The day they decided to fire Charlie Manuel was another Black Friday in Philadelphia Phillies history!
The other Black Friday most Phillies fans my age remember was Game 3 in the 1977 National League Championship Series, when the home team lost a collapse-from-ahead game to Tommy Lasorda and the Los Angeles Dodgers after relief pitcher Gene Garber gave up three runs in the 9th to blow a two-run lead with TWO OUT!
The lasting image from that day was watching Greg Luzinski desperately trying to glove a drive off the bat of Manny Mota, the result of a puzzling defensive move manager Danny Ozark failed to make in replacing the lugging Luzinski with Jerry Martin, something which he had done all season long in the late innings.
But this Black Friday was different. It’s one thing to have disaster strike in the Heat of Battle, to have Defeat snatched from the jaws of Victory as the result of athletic plays made – or not made. This one however was self-inflicted.
It happened suddenly with little warning to fans settling in for a tough weekend series against those Black Friday Dodgers. Aside from the usual water-cooler and talking head speculation revolving around another lost season, there were few signs of a pending change.
A hastily called news conference was the chosen method on the same day the Phillies had intended to honor Charlie Manuel’s recent 1000th victory in red pinstripes. Reports also had leaked through on-line media that Manuel was out as the Phillies manager.
It was a very odd, very unfair way to yank the ejection cord on a World Series Champion manager. At times like these that goofy sports reputation of Philadelphia seems so totally well-earned.
Charlie was a winner. He was the Right Man at just the right time. He was down-to-earth. Charlie was baseball classiness with backwoods common sense and a reassuring confidence.
And although it was clear that a change was needed and that lovable Charlie should not return next year, the Phillies were foolish to jettison Manuel before October.
Many fans felt he deserved better. Charlie had earned not only the right to finish out the season free from blame, but the opportunity for the fans to show their appreciation and affection for a well-respected member of the Phillies community and the Philadelphia region!
Instead, the forever-to-be-popular manager was unceremoniously and uncaringly dumped by an organization that has lost its Baseball Way under the management Amaro.
Black Friday was a real eye-opener for those of us who live Phillies baseball.
For Phillies fans it was not hard to recognize that Manuel’s tenure was coming to an end. But the team’s slide in recent seasons from NL East powerhouse was hardly his doing. Bad free agent signings, key injuries to core players, and a lack of young talent in the minors ready to help had so much more to do with it.
But NONE of that were the product of Charlie Manuel!
My reaction, as shown above, was predictably emotional like many Phillies fans. I’m getting too old to suffer the ignorant actions of men making a living at silly games. You earn my unbridled loyalty only to a point. Once you go way past Stupid, I tend to stop caring.
The defrocking we witnessed Friday was a self-inflicted wound of the worst kind. For the Philllies showed their true colors, and Ruben Amaro, Jr. showed us HIS.
Amaro’s tears were there. His insistence that Charlie Manuel meant so much to him. The claims that this was not an exercise in finger-pointing, despite the fact that Amaro’s finger was on the trigger and that gun was pointed squarely at Manuel’s center mass.
Now no doubt, there are plenty of baseball reasons for which one can justify the firing of a manager with just 42 games remaining on the schedule and the team is 20 games out of first.
Certainly it seemed that the team had stopped caring enough to pay attention to detail. Maybe Charlie should have turned over a few post-game buffet tables in the Phillies’ locker room. In a perfect world, maybe we could understand Amaro’s stated desire to give interim manager, Ryne Sandberg an audition.
But Uncle Charlie deserved a far better ending than this. And in my opinion none of those baseball reasons outweighed the respect the Phillies owed him!
That Amaro was the one doing the firing was particularly galling. Afterall, this team was much more the product of Amaro’s foibles than it was of Charlie’s managing ability and effort.
Amaro was the one who admitted to doing a horrible job of putting together the Phillies 2013 bullpen. He was the one who brought in Delmon Young; who told us Mike Adams was a good bet; who gave us an outfield without much “field”. Amaro was the one who stocked the less-than-stellar bench.
Ryne Sandberg is exactly who I wanted to see get the next chance to move the Phillies back to the top of baseball. But not like this, not now.
As partial season ticket holders, we have been prepared for a long, slow climb back to the top. But now the total disregard for a once successful and well-respected face of the franchise has left a bitter taste on top of an embarrassing season.
If Amaro gets to ride this out, it’s difficult to see how the Phillies get better regardless of who’s managing in the dugout.