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Saturday, August 17, 2013

Charlie Manuel Post-Mortem, Part 1: Deceased, Ham Sandwich

The time has finally come to declare that Ruben Amaro has decided, and rightfully so, to start implicitly placing blame where it properly lies. Sure, Amaro has been terrible, but Manuel has been just as bad. The only difference is that their jobs vary wildly in importance (Amaro hurt the Phillies more in one second than Manuel did in 9 years when Ryan Howard signed his contract).

However, Manuel has been so bad, and the Phillies have regressed under his direction to such a tremendous degree, that it became inane and redundant to keep charting Manuel's in-game mistakes. We have a pretty solid sample size of games in our archives from July 2008 - October 2012. That sample size pretty clearly states what's been obvious to non-Gargano disciples for several years: that Charlie Manuel really has no idea what he's doing once the first pitch is thrown. I'm sure he was a hell of a hitter a half-century ago, but the man has looked like he's 80 for the past 10 years, yet he's preposterously still in his sixties (base-10 wise).

He fails in mid-game situations so frequently that we ostensibly wrote a book about it. Over the coming days, or maybe just the coming minutes (I don't know how long this post is going to end up), we are going to review our favorite Charlie Manuel moments, none of which will be positive. "Hey, remember that one time he didn't forget to wait until the batter was announced before making a pitching change?" is not a phrase you will hear, because it simply didn't happen very often in the past 9 years.

Before that happens, we're going to go over the most frequent mistakes made by Charlie Manuel, listed in order of when I think of them:

1) The number of times he batted Utley and Howard back-to-back, with either Burrell or Werth directly behind Howard, is insane. How completely illogical is it to stack those two lefties, especially when the worse of the 2 lefties bats second? If Burrell/Werth always batted 4 and Howard always batted 5 (or Utley 2 - Burrell 3 - Howard 4, but that's coming next, because I just thought about it), then the potential would exist where an opposing manager would burn his best LH-reliever against Chase Utley, and then either let Burrell/Werth (both of whom were deadly against lefties) face that lefty, or remove the lefty for a righty. Then, Howard has one of two possibilities: facing that righty, or facing their second LH-reliever, which would burn 3 opposing pitchers.

Instead, Manuel would make it possible for a lefty to start the inning, retire both Utley and Howard, then face Burrell/Werth with the bases empty and 2 outs. To intentionally create bad matchups in high-leverage innings, while simultaneously reducing the burden of the opposing bullpen, is nothing short of deranged. Failing to realize this in 9 years (HE'S MY CLEANUP GUY, GODDAMMIT) is just sad.

2) Batting an inferior player 2nd. Here is a list of players Manuel has batted second while Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley were both on the roster:


Are you kidding me? The man batted second 9 times (Nine. Times.) in Manuel's lineup in 2005. The Phillies lost the wild-card that year by 1 game. His OPS+ is 76 and he was batting ahead of Chase Utley.

Check out this boxscore. Utley batting sixth, Chavez batting second. Incredible


Perez batted 2nd four times in 2005, with Howard and Utley entering their primes, in the middle of a pennant race. Marginal edges such as lineup optimization couldn't possibly have helped in any way. Thanks Charlie! Perez's 47 OPS+ in 2005 really eased the pain though.


This man posted an OPS+ of  47 for the Phils in 2006, yet that was good enough for him to start in the second batting position a few times. Noticing a theme? I was only 16/17 years old at the time and not yet insane enough to chart each of Manuel's mistakes on a daily basis, but looking back on it, it seems certain that Manuel was just as bad as he has been since '08 (the inception of this site) in the 2005/2006 years where he just barely missed out on the wild card.

Nunez also batted 2nd once in 2007, on perhaps the most talented team of Manuel's entire run. It was probably due to Nunez's massive improvement over 2006, posting a 55 OPS+. Also worth noting, Nunez had 35 starts while batting 7th, meaning he was batting ahead of Carlos Ruiz on a regular basis. Insanity.


This list is getting more ridiculous as I go on, and I'm just going in chronological order. I was not expecting to see that Taguchi started many games in the 2-slot in 2008 -- and when I looked it up, I was right. Zero games started at 2.

And then I saw he batted leadoff EIGHT times. What the hell? Take a look at the 2008 roster: I don't care if Rollins isn't playing, literally anybody else on that roster deserves to bat before So Taguchi, World Series Champion.


