Inside the Phillies: Manuel remains honest about Phils' chances

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)

The truth can be hard to come by at this time of the baseball season.

Michael Young won't go anywhere but Texas, the Phillies won't deal Cliff Lee to Boston unless the Red Sox surrender their three best prospects and throw in Faneuil Hall, and nobody wants any of the Phillies' players because they all are more cracked than the Liberty Bell.

Some of that is true and some of it is not. Good luck trying to sift through which is which.

There are only two kinds of general managers at the trade deadline - liars and bigger liars.


Which Phillie would you definitely not trade?

If you don't believe that Lee can be traded, you obviously have forgotten the cloak of secrecy that brought him back here a couple of years ago. No deal is off the table until the final bell rings on this year's deadline at 4 p.m. Wednesday.

Truth, however, could be found in the Phillies' dugout on the eve of the trade deadline. A few hours before his team played the San Francisco Giants, an honest opinion was offered by Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, a man who probably doesn't have to worry about his job beyond the next two months.

"I think we're a ways off," Manuel said. "That's what I think. I know what we've had for two years. Every year, really. We are players off."

That's not the truth general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. or team president David Montgomery wants you to hear with 33 games remaining on the home schedule, but it's not as if you can hide bad. It shows up almost every night for the Phillies, and it was in extra-high definition during the eight consecutive losses on the most recent road trip.

Because he is likely to pass the managerial baton to Ryne Sandberg at the end of what figures to be the worst of his nine seasons here, Manuel does not have to live in the land of make-believe even when his comments are being offered for public consumption.

So while Amaro went on MLB Network and talked about the Phillies' still having hope for 2013, Manuel gave a more realistic opinion of a team that had Darin Ruf in the cleanup spot just 24 days after he was called up from triple-A Lehigh Valley.

"Don't get me wrong; I still have faith in our players," Manuel said. "I'm a manager and I believe that we can win . . . but when I look out there and I see how we play, I also have to be realistic. It's not like I'm pointing out one player. You asked me about our whole team."

And when the manager looks at his entire team, he sees more deficiencies than a man on a salami sandwich diet.

"We've got a young bullpen that's inexperienced . . . and it takes a topflight team to win a division and also to go to a World Series," Manuel said. "That's kind of where we're talking about going, right? It could take us a while. I'm not going to go and say one year, two years to a definite; it depends on things that happen. I know this: I know that we need some help if we're going to go and be a contender."

That help is not coming in what are likely to be Manuel's final two months as manager. The Phillies got a little younger and less experienced Tuesday when they called up Cody Asche from Lehigh Valley. He will make his first start at third base Wednesday against the Giants while Michael Young heads off to get fitted for a new uniform.

On Tuesday, Amaro and Manuel tried to pretend that wasn't going to happen, but Young admitted he had a conversation with the general manager about his situation when he arrived at the ballpark. Looking at Asche for the rest of this season is the right thing to do, but Manuel knows it's not a move that is any kind of difference maker.

"I see that we've got to get better," he said. "And I see that we need to get better at positions. We've got [Domonic] Brown coming . . . we've got [Ryan] Howard coming if we can get him well. He's got to get healthy and then he's got to get in shape. I mean really top-notch shape. And then if we had [Roy] Halladay - a good Halladay - then we're getting better. But there is a lot of ifs there.

"And then I get back to the fact, can we count on people? Can we count on the issues that we've had getting better?"

The truthful answer is no.


Contact Bob Brookover at Follow him on Twitter @brookob.