Felt like this was worth a blog post, because there seems to be a sizeable contingent of folks who think that Charlie Manuel is living on borrowed time and will not finish out the season as manager of the Phillies. I disagree with this line of thinking, and so does Phil Sheridan, and in his column in the Inquirer today Phil lays out the reasons that Manuel is likely to remain at the helm. I agree with every sentence Phil wrote..
The most important point is that firing Manuel would leave Ruben Amaro Jr. alone in the public's crosshairs. And anybody who has watched this team lately understands that a change at manager is unlikely to make much of a difference given the putrid bullpen and a back of the rotation that is swiftly regressing to a level more commensurate with its track record. The numbers, for those who put value in those sorts of things, suggest that the Phillies have been overachievers through 85 games. One way to judge that is to look at their Pythagorean won-loss record, which uses the runs they've scored and the runs they've allowed to determine what their record "should" be based purely on production. That might sound like hocus pocus to some folks, but a team's pythagorean record is usually pretty close to its actual record by the end of the season. Last year, the Phillies' mark was 81-81 (they finished 81-81). In 2011 it was 103-59 (they finished 102-60). In 2010: 95-67 (97-65). In 2009: 92-70 (93-69). In 2008: 93-69 (92-70). In 2007: 87-75 (89-73). In 2006: 86-76 (85-77). In 2005: 89-73 (88-74).
This year, the Phillies Pythagorean mark is 38-47, while their actual mark is 40-45.
If the Phillies fire Manuel and perform worse than they did with him, then it would suggest that he was the wrong person to take the fall. More significantly, it would put the interim manager in an unfair position, especially if that interim manager is heir apparent Ryne Sandberg. Why put him in a position where he is being doubted even before his first full season at the helm? A new manager gives a franchise the opportunity to create the illusion of a fresh start. Two months in charge of a team that is playing out the string is a good way to destroy that illusion before it even has a chance to pay dividends in the form of new excitement and the ticket sales it might spur.
In short, the potential downsides of a managerial change far outweigh the chance that it would launch a clearly subpar team into contention, even before you consider the fact that Manuel is a guy the Phillies will want to keep around the organization, either as a Dallas Green type advisor or a Tommy Lasorda type goodwill ambasador.
I'm not a big believer in the notion of that person's past should "earn him the right" to remain in his current position even if the present suggests he is not the most qualified person. But you cannot ignore Manuel's track record, regardless of how you monday morning quarterback his decisions. The guy has spent 10 full seasons at the helm of a major league team, and he has not finished one of those seasons with a losing record. He went 39-47 before being fired in Cleveland, and he went 81-81 last season. Otherwise, these are his win totals: 90, 91, 88, 85, 89, 92, 93, 97, 102.
Manuel's career .551 winning percentage ranks 32nd all time. Of the 31 managers with better career marks, 17 are enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Two others are currently active: Joe Girardi and Davey Johnson. His average division finish of 1.6 (weighted by games managed), ranks first among managers with at least 1,000 games managed. His teams are a combined 183 games over .500, which ranks 26th.
Manuel has managed in the American League and National League. He has managed teams with middling payrolls and with astronomical payrolls. Don't look at it as "earning the right to stay." Look at it as "earning the benefit of the doubt."