So Taguchi's biggest fan, because Taguchi made Bruntlett not-the-worst-player-on-the-2008-team (position player, of course, because the answer isn't Adam Eaton). Bruntlett, out of baseball since 2009 (RIP Shovel Slayer), batted second 10 times in 2008, and inexplicably batting leadoff once. That time batting leadoff was the game where Rollins showed up late to Shea Stadium for a day-game because he drove instead of taking the team bus. He showed up about 45 minutes before the game, which is apparently late, and he was benched. Manuel, instead of realizing, "wow, I need to re-organize my lineup so my terrible utility infielder (Bruntlett has a career OPS+ of 65) doesn't have to bat first" decides to bat Bruntlett first.

He just LAZILY plugs Bruntlett into Rollins's batting position. This is objectively and undeniably worse than any decision Andy Reid has ever made. A career 65+ OPS batter leads off against the first-place team in the middle of a heated pennant race, while Shane Victorino was buried in the 6-hole that game. They were tied with the Mets in late July heading into that game, and the Phillies lineup is shut down losing 3-1, partially because they had Bruntlett receive more PAs than more talented hitters. It's sickening to think Manuel was making such obvious mistakes so frequently when they only ended up clinching the division on the penultimate day of the 2008 regular season.

Bruntlett also started in the 2nd batting position three times in 2009, which leads me into my next subject.


This guy posted a meager 83 OPS+ for the Phillies in 2009 as a 33-year-old, yet he was allowed to bat leadoff once, and bat second another time. Ridiculous. Career OPS+ of 77, so it's not even defensible.


HAHA! I didn't even have this guy on my radar when I considered putting this list together (you know how messed up my brain is when I remember Endy Chaves before Wilson Valdez), but Wilson Valdez is probably the ideal player on this list.

Career OPS+ of 59, which is incredible given that his sample size of PAs is significant with 1240. Somehow, he was good enough to bat second in 12 of the Phillies games between 2010 and 2011.

The Phillies lineup got significantly worse between 2011 and 2012/2013, so I'm just stopping my list here. You can see my point. Look at any single one of these batters, and you'll see that Manuel either batted these guys 2nd, or he buried them in the 7th or 8th slot. It's because his line of thinking is this: "hey this guy isn't a good hitter, but he swings a lot and he's fast, so he's a good guy at the top of the order."

Just sickening.


Michael Martinez started 21 games batting 2nd in this lineup between 2011-2013. I understand those were largely while Utley was injured, but god damn, 21 times? In this lineup? I know this lineup is bad now, but obviously they've always had 2 hitters who deserve more plate appearances than Martinez (career OPS+ of 37 [!!!]).

I did not anticipate ranting this much about the Phillies lineups over the past 9 years, because obviously Charlie Manuel built this website on his hideous bullpen decisions. Part 2 will cover the pitching, and I imagine it will be a lot angrier than this one. Even though....So Taguchi, really?



Anonymous said...

This is a funny coincidence: Mini-Mart batting lead-off

Anonymous said...

How can Charlie be this bad and have the most wins in Philadelphia history. I don't think this was luck.
Just another sports writer that was never good enough to play sports.

Scott Graham said...

Charlie was around for nearly 9 seasons. He has had some of the best players in the league on the Phillies over that time frame. That's how "he" has the most wins in Phillies history.

Rupert said...

It's only fitting that a half-witted manager was constantly scrutinized by a team of half-witted bloggers. This site is truly the "Cholly" Manuel of blogs, according to the caricature you've created of the man. A manager gives you so much quality material over the years, and THIS is all you have to show for it? Is there any way we could sell Philthadelphia to the Canadiens? I don't know? Maybe start with a truckload of these douchebags, and work our way through a prioritized system of assorted morons, violent criminals, and mental midgets?

Scott Graham said...

We did fall asleep for about half the games this season. In light of that, it's hard to argue that we're unlike Manuel.

Andy Musser said...

"A manager gives you so much quality material over the years, and THIS is all you have to show for it?"

You mean the 4 consecutive years where we broke down his decisions of every game?

And I don't think any NHL team has the funds to purchase the city of Philadelphia.

Robby Bonfire said...

So often people confuse a lengthy tenure and impressive career totals with quality (and "superior") performance. Pete Rose has the most hits in MLB history - and the most plate appearances, which people overlook. Was he, is he the greatest hitter in MLB history? Charlie Manuel fans would say "Yes."

