Phillies feel like they let Charlie Manuel down

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Phillies feel like they let Charlie Manuel down

The Phillies were expected to contend in the NL East when the 2013 season began. However, the team has completely fallen apart since the All-Star break.

General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. took action on Friday afternoon, announcing that manager Charlie Manuel was relieved of his duties and that Hall of Fame second baseman Ryne Sandberg will serve as Manuel’s replacement effective Friday night (see story).

Perhaps this is the wake-up call the Phils need to snap out of their current funk.

“I sure hope so,” second baseman Chase Utley said prior to Friday’s matchup with the Dodgers. “It obviously shows that we are not playing good baseball.

“We all know we haven’t been playing great. We’ve had some stretches. We’ve played OK, but lately we haven’t been getting the job done. Whatever it takes to get us to focus more.”

Utley first played for Manuel in the 2004 season, when Manuel was hired as the club’s 51st manager. Utley was 23 then, playing behind Placido Polanco at second base.

Utley would go on to take over full-time duties at second in June 2005, when Polanco was traded to the Detroit Tigers. He then established himself as one of the best-hitting second basemen in the National League, and he credits Manuel for that.

“Charlie is the man that gave me an opportunity to play,” Utley said. “I owe a lot to Charlie Manuel. … I think we are all a little upset and a little sad. It’s not a usual thing to see that guy you played for not behind the batting cage watching batting practice.”

Manuel, the winningest manager in team history, won 780 games with the Phillies and led the team to the 2008 World Series title.

Cole Hamels, who was the 2008 World Series MVP, said Manuel served as a father figure to all of his players.

“All of us grow up in a certain way,” Hamels said. “We leave home and we come from all different cities and I think Charlie was kind of like our father to a lot of us. He was a fatherly figure. He really enjoyed watching us have success.

“When we weren’t playing at our best, he always came around and encouraged us. He never had anything negative to say. He always wanted us to be the best we could.

“Knowing that and every good game I had, every bad game I had, he always came up to me no matter what and really told me ‘go get 'em and keep doing what you’re capable of doing.’ So that’s kind of what you want to hear sometimes -- not all the time -- but I’ll really take that and notch that away as a really good memory.”

Third baseman Michael Young, who is in his first season with the Phils, was disappointed his time with Manuel was cut short.

“It’s unfortunate any time someone you really enjoy playing for, enjoy being around, is no longer with you on a day-to-day basis,” Young said.

“For us as players, I know me personally, I loved playing for Charlie. I have a ton of respect for what he’s done in the game and for what he can bring to a baseball team. Going forward, I’m look forward to playing for Ryne now.”

Sandberg will take over a Phillies team that has gone 5-19 since the All-Star break. He spent the previous two seasons as manager of Triple A Leigh Valley before joining the Phils’ big club as third-base coach this past September.

Sandberg said Friday that the Phillies have shown signs of “lackadaisical play” as of late.

“I’m as guilty as everybody else is,” Hamels said. “We have to focus a lot more in what we have to do out on the field because we have to do it the right way. Charlie preached that but we just weren’t doing it. We’re as guilty as everybody. We have to be responsible for being out there and playing the game of baseball the Philly way and the way that we know how. We have to pull for each other to do so.”

When asked if the Phils’ poor play contributed to the firing of Manuel, Utley didn’t pull any punches.

“Charlie didn’t strike out,” Utley said. “Charlie didn’t make any errors. All Charlie did was come to the park everyday and ask us to win.”

So now Sandberg will have to find a way to reinvigorate the Phillies over the final 42 games of the season.

Replacing Manuel will be no easy task. Manuel helped the Phils to five consecutive NL East titles from 2007-11 before the club took drastic steps back in 2012 and 2013.

“He (Charlie) said the game goes on, but that doesn’t make it any easier," Utley said.

Hamels feels the Phils let Manuel down and knows they have work to do moving forward with Sandberg at the helm.

“For a sense because of what he means to us and how he’s been around, yeah we let down not only him, but we let down the organization,” Hamels said. “We let down the fans, but ultimately we let each other down. That’s why we really have to get back up and discover who we are and what we are playing for and go out there and do it.”

Instant Replay: Braves 12, Phillies 2

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The Associated Press

Instant Replay: Braves 12, Phillies 2

BOX SCORE

ATLANTA – The Phillies continued to stumble toward the season’s finish line on Wednesday night. They were hammered, 12-2, by the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field.
 
Adam Morgan was bruised for 10 hits and nine runs in five innings.
 
The Phils have lost five of their last six games. They have given up 63 runs over that span.
 
The Phils have lost six straight to the Braves and are 16-35 in their last 51 games against the NL East.
 
With four games to play, they Phils are 70-88.
 
Starting pitching report
Morgan was hit hard early but had to give the Phils some innings as the bullpen has carried a heavy load lately. He finished the season 2-10 with a 6.04 ERA in 23 games, 21 of which were starts.
 
Atlanta’s Mike Foltynewicz picked up the win. He gave up just one run over five innings.
 
At the plate
The Phillies had just four hits. They have scored 599 runs this season. They are the only team in the majors not to reach 600.
 
