Charlie Manuel was twitching to get the frustration off his chest after Tuesday night's collapse against the Mets. Yet, the Phillies manager refrained.
Manuel slept on the loss and losing record and returned to the ballpark Wednesday hoping for a changed approach, a different result. He didn't get it.
In fact, after what Manuel watched on the field in a 10-6 loss to the Mets some sloppy fielding, runners left all over the basepaths and another implosion from his bullpen the Phillies manager couldn't contain himself for a second straight night. He unloaded on his club in a closed-door team meeting after getting swept at home by the division rival Mets.
"After I watched that game, I felt it was necessary," Manuel said. "Tuesday night I knew exactly what to tell them. There was a lot of things going through my mind. I knew exactly what I could tell them, what I needed to tell them. I've been wanting to talk to them for a while."
The lambasting covered the gamut. Manuel had enough of everything, from the shoddy execution to lackadaisical approach.
"It's the whole thing, the whole environment of how weve been doing," Manuel said. "Ive been sitting here watching for 31 games how weve gone about things. How we get ready for the game, how we play Weve got to get better. The whole game. Weve got to execute better and weve got to pitch better and definitely hit better."
It was several minutes of Charlie unplugged. No player interjected or offered their opinion on the Phillies' play of late. Manuel didn't single out any individual players something he's done during past tirades. Instead, his harsh words focused more on the team and their performance so far during a 14-18 start to the season.
"We don't have a lot of meetings, which is usually good. It usually means you're playing well. When we do, he has a reason behind it and gets his point across," starting pitcher Joe Blanton said. "He got his point across."
There were more than a few moments in Wednesday's loss that could have sent Manuel over the edge (see Instant Replay). There was Shane Victorino misplaying a sinking line drive to center field into a triple. There was Hunter Pence dropping a routine fly ball to right. Or there was the latest implosion by a bullpen that hasn't been able to get anyone out for weeks. The 'pen has a 7.02 ERA in its last 16 games. Kyle Kendrick and Jose Contreras combined to allow seven runs in two innings in Wednesday's loss to the Mets.
With losses in five of their last six games, the players seemed to agree with everything Manuel said in the meeting. They believed the message and timing was right. As veteran shortstop Jimmy Rollins said, the meeting was "necessary." It couldn't wait for another loss.
The time to for the Phillies to get their season on track needed to begin now, with almost a quarter of it already wasted in the rearview mirror. They have a day off Thursday before beginning a three-game series Friday at home against the NL-worst San Diego Padres.
"It was a good time after the way we've played this series," Rollins said. "He took it upon himself to do what a manager does and talk to his team."
History suggests Manuel's team meeting could have an immediate positive effect. The Phillies won eight of nine when the manager undressed his team and individual players after a disastrous series against Houston late in the 2010 season. Admittedly, that was one of the more memorable explosions of his managerial career.
By all accounts, this one was much more tame. Still, it appears Manuel was able to talk directly to certain players without naming names.
"I got the loss, I blew the game, so partly, I think he was talking to myself," said Kendrick (0-3) after he entered with the Phillies holding a 4-2 lead and allowed five runs in one-plus inning of work. "So Ill take that. I gave up the runs that ended up losing the game, so thats me all the way."
Kendrick came in to relieve Cliff Lee, who made his return from the disabled list (oblique) and pitched six solid innings. Lee allowed two runs on five hits before being lifted for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the sixth. He struck out six in his first start in three weeks.
But it was another quality start wasted. The Phillies failed to put the game away early and only three of their 15 hits went for extra bases.
"Its awful. Its unacceptable. I understand everyones frustration," Pence said. "Charlie is an unbelievable manager and everything he said is right. Its not acceptable to play the way were playing and the way Im playing. Weve all got to look ourselves in the mirror. Weve all got to figure something out."
The hope is that Manuel's team meeting will help.
E-mail Jordan Raanan at firstname.lastname@example.org