Charlie or Pat: Who Made The Call?

It's hard to feel that Charlie Manuel has much job security. After all, the new coaching staff looks like a meeting of some key members of the old boys manager's club and they're sitting very close to Charlie's seat.

Coaching changes can often have some hidden meanings. Take for example, the moves the Phillies have made with their staff. Gone are Bill Dancy, Marc Bombard and Gary Varsho; three "organizational" type guys who were picked by Charlie Manuel to be on his staff. Technically, Varsho was a holdover from Larry Bowa's staff, but Manuel had been impressed with Varsho as a minor league manager and kept him on at his choosing.

The ditching of those "organizational" types isn't that unusual. Pat Gillick took over this team and is seeking to put his stamp all over the club and has been given permission from the higher-ups to do so. For those that were thinking that other "organizational" guys like John Vukovich, John Russell or even fan favorite Juan Samuel might join the staff, guess again.

Instead, the Phillies - it's anybody's guess who technically did the hiring - have a staff that has at least one key Gillick stamp; Jimy Williams. Gillick was Williams' boss in Toronto when Williams managed the Blue Jays and Gillick served as GM. Williams' hiring is especially interesting for a couple of reasons. First, he takes over as bench coach, putting him right next to Charlie Manuel in terms of running the club. Second, it's interesting because for a guy that is that close to potentially running the club, he holds a strange distinction; he's the only manager ever fired by Gillick during a season. Interesting to say the least.

Taking over as third base coach and field instructor is Art Howe. The last time we saw Howe in a major league uniform, he was managing the New York Mets. Now, he brings his coaching and managing experience to the Phillies' organization. Davey Lopes - who has also managed at the big league level - will take over as first base coach and base running coach for the Phillies, replacing Marc Bombard.

Lopes has the biggest immediate job in helping to turn young Shane Victorino into a true base-stealing machine. The move could signal that the Phillies expect Victorino to play a solid part on their 2007 club as they look to mold him into an everyday player. Lopes was a crafty type of base stealer who didn't rely solely on great speed, but also on great instincts and knowing how to steal bases.

The interesting part could come when and if Gillick decides to make an in-season move. Just who does he go to? There will be speculation about any of the three new coaches taking over or he could turn to someone else outside of the organization. Williams would seem to have the inside spot for the job, but Howe could be an attractive choice. Lopes isn't seen as a real prospect to return to the managerial ranks, but will likely get at least token consideration should the Phillies make a change.

For his part, Manuel is professing that these are the guys that he wants on his coaching staff. Still, it's hard to believe that a guy with little job security would want these guys around. Of course, maybe it's a matter of not giving Charlie enough credit. Guys like Williams, Howe and Lopes could be just the kind of guys to make him look like a much smarter manager, keeping him in power not only through the season, but longer, if all goes well.


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