Consider that Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Aaron Rowand, Shane Victorino, Cole Hamels, Jon Lieber, Freddy Garcia, Brett Myers, Tom Gordon, Ryan Madson and others have all spent considerable chunks of time on the DL and players like Howard and Pat Burrell slumped horribly early in the season and nobody would have figured on the Phillies being one-half game out of the playoffs coming into the final week of the season. Admit it, had the experts been able to know coming into the season how the injuries would pile up for the Phillies, they would have been touting next weekend's series with the Washington Nationals as a battle to avoid the cellar of the NL East. Instead, the Phillies are pounding on the door to the playoffs coming off an 8-2 road trip that took them to both New York and St. Louis for tough games against two very good teams.
Even so, Charlie Manuel is a lame duck manager and if it wasn't for how much respect his players have for him, they would have tuned him out long ago. Jayson Werth for one, believes that Manuel has been an important part of his success this season because of how he's handled him both on and off the field. Aaron Rowand is another player who is quick to give praise to Manuel and the list of other players who credit and respect Charlie Manuel is long and impressive.
So, why is Manuel not signed for at least another season?
GM Pat Gillick has been very slow to move on key fronts, most notably a deal for Manuel and for Rowand, who is a free agent at the end of the season. Rowand may exit because of financial reasons, but surely, the money is there to sign Manuel to a new deal and extend him for at least another season. The closer Manuel gets to ultimately not having a deal, the tougher it may be for the Phillies to re-sign the gentle giant. You have to wonder if new Houston GM Ed Wade, who hired Manuel in Philadelphia, wouldn't be interested in hiring him to lead the Astros next season. The Cincinnati Reds have an interim manager in Pete Mackanin and the Kansas City Royals already know that they'll be looking for a new skipper as well. Plus, new managers could be in place in Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay as well. Even the New York Yankees might be in the market for a new skipper since Joe Torre's fate is always uncertain. If one of those teams were to offer a multi-year deal that was attractive, you couldn't blame Manuel for at least giving it some consideration.
Today would have been a perfect opportunity to announce a new deal for Manuel. Heading into an important week of games, Phillies players would have likely applauded the news. Instead, the Phillies are mum on Manuel's fate, which is simply the wrong way to handle the situation.
Part of the issue may come down to pride. Pat Gillick, who inherited Manuel, may want one of "his" people in the manager's office next season. If the Phillies do make the playoffs though, it's going to be very difficult - and would be amazingly stupid - for Gillick to try to dump Manuel then. Of course, he could just hope that Manuel finds gainful employment elsewhere and play the old "we tried to re-sign him, but he had another offer on the table that he wanted to take" routine. That won't fly. Right now, the Phillies are the only team that can talk turkey with Manuel and if they aren't doing it, they're making a big mistake. The Phillies have found a manager who has the respect of his players and who players want to play for and they need to keep him in place. Jimy Williams has helped with some of the weak in-game issues that Manuel has had throughout his tenure and can certainly stay in place, unless he decides to throw himself out there for one of the many openings that could come around, but at that point, Triple-A manager John Russell would be a nice fit for that job and would be able to handle the position with no effort at all.
Charlie Manuel will never go down as one of the all-time great managers, but he's the right guy at the right time for the Phillies and they need to extend that time for at least a couple of more seasons.