Want a hint about the direction the Phillies are taking in establishing a positive, winning atmosphere for the 2005 season? Look no further than their decision to interview Don Baylor first for the vacancy in the manager’s office. No one in the Philadelphia organization would admit it, but Baylor’s visit here was a cynical nod to the Commissioner’s mandate that minority candidates receive equal opportunities. Baylor was never going to be hired here. At the very least the Phillies want someone with an winning record and Baylor has failed to reach .500 after nine seasons with two clubs. His visit was an inexcusable waste of everyone’s time.
Want another hint about the new-look Phils? They aren’t going to hire Grady Little, Jim Fregosi or Buddy Bell either. The more that comes to light about Little’s decision-making apart from the Pedro Martinez debacle, the worse he looks. Fregosi is the nostalgia candidate, but the Phillies need reality not memories, especially not of the 1993 team that wasn’t really that good but managed to get to the Series despite their mediocrity. Buddy Bell is yet another curious entry. He, too, is a manager with a losing record over six seasons with two teams and the last thing the Phillies need is someone for whom they will have to make excuses if he starts out slowly in April.
Conspicuously absent from this do not recall list is Charlie Manuel, the clear front-runner, and Marc Bomberg, the dark horse. Bomberg is the only name not publicly mentioned and this might have more to do with his lack of major league experience than credentials. The Phillies brain trust, an oxymoron if ever there were one, most likely doesn’t want to have to plead for patience from the natives as someone learns on the job. If the season just past was supposed to be the one during which the Phillies finally delivered, 2005 will come with even less margin for error.
Manuel, then, seems to be the likely successor to Larry Bowa if only by default, unless another dark horse emerges.