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By Joseph Santoliquito
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) —The Phillies are heading toward their worst season since 2000, when they finished at the bottom of the National League East with a 65-97 record—30 games out of first place.
This version of the Phils has given up a National League-high 552 runs this season, and have been outscored by 96 runs. The only team in the National League that has a worse run-differential is the lowly Miami Marlins, who have been outscored by 98 runs.
The Phillies have been 5-19 since the All-Star break and sit 53-67, 20.5 games out of first place and 15.5 games out of wild-card contention. It’s a downtrodden, tired team that seems content on playing out the string of games left.
That’s how bad this season has gone for the Phils, a team many thought before the season would contend for the National League East title and were certainly a team good enough to make the playoffs.
Someone had to be blamed—and Phils’ general manager Ruben Amaro certainly wasn’t going to fire himself, so an emotionally distraught Amaro announced Friday that he fired Charlie Manuel, the most successful manager in franchise history. Amaro said the decision was made two days ago, after the Phils lost to Atlanta on August 14.
“We win as an organization, we lose as an organization; we’re in this thing together. This isn’t a blame game. I’m not here to blame Charlie Manuel for our issues,” Amaro said. “I think we all have some responsibility in that regard. There are a lot of things that have happened in the course of the last two years that are unfortunate. I take responsibility for some of the things that have happened over the course of the last two years. I believe we have the talent to be a contending team, and we have some holes to fill.”
Manuel, 69, leaves in his ninth season, posting a 780-636 record as Phils’ manager, more wins than any manager in the team’s history, with five-straight National League East titles (more than any manager in franchise history), two National League pennants (2008 and 2009) and the World Series championship in 2008, breaking a 25-year spell of Philadelphia sports futility. Manuel’s 2011 team established a Phillies’ mark for most wins in a season, winning 102 games.
Manuel won his 1,000 game as a major league manager with the Phils’ 5-1 win over the Atlanta Braves on August 12. It seems as if Amaro was waiting for Manuel to reach that milestone before dropping the ax, unbeknownst to any of the players.
Amaro announced that Ryne Sandberg would be named “interim manager” in place of Manuel. Amaro asked Manuel to be a part of the organization. Juan Samuel was asked to move from first base to third base and Wally Joyner was moved from assistant coach to first-base coach.
“I want everything to go on a positive attitude and note, I’m just mad because they took the best seat in the house from me, I enjoyed everything about it,” Manuel said. “I met a lot of people and enjoyed everything about it. I did not resign and I did not quit. I never quit anything, and I didn’t resign. I looked at everything we talked about.”
“I will say this, the decision came from the organization, but I wanted to put my team and the Philadelphia Phillies above myself. I look at our team and when I look at it, I think a new face, and a new look. The Phillies will be back to where we were a few years ago. That’s the message I would send to the fans.”
Amaro admitted he “toiled with it” in his mind whether or not he’d be bringing back Manuel next season. Amaro said it wouldn’t have been fair to Manuel to go the remainder of the season knowing that they wouldn’t be renewing Manuel’s contract.
Amaro still feels reluctant to turning the page on the roster, yet felt compelled to turning the page on Manuel. This move, it seems, was made to improve the Phils.
“I agree with Charlie, I think he can manage another two or three years, but we’re looking to the future, another five or six years out,” Amaro said.
Amaro said that hiring Sandberg was brought in to make “the organization better,” not as the successor to Manuel. Amaro feels Sandberg has the quality to be a successful manager.
Amaro was noncommittal whether or not the job is Sandberg’s for certain.
Manuel said he said he would still come to the ballpark early and try to get out before anyone arrives.
“I love putting the uniform on, I would have loved putting it on today if I could,” Manuel said. “I’ve been coming to the ballpark so long that I have a routine. I still have that passion and I know tomorrow morning when I get up, I’m going to want to come to the ballpark.”