But some of us would say there are hundreds of hitters who displayed more power, career-wise, with 16 being the most home runs Rose hit in a single season. And Rose's career BA of .303, without power, when he played three corner positions to go with his MLB debut as a second baseman, does not particularly distinguish him. Plus, Rose was a butcher of a defensive infielder when he played 2B and 3B.

Yet there are so many who are mesmerized by his career hits total, and his "hustle," and who are "outraged" that he is not HOF enshrined, on merit, apart from his betting scandal complications.

It's the same deal for Charlie Manuel, who hung around for almost nine full seasons, yet his teams under-achieved and frequently tanked in the playoffs with vastly superior personnel. The blight on the 2005 season is all about Charlie's mis-handling and over-stressing Jimmy Rollins in the lead-off role he couldn't handle; and about Charlie deploying mop-up man Terry Adams, that AA imposter with the 13-run era, in game situations, two of which he blew-up, completely, in his six weeks here, in a season wherein the team missed "The Big Dance" by one game!

The blight on the failure of this team to repeat as World Champions in 2009 falls to Charlie, primarily for treating Joe Blanton like he was "lights out" Iron Man Joe McGinnity, or somebody, when he was strictly a glorified batting practice pitcher, embarrassingly over-matched vs. a talented and hungry New York Yankees team. I don't know about you, but nothing in sports grates me more than my team of choice losing a World Series to the New York Yankees, especially one it should have won.

And the gruesome upset at the hands of the Giants in the post-season of 2010, cannot be excused.

So that just because a man with a pedestrian intellect fakes his way through nearly nine years at the helm, it does not make him "great." In fact, his basic character weakness came out all the time, and that was his being an "enabler" of so many players he failed to downgrade because of their glaring skill-set deficiencies. Better to be a man who can make timely personnel- change decisions, than a 90-pound psychological weakling who just wants to be "loyal" and be friends with everyone, whether you can handle your specific role on the team or not.

Face it, Charlie Manuel cost this team regular season wins, playoff berths, and another one or two world championships it would have won, had a capable man and decisive decision-maker been at the helm, during his painfully-extended tenure here.

Good riddance to him and spare us the emotional lament. When his time was up he should have demonstrated the dignity to walk away, quietly, which this classless, base person did not. And at the press conference announcing the change, it should have been Ryne Sandburg being introduced, not Charlie Manuel being present and being fawned all over by a milk-sop personality General Manager.

For the rest of us, life will go on just fine without him around, which, no doubt, is something this self-absorbed egotist must be having a hard time accepting.

Anonymous said...

Cholly Moronuel: the only manager in major league history to have a team with the best record in consecutive seasons and reach the World Series in neither. A legend, indeed.

Robby Bonfire said...

Great observation, A.

I will add to that that the team with the best record in baseball not reaching the WS is, in part, THE major, serious flaw with this G.D., multi-tier playoff system.

Used to be you won your league over 154 or 162 games and proceeded directly to the WS. So that we, annually, had the two best teams in baseball competing for the top prize, not the third- best team in one league and the fourth-best team in the other in that position so that network advertisers can sell us trucks and tires, ad nauseam, for a full month on top of 162 relatively meaningless games, now.

Anyone know when was the last time the two best teams in baseball's regular season met in the WS? I don't feel like doing the research, but things are set-up now so that that will happen about once per decade.

Thanks Bud and your predecessors in the Commissioner's office for selling out for trashy television prostitute money. Couldn't have happened without the spineless people like you Commissioners since 1969 who think the post-season bottom line has to trump the sports' regular season championship integrity.

Used to be the sport had integrity PLUS a bona fide showcase ending following the regular season.

Fixing what is not broken is to break that which you tamper with.

Baseball's championship structure is now, irrevocably demolished.

Scott Graham said...


In 2006, the team with the 13th best record won the WS. Awful.

2009 was pretty close. Yankees were #1, Phillies #5 (#2 in NL).

In '99, the Yankees (#3 overall, #1 in the AL) and Braves (#1 overall) were the last true World Series teams to compete.

Also, Cleveland and Atlanta in '95.

I agree that the current playoff format is hideous.

Shahe said...

Mini-mart's OPS+ this year was -7. -7! I didn't even know that was possible.

Robby Bonfire a.k.a. "Donald Trumpet" said...

Thanks, Scott, 1999 it is.

