MLB managers always take one for the team

Philadelphia Phillies' Charlie Manuel is first manager gone this year, but he will not be the last, writes Gregg Patton.
As Philadelphia Phillies' General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. (at left) wipes a tear from his eye, Charlie Manuel discusses his being fired as manager during a press conference Friday afternoon, Aug. 16, 2013 in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Philadelphia Inquirer, Akira Suwa) *** Local Caption *** Manuel Fired As Manager.JPEG-0e2dd.jpg
As Philadelphia Phillies' General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. (at left) wipes a tear from his eye, Charlie Manuel discusses his being fired as manager during a press conference Friday afternoon, Aug. 16, 2013 in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Philadelphia Inquirer, Akira Suwa) *** Local Caption *** Manuel Fired As Manager.JPEG-0e2dd.jpg

Baseball management has a long-standing tradition of acting harshly when saddled with underperforming players. They fire the manager.

It took most of the season, but the sport got around to dismissing its first of the year when Charlie Manuel of the Philadelphia Phillies, one of the more accomplished managers in the game, was fired last week.

History tells us he will not be the last to get the axe before the schedule runs out.

Manuel had run the Phillies since 2005, winning a World Series in 2008, five consecutive National League East titles and 780 games – the most by any manager in the Phillies' history, which includes a record 10,441 defeats.

This was his first losing season. His ageing team played poorly and suffered numerous injuries, thus leaving Manuel vulnerable. A post-All-Star Game record of 5-19 sealed his fate.

The Virginian – whose country twang, plain talk and doughy looks contradicted a trend toward more urbane, polished managers – was also the victim of logic.

The Phillies had decided that this would be last year for Manuel, 69, anyway. Now the next man in line, Ryne Sandberg, gets a six-week head start.

"It gives us a chance to see what he can do," Ruben Amaro Jr, the general manager, said at Manuel's farewell announcement. "I didn't see any reason to drag it out and make [Manuel] sit for 40 games when he wasn't going to be back."

One could make the same argument in Washington, where the manager, Davey Johnson, 70, has led the disappointing Nationals from NL East favourites to non-contender status, while in his agreed-upon final season. Mike Rizzo, the Nationals general manager, recently said Johnson will finish the year in the dugout. Spared, for now.

Still, there is no shortage of other managers rumoured to be in jeopardy. No team in baseball is getting less for its money than Los Angeles Angels. Mike Scioscia, the longest-tenured manager, at 14 years, is often cited among the smartest in the game, but he has not led his well-paid players into a post-season game since 2009.

The once-formidable Milwaukee Brewers keep leaking talent, which made them an also-ran this year and put a target on the back of the third-year manager Ron Roenicke. Eric Wedge of the Seattle Mariners is in his third year, too, but his young, promising team has failed to make much headway in the tough American League West.

Bud Black also may be regarded as one of the game's sharper minds, but even he has not pulled off any miracles in seven years running the small-budget, forever-rebuilding San Diego Padres.

When it comes time to take one for the team, the manager often is the only man for the job.

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Published: August 18, 2013 04:00 AM

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