On Sunday night, a local ESPN Radio affiliate made a pair of interesting tweets pertaining to the Phillies, their locker room, and whether or not they are responding to Charlie Manuel.
In the interest of readability, I've gone and combined all three tweets in one, easy to read paragraph. If you want to read the tweets individually, here you go:
Manuel could be in trouble...They don't want to lose Ryne Sandberg and team is not responding. Players don't give a rats right now...Source tells me that the team has all but tuned Manuel out and that Sandberg is gaining interest and #Phillies don't want to lose him. Team has no motivation and players "don't give a damn" and bad game decisions are being questioned.
I don't buy too much into the whole “the locker room is in disarray” stuff, or how certain players are considered to be bad for the clubhouse, and so on, because I think that it all comes down to what happens on the field, and that is just an extension of the talent of the guys on the roster.
So when I hear a story like this, about how Charlie has lost the team, I don't really think too much of it. Obviously, the players want to win. No one on that team is putting on their cleats thinking that they are only going to give 75%, because that would be really silly. Maybe they lose a little bit of the edge the more they sink in the standings, but I don't think that Charlie has lost the team, in any regard. For the longest time, he's been a “player's manager,” and he's had a knack of getting the most out of his players, so for that to end this season is an awful coincidence. I just don't think that he can “lose the team” like the source claims that he has.
More than anything else, I think this just fits the overall narrative of a team that is struggling. When bad things happen, we like to make up stories that figure to support whatever claim we are making, because it's not simple enough that his team just isn't that good right now. As a result, someone who is in the know claims that the team has turned on Charlie, and thus, a narrative about how he is the problem – and not the lack of talent – is born.
However, I am interested to know how the front office feels about Charlie through all of this, and whether or not they think that bringing in a new manager would result in a change for the positive. Not that it would make a difference, but if Manuel has, in fact, “lost the team,” then the logical move is to either trade everyone or fire him. And we all know which one is easier.
I've said it before, but the manager really doesn't have too much of an impact on the success of the team, provided that he mostly pulls the right levers. He can certainly mess up by leaving a pitcher in too long, or by pinch hitting the wrong guy, but if he can manage to get out of the player's way, there isn't too much that he can do to impact the outcome of the game.
For that reason, firing Charlie Manuel wouldn't be the right answer. I'm not a fan of his, and I'd like to see what Ryne Sandberg can do, but it's akin to polishing brass on the Titanic. Unless you can swap out some personnel or get some younger, more talented players, you're going to flounder while the rest of the division flourishes. And right now, all the Phillies can do is hope they can keep their heads above water.