Also, here is what really bothers me. When the friggin' 1973 New York Mets (82-79 W-L, a .509"winning percentage"), made it to the WS by beating Cincinnati (16 games superior during the regular season) - that should have been the red flag that motivated MLB to correct the inequity and never allow it to happen again.

But no, they had to make it, exponentially worse.

Here is what I would have done, had someone consulted me and abided by my recommendation...

I would have maintained four divisions and matched the four divisional winners in a 12-game round robin WS, so that you have 2 games at home and 2 road games vs. each opponent, 12 games in all.

This way,imposter teams like the 1973 Mets and the 2006 Cardinals would have to climb over THREE legitimate post-season teams to win the big prize. And be much more deserving of being crowned "champions" for accomplishing that.

Plus, from an economics standpoint, you would now have 24 scheduled WORLD SERIES games, including half of them being played in the daytime, electrifying business offices and school hallways, like in the old days when the updated WS score, inning by inning, was America's most common conversation between strangers. No wonder football took baseball to the cleaners since 1972when Charlie O. conned the sport into going with nighttime WS games, and shutting baseball out of the business day conversation. Again, TV ratings seem to be all that matters to the power brokers.

I would also give amateur drafting position incentives for each team winning as many games as it can, under this format, even after being eliminated. Such as: the winner drafts 6th, second place drafts 12th, 3rd place drafts 18th, and 4th place drafts 24th, the following spring.

MLB should have stayed with 24 teams. But, again, avaricious network TV executives got control of our sport, with the complicity of a succession of weak-minded Commissioners and MLB owners, and really took a hatchet to its structural integrity.

It is beyond recognition, today, and has been, ever since Bowie Kuhn started wearing short-sleeved shirts in 35-40 degree late October nighttime weather in the northeast. Man, that really took us in!

So that now we have 6-8 teams already assured of a post-season berth just going through the motions waiting for October, primarily focused upon staying healthy. I don't know how MLB could have burned it's own house down any better than it did, Scott.

Anonymous said...

How hilarious that somebody who uses the word "Philthadelphia", something a first-grader would say, has the nerve to call anybody else a moron. Typical suburban loser. You probably didn't even watch the Phillies, you sad little bandwagon fan.

Go back to your pathetic suburban life, Rupert. Haha what a name!

Anonymous said...

I agree with everything except for that Ryan Howard's contract was worse than anything Charlie did. At the time, Howard got even less money than he would have had he hit free agency, and it's been injuries that have really tainted his years since getting that contract. There were times he was around .300 for almost the entire season before getting injured yet again, and he made many key defensive plays at times that only the best first basemen make, not to mention how clutch he was at the end of the season and in some of the postseason series the Phillies played. Also, the Phillies didn't really have anybody to replace him back then, and his being here has allowed Darin Ruf to develop at the minor league level rather than being rushed to the majors, and he's developed as a competent outfielder and a damn good hitter. Don't forget this guy wasn't even a prospect a few years ago because he had struggled so many years into his pro career with the Phillies. I think Howard would make a great DH or possibly a solid everyday 1B in a situation where so much isn't expected of him. Victorino in my opinion was the contract that really killed us. He hasn't been the same player since that 2006 season where he got injured after having such a breakout season. He stopped hustling after that, especially after his starting position was solidified, and there were other players who could've filled his spot the same way he did Abreu's. I will always respect him for what he did for the Boys and Girls club though, giving a million of his own dollars to fix it up.

You and I are around the same age, Andy, so we've been through the same era of Phillies baseball. It's nice to see another person around my age who actually paid attention during those years and can recall every single mistake Charlie made. Just imagine how much better this team would've been under Leyland. A lot of these "fans" don't seem to remember the "Fire Ed Wade" era where that shiny new ballpark sat virtually empty as a protest by us real fans against such an incompetent GM. Thank God for Pat Gillick, and as much as you might not like Amaro's MLB moves, thank God for the drafts the Phillies have had under him.

Robby Bonfire a.k.a. "Donald Trumpet" said...

I'm thinking - imagine what Tony LaRussa could have done with the Phillies imposing collective talent, over the past 10 years.

Unlike the dork the Phillies stayed with for almost nine seasons, you just know that every time LaRussa makes a rotation, bullpen, or regular position change, it is an UPGRADE, made in timely fashion, not the opposite.

I hope Charlie Manuel goes fly fishing, in his retirement, and a fish catches him, and has him for dinner.