Time for the Phillies to Move On
The Philadelphia Phillies lack of offense has been one of the most discussed topics throughout baseball this season. After adding several All-Stars in the offseason, the Phillies have underperformed in almost every offensive category. Nevertheless, despite several lackluster performances since the All-Star break, the playoffs are still within reach. As a result, the front office decided the team needed a spark, and that spark is former Phillies’ manager Charlie Manuel.
On Tuesday, the Phillies decided to move on from hitting coach John Mallee. Manuel will take over as hitting coach Wednesday night and will remain in the role for at least the remainder of the 2019 season.
Charlie Manuel Is a Skilled Hitting Instructor
Prior to his first season as skipper of the Phillies in 2005, Charlie Manuel had long been known around baseball for his hitting expertise. Before taking over as the Cleveland Indians’ manager in 2000, he served as their hitting coach from 1994-1999. In this time, Manuel helped develop several superstar hitters including Manny Ramirez, Albert Belle, and Jim Thome.
Manuel had an especially profound impact on Thome, who is a Philadelphia baseball legend in his own right. After being elected to Cooperstown in 2018, Thome had nothing but praise for Manuel.
“I would not be standing here if it wasn’t for him,” Thome said. “I can truly and honestly say that. What he meant to my career, what he meant to me personally, the changes that we made. Yes, I think I had to do it, but I think what he did so well is he made every player feel like they were a great player. I reaped the rewards of his thought process with that.”
Manuel Is a Huge Clubhouse Presence
Since the All-Star break, the Phillies rank 25th or worse in several key areas including batting average, runs, and extra-base hits. Before last night’s 4-2 win at home over the Chicago Cubs, they had previously gone 2-5 on a road trip against the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Francisco Giants.
Manuel’s hitting knowledge will no doubt make a significant impact on fixing some of the offensive woes, but this move is as much about clubhouse chemistry than anything. Going back to what Thome was describing, Manuel’s success as a hitting coach stems just as much from his players believing in him as his teaching of hitting mechanics.
When a team with such high expectations starts to struggle, players tend to lose mental focus and try too hard, which yields worse results. Manuel’s approach to coaching should help the players relax a little more and allow them to better tap into the talents that made them Major Leaguers in the first place.
Aside from his hitting instruction, Manuel’s mere presence should help establish a must-win culture in the clubhouse. In his time as manager from 2005-2013, the Phillies went 780-636. They won two National League Pennants and a World Series in 2008.
Better Offensive Days Should Be Ahead for Philadelphia
Manuel must see some kind of potential in this offense, or he probably wouldn’t have accepted the role in the first place. At age 75, he is certainly no spring chicken. More than likely, this experiment will only last through the end of the year, regardless of the results it yields.
However, if the team buys in and puts the “old man’s” advice to use, they might just be primed for the offensive explosion Philadelphia fans have been so desperately seeking all season. This is probably going to be Manuel’s last coaching stop, and the Phillies owe it to him to end the season on a good note. While a World Series win seems very unlikely, it would be a story-book ending for one of baseball’s best minds.
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