Not too long ago, before the Four Aces or the World Series run or the five consecutive division championships, Charlie Manuel was a marked man. He was a marked man because the Phillies couldn't win games and they couldn't be the team to end the playoff drought that was coming on two decades. He was lambasted on talk radio, scorned by the fans, and generally considered to be over-matched as a big league manager.
There were rumors that Manuel would get fired, not three years on the job as Phillies manager. And to be fair, it wasn't completely unjustified, as the team was unable to find a way to consistently win games. Sure, they made runs at the division in 2005 and 2006, but after coming up just short, some thought that maybe Charlie wasn't the right man for the job.
That was in 2007.
As fate would have it, those whispers and rumors disappeared into the wind the moment the Phillies won the division in 2007, because no one cares about the manager when the team is winning. And once the Phillies started to steamroll the rest of the National League, well, forget about getting rid of the skipper.
Five years later, and the Phillies find themselves in a similar situation: Unable to win, unable to keep pace with the rest of the teams in the division, and unable to get much of anything going on the diamond. And if history is any indicator, it's only a matter of time before people start pointing their fingers at Charlie Manuel and the rest of the coaching staff.
At 14-16 coming into Tuesday's game, you can't help but wonder if it's heading in the same direction. With the team failing to play with any sort of consistency, maybe a change in the dugout is in order. And it wouldn't be the first time the Phillies have changed horses midstream during this current run, either. In 2010, they fired hitting coach Milt Thompson after one too many offensive funks, and replaced him with current hitting coach Greg Gross, so there definitely is a precedent.
There are two questions to ask. First, would Ruben Amaro actually pull the trigger on removing Charlie Manuel, if it came down to it? I think so. It's probably not the desired solution, given that they just inked him to a new contract, but Amaro isn't a guy afraid to make a big move. After all, this is the guy who traded Cliff Lee after the 2009 season.
Second, would firing Charlie Manuel even make a difference? I don't know that it would. We can all admit that, when it comes to in-game strategy, he isn't the best guy for the job, and his poor bullpen management – especially late in games – has cost the Phillies a few games already. But, that could be a product of the Phillies not having a great deal of talent to work with. It's not like the bullpen is deep, so when you have to go to a relief pitcher in the sixth inning, you're kind of playing roulette until you can get to Jonathan Papelbon.
More than anything else though, the team's success depends entirely on the players. Maybe Charlie can distribute playing time so that he gets the most of out his lineups, but again, he is dealing with a team that is already woefully undermanned, and that is going to be the case until Chase Utley and Ryan Howard return.
Can Charlie help to make his team more effective with the lumber? Sure. He could get the team to be a bit more patient at the plate, and maybe not bunt so much. Ultimately, however, it comes down to the individual players and their talent level. And there's not much a manager can do about that.