The Braves had 13 hits, including six for extra bases. They were 5 for 11 with runners in scoring position.
 
Matt Kemp doubled and homered for the Braves.
 
Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman extended his hitting streak to 30 games. He has reached base safely in 46 straight games, tying Washington’s Jayson Werth for most this season.
 
ICYMI
Like Pete Mackanin, GM Matt Klentak sees a need for offense, but he remains committed to the team’s rebuild (see story).
 
Health check
Roman Quinn is likely done for the season. Aaron Nola is throwing in Florida (see story).
 
Up next
The series concludes on Thursday night. Jeremy Hellickson (12-10, 3.78) will make his final start of the season (and likely his final with the Phillies) against Atlanta right-hander Josh Collmenter (3-0, 4.19).

It will be the Phillies’ final appearance in Turner Field. The Braves move into a new park next season.

Cubs reward Theo Epstein for turnaround with 5-year extension

Cubs reward Theo Epstein for turnaround with 5-year extension

CHICAGO -- Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts had dinner with president of baseball operations Theo Epstein in Arizona around the start of spring training.

If Epstein had any doubt about a contract extension, it ended right there. And on Wednesday, it became official.

Chicago announced a five-year extension, rewarding Epstein for an overhaul that has the long-suffering franchise eyeing its first championship since 1908.

"He started it off by saying some really nice things about me that might have hurt his leverage a little bit, and then I returned the favor by telling him that even if we couldn't work out a contract it would get awkward because I would just keep showing up to work," Epstein said. "As an employee, I will. I kept ruining my leverage."

The deal comes with the Cubs wrapping up one of the greatest seasons in franchise history and their fans believing this just might be the team to end the 108-year World Series title drought.

Chicago reached 100 wins for the first time since 1935 and was a major league-leading 101-56 heading into Wednesday's game at Pittsburgh. The Cubs clinched the best record in the majors with more than a week left in the regular season.

"In the five years under Theo's leadership, he has brought in a strong executive team and acquired and developed some of the best players in the game," Ricketts said. "Now, the results are on the field."

Terms were not disclosed.

It looks like Epstein isn't the only Cubs executive with a new deal. He said contract extensions for general manager Jed Hoyer and senior vice president of scouting and player development Jason McLeod will probably be announced in the next day or two.

Epstein, who was in the final season of a five-year deal when he left Boston in October 2011, had repeatedly said a new contract was a formality, that there were more immediate priorities. Ricketts had echoed that and indicated in the spring that he was prepared to make him one of the highest-paid executives in baseball.

"There was never any real drama throughout the summer," said Ricketts, adding the agreement was finalized a few days ago.

What took so long?

"We sat down at spring training, had a nice dinner, talked about getting an extension done," Ricketts said. "Basically, I told him I thought he was the best in the game at what he did. He told me no matter what I paid him he wasn't going to leave Chicago, so we were off to a good start. We checked back in on it a couple times during the summer. There was no real time pressure."

The new deal is a reward for a striking transformation that began with the arrivals of Epstein along with Hoyer and McLeod -- his friends from Boston -- following the 2011 season.

The Cubs tested some fans' patience by taking the long approach rather than going for a quick fix, but they have seen the benefits the past two years. Chicago is eyeing even bigger things after breaking out with 97 wins and reaching the NL Championship Series last season.

"When you have great leadership at the top, it usually filters through the rest of the group," manager Joe Maddon said. "A successful organization has that. We have that. I was very happy to hear the news. I'm very happy for Theo and his family and of course, us. It is great. It's a feel-good story. He deserves it. He's earned it. I'm very happy for him."

High draft picks such as 2015 NL Rookie of the Year Kris Bryant made big impacts, as did a number of trade acquisitions, including last season's NL Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta, All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo and potential Gold Glove shortstop Addison Russell.

The hiring of NL Manager of the Year Joe Maddon and signing of starter Jon Lester before the 2015 season showed just how serious the Cubs were about jumping into contention. And the additions of three-time Gold Glove outfielder Jason Heyward, pitcher John Lackey and veteran infielder Ben Zobrist along with the re-signing of outfielder Dexter Fowler this past offseason added to an already deep roster.

Throw in the emergence of Kyle Hendricks as a Cy Young candidate, and the Cubs are widely considered a postseason favorite.

There were missteps along the way, but the Cubs are in a far different and far better place than they were five years ago. And if they win it all under Epstein, it won't be the first time he helped end a long championship drought.

Before he took aim at the Billy goat curse, he took down the Bambino.

Epstein oversaw two World Series winners in nine seasons as Boston's general manager.

In Chicago, Epstein parted with high-priced veterans and loaded up the minor league system while expanding the team's scouting and analytics operation as part of an overhaul that saw the organization get stripped to its studs.

The Ricketts family also invested heavily in infrastructure in recent years, including new training facilities in the baseball-rich Dominican Republic and the spring training home in Arizona. They are also overhauling Wrigley Field and the surrounding neighborhood.

"There really wasn't anything important to me besides finding common ground, making sure that we could stay and see this thing through," Epstein said. "Our mission has not been accomplished yet."