Anyone who argues the manager is not critical to a team's performance is kidding himself. Despite claims that a manager cannot hit, pitch or catch the ball, his impact is profound.
None of us is privy to what goes on inside the Phillies clubhouse. From what we can gather, the overall atmosphere has improved since Charlie Manuel replaced Larry Bowa. I'm happy they're happy. I cannot help notice, however, that many of the most successful managers over time weren't too concerned with how the players liked them or, for that matter, each other. Any time 25 players and six or seven coaches live together for six or seven months there are going to be tensions.
What is clear by now is that Manuel does not possess the skills to manage a game and that starts with planning, not just in-game strategy. He cannot make out a lineup and when he does, he cannot seem to find the right combination. He cannot use his bench well at all. He hasn't a single clue about pitching. Nor does he appear to have the skills to assemble a group of coaches who can not only get the most out of their players but also correct mistakes, make adjustments and most critically evaluate the talent.
This is a dysfunctional coaching staff. Someone among the bloggers or those commenting made the observation recently that whenever the camera pans the dugout, pitchers are talking to Mark Bombard not Rich Dubee. Of course it's impossible to know if that is an accurate representation of the relationships on the team, but it was telling.
What does seem clear is that as an organization the Phillies could not handle some of their pitchers (Vicente Padilla being a prime example), could not evaluate others (trades by Ed Wade of some young pitchers were not made in a vacuum by him alone) and cannot seem to coach those who remain.
And what about hitting? Manuel is alleged to be a hitting guru but for my money I have never seen a team with less plate discipline or an overall sense of what is the appropriate approach to an at-bat. Few of them can hit behind the runner. Fewer can bunt. Most of them don't know when to take a pitch. This team is relying on the long ball to score nearly 50% of its runs. I don't know the stats on how such a reliance pans out over time, but my guess is that is not the way to win a pennant. What makes a good hitting coach? The easy answer would be: good hitters. Some of the best hitting coaches couldn't hit themselves. Charley Lau. The Phils have had a series of hitting coaches whose impact seems to have been minimal. Maybe good coaches are in short supply, like good pitchers.
I do know this: every time the camera pans to Manuel in the dugout talking with Gary Varsho (EVERY TIME), he is invariably making a motion like he's swinging a bat and every time LA, Harry, Wheels, and Scott Graham say how much CM loves to talk hitting. Yeah, and the part they leave out is how little he knows about pitching other than he couldn't hit it himself.
The current road trip could easily find the Phillies returning home five games under .500. They appear to be utterly lost at times and that approach can be laid at the feet of those who run the team.
Expect another announcement.