Being a major league baseball manager can sometimes be a treacherous job. This is especially true when you are manager in a more discerning, passionate city like Philadelphia. Charlie Manuel does not seem any worse for the wear, continuing to follow his instincts, shrug off the criticism and ultimately push the right buttons.
No sooner had the Phillies won the NLDS series clincher against the Rockies in dramatic fashion, than did Manuel find himself answering questions about his managerial decisions and moves. Inquiring minds wanted to know why he went to Scott Eyre rather than Brad Lidge to start the ninth, or why he did not pull Ryan Madson in favor of Antonio Bastardo to face lefty Jason Giambi, or why he pinch hit Greg Dobbs for Ben Francisco? And, on and on- you get the idea.
Manuel had answers for all, and answers that made sense. The fact that his team was still celebrating one of the most dramatic wins in franchise history did not offer any grace or immunity. It is an occupation that can experience exhilarating highs, such as yesterday. But it is also a life in a public fish bowl, and as Manuel experienced yesterday, one that is subject to scrutiny even in the best of times.
Of course, these inquisitors would have taken the opposite position had he made the moves they suggested. If he had sent Lidge out to start the 9th, and he had run into trouble, Manuel would be answering questions about why he puts loyalty above results or why he didn't go with a lefty? If he had replaced Madson with Bastardo and the moment was too big for a wide-eyed rookie, he would have been squarely on the firing line. And, if Huston Street mowed down Francisco, he would have been criticized for not using one of his left-handed pinch hitters.
The bottom line is almost anything that does not go right could very well be scrutinized, and like yesterday, even some things that do. This is not lost on Manuel, and even though he sometimes can mildly bristle at such criticism, he has chosen to let the chips fall where they may. He simply refuses to manage scared of the outcome or the court of public opinion.
This courage and quality is recognized by his players. And, they reciprocate by reflecting the same tough minded and confident approach out on the field, in whatever situation they encounter. They do not question the manager, but rather simply resolve to execute on whatever they are asked to do in the best way possible.
As they have throughout the series, Charlie's moves worked out again yesterday. And, importantly, the very character that enabled the team to beat the odds and rally for a dramatic win, starts with the senior statesman with the "41" on his jersey.