By Joseph Santoliquito

The Phillies have won with Wilson Valdez, Ross Gload, Greg Dobbs, Cody Ransom, Paul Hoover and Mike Sweeney. They’ve won with 15 players on the DL at one time or another. They’ve played five games this season with their Opening Day starting lineup. They’ve gone long spans without All-Stars Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and now Ryan Howard in the lineup. Throughout all this turbulence, there’s been one constant and that’s been the measured hand of Charlie Manuel.

Sure, he’s let Joe Blanton bat with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh inning against the St. Louis Cardinals. So yes, you can question some of Manuel’s moves this year and in previous seasons. One vital area beyond doubt during Manuel’s tenure is how well the Phillies play late in the season. The Phillies have steamrolled teams in August, September and October. In fact, under Manuel, the Phillies are 173-116 combined (counting this 4-0 run in early August) during the final three months of the season.

It’s also time to give some credit as to why the Phillies remained buoyant when everyone but the bat boys and the Phillie Phanatic were on the DL. The eye of this stormy season has been the skipper. He never wavered. Oh yea, he publicly questioning his team a few times this year. But you notice he also stepped back when it was time for the Phillies to right themselves, too. You have to point to the understated Manuel as a major reason why the Phillies have been so successful since “Chuck” took over in 2005. It’s time then that we give the old man his due. It’s time to start looking at Manuel as the greatest manager in Phillies’ history.

Yes, this is the most talented team in Phillies’ history, but Danny Ozark also had some incredibly talented teams in the mid- to late-1970s and those teams of Hall of Famers never won a playoff series. Dallas Green had his one stint in 1980, but his tenure was too brief to be thrown into the argument as the Phils’ greatest skipper. Gene Mauch was anointed a genius, and he still tops the list of most games won as a Phillies’ manager (646 games from 1960-68; though has a losing record of 646-684 with the Phillies), but Mauch never won.

There’s no denying Manuel has been the most successful manager in franchise history. You can question his tactics all you want. You can question his undying loyalty to certain players (see Brad Lidge). What you can’t dispute is his winning track record. Add that to the unwavering support of his players and that equals a special leader. The Phillies could have gone into panic mode more than a few times this season. Hell, everyone around them (media, fans, management) did. Not Manuel. That clubhouse remained even when everyone was yelling the walls were coming down. The team believes in Manuel–as does Manuel in his team. It’s not always the case when a team is stumbling, as the Phils were in July.

“You look at everything we’ve been through, and every year it seem to be something, the one guy who keeps it all together, and keep us together is Charlie,” Shane Victorino said. “The thing that used to bother us is that he never seemed to get any credit outside of this locker room. But it really doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. It only matters what we think. We have Charlie’s back. We know he has our’s. I don’t know the complete history of this team, but you can’t argue there’s been no better manager than Charlie since they last won a World Series [in 1980].”

So for some of you out there who still question Manuel, who still don’t believe he’s the greatest manager in Phillies’ history, you’re entitled to twist his success any way you want. What you can’t deny is that Manuel is the only manager to have led the Phillies to consecutive National League pennants. And there’s been no Phillies manager who’s had the kind of success Manuel’s teams have had in August, September and October. This August has gotten off to a great start and with the return of Victorino, Utley and Howard, it looks like it’s only going to get better.

It’s time to realize something: Charlie Manuel is the greatest manager in Phillies’ history, whether you want to believe it or not. It’s time to realize Manuel’s strong, firm hand has saved this season. Whether the Phillies make the playoff or not, to still be this competitive this late in the season is a testament to the magnificent job Charlie Manuel has done.

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