designated hitter which made the double switch extinct in the American League). Forget the fact that he has Gary Varsho sitting next to him, who spent his entire playing career in the National League and has been with the Phillies organization for seven years, three as the bench coach. No, the mind-boggling intricacy of a managerial move that my ten-year old understands escapes Charlie because he apparently "sometimes forgets" that the pitcher hits.

Are you kidding me? Does Gary Varsho forget this too? What about Rich Dubee, or Milt Thompson, or any of the other coaches on his staff? Did Charlie also "forget" that the reason he started Marlon Byrd against Carlos Zambrano last Sunday was because Byrd hits Zambrano well? Perhaps that's the only way to explain the insipid decision to pinch-hit Jose Offerman, the "professional pinch-hitter" hitting all of .182, instead of letting Byrd try to drive in Bobby Abreu with the tying run from third base with two outs in the ninth.

Byrd's average against Zambrano at that point in time was .880. Byrd was 1-for-2 in the game, about to face Zambrano (who was well over 120 pitches) for the fourth time that day, and historically hits right-handers just as well as left-handers. Offerman on the other hand, had been sitting on the bench (assumedly next to Charlie) all day, never having faced Zambrano - not just that day, but EVER - and doesn't hit right-handers as well as Byrd.

Charlie was asked about his decision afterward and in his matter-of-fact way answered, "It was a tough decision but I went with Offerman because he's a (switch-) hitter." Huh? So, Charlie was going with the lefty-righty match up instead of the .880 vs. O-fer match up? This was difficult? Byrd had seen more pitches from Zambrano that day than Offerman had in his entire career. What part of that makes the decision tough?

I guess it was also a difficult decision to leave in John Lieber, easily the Phillies most effective pitcher this season, for the seventh inning of a tie game against the Mets instead of pinch-hitting for him (again with Jose Offerman). Mind you, at the time, Lieber had thrown only 79 pitches and was due to face the pitcher's spot in the bottom of the seventh. Also keep in mind, that Rheal Cormier was battling a hip injury and Ryan Madson had worked two nights in a row, both of which I assume the manager knew (but perhaps "forgot"). This meant the bullpen, which was already suspect, was even more so in that situation.

Nevertheless, with the go ahead run at second in the top of the seventh, Charlie's Manual says to pinch hit for the pitcher, just like it says that you only use your closer in the ninth with the lead. Charlie kept Jose Offerman on the roster, going with four outfielders and limiting his double-switch ability even more, just for this reason. Offerman promptly popped out to the shortstop and Terry Adams, who relieved Lieber for the bottom of the seventh, gave up a three-run homer to Carlos Beltran; game over. Is it any wonder that Men's Health magazine recently named Philadelphia the most depressed city in the country?

Discussing his hobbies in a pre-season interview with the Courier-Post's Kevin Roberts, Charlie said, "That's me. I stay with something. I find something I like to do, I want to do, I just stay at it until I can do it."

That seems to go for his ability to manage a baseball game as well. While the fortitude is admirable, forgive me, Charlie, but I don't think we have that kind of time. This team needed a manager that wasn't learning on the job, especially after 30-plus years in the game. Last year, Phillies fans were told "Now Is The Time." This year, it's been "Give Me Some Time."

Sorry, Charlie, time's up.

Columnist's note: I welcome any feedback; please send your comments to dncurry@comcast.net.

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