The Philadelphia Daily News’ Bill Conlin on the Philadelphia Phillies’ decision to replace Larry Bowa with Charlie Manuel instead of Jim Leyland.
Once again, the Phillies have come to two paths in their mostly wretched history and once again they have chosen the one most traveled by. They continue to be confounded by success and the high expectations that go with it.
Once again, they had a stare-down with an elusive dude named Greatness and blinked first. A franchise that once considered a high school band playing the national anthem on Opening Day the height of promotion has bought 10,000 shares of coal-mine stock. The Phillies have proved once again they have a retro brain to go with the retro ballpark you helped build for them.
Look, this is nothing against Charlie Manuel. In any other circumstance, the man who managed Jim Thome and the plodding, powerful, strikeout-prone Cleveland Indians would have been a logical choice to breathe life back into this comatose and dysfunctional team. Manuel is a folksy, outgoing man who eats, drinks and sleeps baseball. And he is a solid instructor – even if the swing modifications he suggested to Pat Burrell appear to have gone in one ear and out the other after boring through the Styrofoam in between.
This is not only a great victory for Dumb and Dumber Inc. and Better Safe Than Sorry Corp., but for plodding, strikeout-laden, vanilla American League baseball. Jim Thome, who now unofficially runs the Phillies, struck out a glorious, vein-popping 185 times for Manuel in 2001. In 2002, he “improved” to 139. In 2003, with Manuel on board as Wade’s special assistant in charge of Jim’s stroke, Thome had a more normal 182 “flailures.”
If there is a bright side to this latest and most egregious of recent Phillies miscalculations, Ed Wade now wears a giant bull’s-eye on his back.