(Editor's note: I was certainly viewed within the local blogsphere as favoring the selection of Charlie Manuel as the new Phillies skipper. In fact, I was on the record as favoring Terry Pendleton or John Russell over Manuel or any of the other veteran candidates. When it became clear neither of the neophytes were going to be hired, I advocated choosing Manuel over Jim Leyland.)
I watched Comcast Sportsnet at 5PM yesterday expecting to hear a great deal about and from Charlie Manuel, the Phillies new manager. I wasn’t disappointed, at least not until Manuel began to speak.
Several things struck me, none of them having to do with Manuel’s easy drawl and folksy style, both of which are perfectly refreshing. No, what jumped out was that he still seemed to be selling himself even after he’d been offered and accepted the post. He rambled, didn’t answer questions (not because he was being evasive but because he didn’t really seem focused), and generally came off as, well, awkward.
Later in the same broadcast Jim Leyland was interviewed via phone. He was gracious, articulate, very focused and specific about the team’s strengths and weaknesses, thoughtful, insightful and genuinely disappointed not to have landed the job.
The whole experience was sobering. Manuel certainly seems pleasant and genuine albeit a little evangelical. As Jim Salisbury points out today in the Inquirer there is no requirement that someone possess a Phi Betta Kappa key to manage a baseball team. On the other hand, I recoil when someone brimming with confidence keeps telling anyone within earshot he is brimming with confidence. I cannot recall ever having had second thoughts quite so quickly. I’ll get over them, though. I have to remind myself the manager sets the tone; he doesn’t run, hit, throw or catch.