If 2008 was the year Charlie Manuel finally won the hearts of Philadelphians, 2009 was the year he won their minds. During the Phillies' title run last season, the folksy manager from backwoods Virginia was little more than a feel-good subplot to the sheer dominance displayed by pitchers Cole Hamels and Brad Lidge.
But in 2009, his managerial prowess took center stage. His formerly unhittable closer turned in one of the worst regular seasons of any reliever in history. His formerly unhittable ace was a No. 3 starter by the World Series. His bullpen was battered by injuries. His leadoff hitter endured an epic first-half slump. His high-priced leftfielder battled a sports hernia for most of the final 5 months of the season.
Through it all, Manuel augmented his usual steady hand with a slew of crucial decisions, from sending Lidge out to the mound to record the final out of the NL East clincher to sitting Jimmy Rollins down for a weekend series in Toronto.
In the end, they were not the best team in the major leagues. But for the first time in his Phillies career, many people realized that Manuel just might be one of the game's best managers.