Bob Ford of the Philadelphia Inquirer has his candidate for National League Manager of the Year, and it’s the guy whose team has dropped to seven games behind the Mets: Charlie Manuel

…the vote shouldn’t even be close….

Charlie Manuel hasn’t become more adept this season at public speaking. He hasn’t trimmed the wild hairs of his in-game strategies. He hasn’t overturned the postgame spread, hasn’t challenged his team publicly, hasn’t really done much to draw attention to himself.

All he has done is hold together a team that should be splintered and sinking. He has helped keep the Phillies in contention despite a season-long plague of injuries and slumps. The Phils didn’t panic or give up or shrug at the unfairness of it all and take the easy way out. They have played every game hard, regardless of who was in the lineup and who wasn’t. That may sound like a small compliment, but in professional sports it is not.

Manuel has done all this without a shred of personal support from the team’s front office. He is operating on the final year of his contract, and general manager Pat Gillick has given no indication that he is even aware of his manager’s role in the team’s success. Of all the oversights committed by Gillick, this is the worst.

The man should get a new contract, and he should get it today. Call a news conference and do the right thing, Pat.

It is somewhat redundant to list what the Phillies have endured this season. Every day has been a new chapter, a new exercise in what-can-happen-next. They have used 12 starting pitchers and 25 pitchers overall….

Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Shane Victorino, Jon Lieber, Freddy Garcia, Tom Gordon, Brett Myers, Adam Eaton, Ryan Madson and on and on. The roster of those who haven’t been on the disabled list this year is much shorter than the one of those who have. That’s not a good year.

But here they are, hanging around, scoring a lot of runs, giving up a lot of runs, staying close enough to make you wonder if they can actually pull it off this time. The Phils are 2-34 when they score three runs or fewer. That’s no way to play baseball (or no way to pitch, anyway). Conversely, they are 64-28 when they score at least four. That’s a team that believes in itself. That’s a team that takes its cue from the manager.

I’m not sure how the failure to score more than three runs in 36 games involves any more or less self-belief than scoring four, but Manuel is certainly as good a candidate as any (Ford goes on to note Bob Melvin would be equally deserving). Personally, I find his flaws irrelevant because the guy’s a package deal – who’s to say a superior strategist would get as much out of his hitters? Or that a more appealing “personality” would also be the sort of manager who doesn’t blink at giving playing time to guys like Chris Coste and rookie pitcher Kyle Kendrick, rather than pining for mediocre “names” with major league experience?

He surely does deserve to stay. Gillick could have/should have hired his own manager the day he got the job, but he didn’t, and since then Manuel has done nothing but meet or exceed expectations. Conventional wisdom says the Phillies have to make the playoffs for the guy to keep his job, but that seems neither fair nor realistic – is a 90-win manager really that much better than an 88-win manager? Was Charlie a better manager than Tony LaRussa last year because he won more games or a worse manager because he didn’t get the same October opportunity LaRussa did?

Anyway, bench bosses and GMs come and go. Phillies phutility remains the same. Like a certain former Philly manager at Fenway, Manuel might look like a genius if he simply had a better team. And Jim Leyland, who everyone in Philly wanted at the time, might look like less of one if he’d been forced to hand the ball to Gavin Floyd instead of Jeremy Bonderman last year.