ATLANTA – The season has begun.
Charlie Manuel is now officially in the final year of his contract.
The most successful manager in Phillies history is a lame duck.
And, according to general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., he will stay that way.
Amaro has no plans to explore a contract extension or talk about Manuel’s future in any way until the season ends.
“That’s been the plan all along,” Amaro said on opening day. “We’re going to talk at the end of the year. We haven’t discussed anything and we won’t discuss anything until then.”
Amaro doesn’t believe Manuel’s status will become an issue, distraction or unnecessary subplot during the season.
“I’m not worried about anything,” he said. “The players are not worried about anything. We just have to go play.”
Manuel is one of nine big-league skippers who have now entered the final year of their contract. The list includes Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, who will be under intense scrutiny as he tries to deliver a $215 million team to the heights that the club’s new ownership group expects.
Washington’s Davey Johnson, another manager carrying huge expectations – some the result of his own “World Series or bust” proclamation – is also in the final year of his contract, though there is little doubt about his future as the team has already announced that the 2013 season will be his last.
Detroit’s Jim Leyland managed out his deal last year, won the American League pennant and received a one-year extension. At age 68, he prefers one-year deals.
At 70, Johnson is oldest manager in baseball. Manuel is second at 69. This is his ninth season as Phils skipper. In his previous eight, he won five NL East titles, two NL pennants and a World Series from 2007 to 2011. Last year, the Phils were hurt by injuries and slipped to third place.
Manuel signed a two-year contract extension in March 2011. At the time, he said he would take stock of himself and his situation when the contract expired. Some took that to mean Manuel was leaning toward retiring after 2013, but according to Amaro, no such deal was set in place.
“There’s no agreement,” Amaro said. “There’s no underlying anything. The only agreement was we’d talk at the end of the year. That was something we decided on mutually.”
When asked about his future this spring, Manuel vehemently defended his managerial record and made it clear that he’d like to continue to manage beyond this season. But he never pushed for an extension. He has said he’s comfortable with the situation and completely focused on winning in 2013.
Third base coach Ryne Sandberg is considered the heir apparent to Manuel. It has been speculated that Sandberg’s presence on the staff could create some uneasiness with Manuel as he tries to lead the team back to the playoffs this season, but Manuel says the two have an excellent relationship. They were seen almost daily having long conversations on the diamond while players stretched before spring-training workouts.
It has also been speculated that Manuel and Amaro might not being seeing eye to eye, that there could be tension between the two. Both men say that’s untrue.
“There’s no tension,” Manuel scoffed before Monday’s opener.
“Charlie Manuel and I have a great relationship,” Amaro said.