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Charlie Manuel: An Appreciation

Charlie Manuel: An Appreciation

from "The Phillie Phanatic's Parade of Champions" by Tom Burgoyne and illustrator Len Epstein

I remember a lot about Charlie Manuel's early days as manager of the Philadelphia Phillies. Mostly that people sure didn't like him, at all.

The 2005 team, in Manuel's first season, were the Bobby Abreu/Kenny Lofton/David Bell Phillies, the Ed Wade-built team that a whole lot of fans couldn't stand despite yearly winning records. And that extended to the manager.

He was as un-Philly as can be, a man who didn't talk or act anything like a "Philly guy." He was 60 when he was hired but could have passed for a decade older. Manuel spoke with a heavy regional accent of a region that is not ours, he made head-scratching strategic moves, and never explained them to anyone's satisfaction in the postgame press conference. Even though the '05 Phils won 88 games and weren't eliminated from playoff contention until the final day of the season, Charlie finished his first season far from a popular man.

Manuel followed Larry Bowa who, though a California native, was a longtime ex-Phillies player and veteran of the 1980 team who had an Italian-American surname, which sort of made him an honorary "Philly guy," unsuccessful as his managerial tenure was. Bowa had also been a member of the media in the past -- a vocation to which he's since returned -- and had some fans in that constituency.

In the first couple of years, a whole lot of fans either wished the Phils had kept Bowa and fired Ed Wade, or hired Jim Leyland instead of Charlie. And remember that weird conspiracy theory about how Manuel was only hired, first as hitting coach and then as manager, as some sort of backroom deal to appease Jim Thome?

Charlie had that postgame shouting match with Howard Eskin, and he fought septuagenarian ex-manager Dallas Green on the field before a game, in an incident I dubbed "Age in the Cage." Even Charlie's longtime fiancé lashed out at the city's "culture of negativity," in a much-forgotten episode right after the end of the 2005 season.

But after '05, Charlie was retained and Wade was fired. I remember when Pat Gillick was hired as general manager, and the talk radio conventional wisdom was that the Phils were now run by two out-of-town old guys. At one point, as the team struggled early in the '06 season, it looked like Charlie's firing could be imminent.

But then, suddenly, everything turned around. The team fought back and won the NL East in '07, overtaking the collapsing Mets on the last day of the season to end a 14-year postseason drought.

The next year, of course, they won the World Series, and Charlie showed up in the parade in a dapper suit. Three more NL East titles followed as the Phils established themselves as one of baseball's elite franchises.

There was still grumbling about in-game moves, of course. But after '08, most Phillies fans were pretty firmly on Team Charlie. Championships, after all, have a way of reversing bad first impressions. I always felt like the original rejection of Charlie Manuel had a lot more to do with the way he looked and talked than his actual skill as a manager, and over time fans got used to that.

And now he's out the door, the victim of having to manage a roster abominably constructed by GM Ruben Amaro, full of past-their-prime veterans, ill-advised free agent signees and non-prospects up from the farm. Sure, he was likely gone at the end of the year anyway. But it's still sad to see his Phillies tenure end the way it did. Manuel is the first manager fired at midseason from a team he won the World Series with since the Diamondbacks whacked Bob Brenly in 2004.

Of course Manuel made questionable strategic moves, and that continued throughout his career. But you know what? Name a great manager who didn't. Almost every manager in the majors uses their closer wrong and at least occasionally makes head-scratching decisions about the batting order and which pinch hitter to use. Don't believe me? Ask any fan of any team. And Charlie's inability to understand the double switch was always overstated. I think he had it figured out by May or June of his first year.

How well managers "get players to play for them" is hard to quantify, of course, but Charlie seemed to do all the little, behind-the-scenes things right. There was virtually never clubhouse turmoil on Manuel's Phillies and if there was, you never heard about it in the press. You never once heard a departed player trash Charlie on the way out of town.

And I don't want to hear any of this nonsense about how Charlie Manuel or the Phillies should be ashamed that they "only won one World Series." Winning a World Series is pretty damned hard, requiring a great deal of skill as well as luck. To denigrate the achievement of the 2008 title is to minimize what happened that fall which -- I think we can all agree -- was pretty damned awesome. That argument reminds me of the people who discounted the first six years of Donovan McNabb's career because "the NFC East was weak then."

Charlie Manuel won a World Series, got to another, led the team to five straight division titles and a 102-win season, and is the 130-year-old organization's all-time winningest manager. He's the only man on the planet who has coached or managed a Philadelphia sports team to a championship in the last 25 years. Does he deserve singular credit for those achievements? Of course not. But they didn't happen by accident either, and he had to have been doing something right.

It says a lot, however, that Phillies fans were nearly unanimous in reacting to Charlie's firing with either anger, sadness or both. Back in 2006, I wouldn't have guessed it would happen that way or, for that matter, that he wouldn't be fired for seven more years.

What's next? If Charlie wrote a memoir of his decades in the game, I'd absolutely read it. For all he was mocked for his drawl, I'd love to see him give broadcasting a shot. I could see some club, maybe one with a younger manager, bringing Charlie in as a bench coach. And it's not outside the realm of possibility that he gets another managing job.

Charlie Manuel is part of a vanishing breed in the game -- the pure baseball lifer. He came up as a player in the  late 1960s and has been around the game in a variety of capacities ever since. Read Mark Bechtel's great Sports Illustrated profile of Charlie from June 2009, if you haven't before -- some great stories, and even greater appreciation for the man.

Most of all, Charlie proved that you don't necessarily have to be a "Philly guy" to succeed in Philly.

