I don’t live in the Philly area, so I don’t know how much fanfare it got up there, but when the Phillies beat the Red Sox 2-1 on Wednesday of last week, Charlie Manuel moved into third place all-time on the franchise’s career managerial victories list. It’s something that almost never happened — in the summer of 2007, Charlie Manuel’s time with the Phillies appeared to be nearing its end. However, the historic NL East pennant race that year just barely saved his job. Now, four years later, he’s firmly on the path to becoming the greatest manager in franchise history.
Although he’s 67 and is the third-oldest manager in baseball (he started the season as the oldest, but the Nationals and Marlins decided that if having a senior citizen as a manager worked for the Fightins, then they were going to hire an even older one), it won’t take too much more for him to reach a few milestones that will cement his place in franchise history. 40 more wins this season moves Manuel into second-place all-time on the wins list (past HOFer George Wright), and if the Phillies somehow manage to finish the year with 103 victories (which would be a franchise record), he will overtake the top spot from Gene Mauch… and do so in 198 less games. Should he continue managing into the 2013 season, he will also surpass Mauch in the category of most games managed. The only mark that seems questionable is most seasons as Phillies manager. He would have to last until 2015 to take the top spot from Wright, but it seems likely that Manuel will at a minimum tie him for that honor.
Of course, Manuel has already made a convincing case for the title of Greatest Phillies Manager ever. No other manager has taken the Phillies to four straight first place finishes or to two World Series appearances (in consecutive seasons to boot). He took the team to just its second world championship in over 125 seasons of play, and his .565 winning percentage is the highest of any manager in franchise history (minimum 300 games). I don’t believe he’ll ever be a Hall of Famer (although, a couple more World Series titles might change that), but he’s become an automatic inductee to the Phillies Wall of Fame the year after he retires.
Looking back to the summer of 2007 (type “Charlie Manuel 2007” into Google and start reading the blog posts denigrating him and/or discussing his potential replacements), it’s hard to believe the turnaround in the public’s perception of Manuel. Yet, we now have bloggers stating things like “he’s the perfect leader for this team.” It’s amazing how winning consistently can change your public image.
(Featured card: 2007 Topps Allen & Ginter’s, #94)