Stephen Silver is  a local journalist who writes for EntertainmentTell and Philadelphia magazine's Philly Post. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver

CSNPhilly Internship - Advertising/Sales

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CSNPhilly Internship - Advertising/Sales

Position Title: Intern
Department: Advertising/Sales
Company: Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia
# of hours / week: 10 – 20 hours

Basic Function

This position will work closely with the Vice President of Sales in generating revenue through commercial advertisements and sponsorship sales. The intern will gain first-hand sales experience through working with Sales Assistants and AEs on pitches, sales-calls and recapping material.

Duties and Responsibilities

• Assist Account Executive on preparation of Sales Presentations
• Cultivate new account leads for local sales
• Track sponsorships in specified programs
• Assist as point of contact with sponsors on game night set up and pre-game hospitality elements.
• Assist with collection of all proof of performance materials.
• Perform Competitive Network Analysis
• Update Customer database
• Other various projects as assigned

Requirements

1. Good oral and written communication skills.
2. Knowledge of sports.
3. Ability to work non-traditional hours, weekends & holidays
4. Ability to work in a fast-paced, high-pressure environment
5. Must be 19 years of age or older
6. Must be a student in pursuit of an Associate, Bachelor, Master or Juris Doctor degree
7. Must have unrestricted authorization to work in the US
8. Must have sophomore standing or above
9. Must have a 3.0 GPA

Interested students should apply here and specify they're interested in the ad/sales internship.

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Phillies 'really excited' about prospect haul in Pat Neshek trade to Rockies

Phillies 'really excited' about prospect haul in Pat Neshek trade to Rockies

Pat Neshek became a Phillies trade candidate the moment the team acquired him from the Houston Astros in a cash deal in November. The only question was: How good of a trade chip would the right-handed reliever become? Ultimately, Neshek's performance would dictate that.

Neshek spent four months with the Phillies and pitched brilliantly. On Wednesday night, five days before the non-waiver trade deadline, the Phillies cashed him in for three young prospects in a deal with the Colorado Rockies.

"There was a lot of interest in Neshek," general manager Matt Klentak said. "Just about every team in contention lobbed a phone call to touch base about Neshek, some more seriously than others. The Rockies were interested from Day 1."

The Phillies picked up Alejandro Requena, a 20-year-old right-handed starting pitcher, J.D. Hammer, a 23-year-old right-handed reliever, and Jose Gomez, a 20-year-old shortstop. All were playing at the Single A level.

Requena, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound Venezuelan, was 8-3 this season with a 2.85 ERA in 19 starts for Low A Asheville. He had 97 strikeouts and 25 walks in 117 innings and had held opposing hitters to a .239 batting average.

Hammer, a 24th-round draft pick in 2016, started the season at Asheville before being promoted to High A Lancaster in late June. Overall in 2017, he is 4-2 with a 2.36 ERA and 13 saves in 36 games. He has an impressive 65 strikeouts and .182 opponents' batting average in 42 innings.

Gomez had a slash line of .324/.374/.437 with four homers, 33 RBIs, 54 runs and 18 stolen bases in 81 games at Low A. The 5-foot-11, 175-pounder from Venezuela was the 21st-ranked prospect in the Rockies' farm system by MLB.com. In addition to shortstop, he plays third and second base. 

"We’re excited about all three of the kids that we got," Klentak said. "Our scouting group really did a good job running all over the country, trying to get extra looks at these players. We’re really excited to pull this off."

Neshek, 36, was the Phillies' lone All-Star selection and worked a scoreless inning for the National League two weeks ago in Miami. With the Phillies this season, he pitched 40 1/3 innings over 43 games. He allowed just five runs and 41 of his appearances were scoreless. He did not allow a run in 21 2/3 innings at Citizens Bank Park.

"I'm actually relieved," Neshek said shortly after learning of the trade after the Phillies' 9-0 win over Houston (see game recap). "People have been talking about it since April, so it's done. I thought it was going to go until the last day. It's kind of nerve-racking.

"It's also bittersweet. I enjoyed my time here. These guys are some of the better guys I've played with."

Neshek joins a Rockies club that currently has a four-game lead for the second National League wild-card spot. The Phillies, of course, have the worst record in baseball.

"It's exciting," Neshek said. "You jump right into a playoff race. That's a great team, great offense."

The Phillies will add a reliever to replace Neshek in time for Friday's game against the Braves. It's possible that Edubray Ramos or Mark Leiter Jr. could return, but it also might be time to look at Jesen Therrien, the hard-throwing righty with the Brad Lidge slider. Either way, all three of these pitchers will be in the majors over the final two months of the season as the team makes changes and roster spots open.

Klentak said Neshek was the Phillies' most targeted player. Jeremy Hellickson will make his final start before the deadline on Friday night. He is expected to be dealt. There are enough teams looking for pitching and the Phillies are willing to pay down much of the approximately $6 million that remains on his deal.

The Phillies have two veteran bats available in Howie Kendrick and Daniel Nava, but both have health issues. Nava is on the disabled list with a sore hamstring. If he goes, it could be in an August waiver deal. Kendrick, who has been on the disabled list twice this season, took a pitch off the left wrist on Wednesday night. There was no fracture. He could still be dealt before the deadline, but the return does not figure to be significant. First baseman Tommy Joseph is another trade possibility as the Phils look to open a spot for Rhys Hoskins. Reliever Joaquin Benoit is yet another trade possibility but he won't fetch much of a return.

"I don’t want to handicap it," Klentak said of the chance of making more deals. "We’ve received calls on some of our other players, some more serious than others. Health will be a factor. As you know, Nava hit the DL today and Howie was just hit in the hand. We’ll have to see how he comes back from that. We’ll have to see. We’ll certainly be here, we’ll be on the phones, and we’ll be working as hard as we can to see what’s out there. But [the Neshek trade] is definitely the one we thought was most likely."