Phillies manager Charlie Manuel is entering the second year of a new three year deal he signed prior to the 2011 season. He’s the longest tenured manager in the National League and the third longest in the MLB. There was talk on local radio this weekend of where he stands in the eyes of the fans and in the front office. The discussion centered on whether or not Charlie is in the proverbial “hot seat” and if he isn’t, what it will take to keep him out or put him in. A good portion said that Charlie would at least last to see the end of his contract but if he didn’t at least make it to the World Series this year, then 2013 would be his “year in the hot seat”. The Phillies could then choose whether or not to renew his contract, assuming Charlie wants to come back in 2014 at the age of 70, assuming again that he doesn’t pull a Jim Riggleman and walk out mid season in 2013.
So next year after the 2013 season the Phillies could be faced with an open hiring event on managers. There are many candidates the Phillies could choose from, both in house and out of house. It’s unknown at this point how many free spots could be open after 2013 and we could reasonably assume Charlie would come back regardless of how the Phillies finish the next two seasons. But it’s something that needs to be discussed, both for 2014 and in the future. Here are some possible choices:
The Heir Apparent
Ryne Sandberg: Sandberg is currently entering his second season as manager of the Lehigh Valley Ironpigs, the Phils’ AAA farm team and was chosen as 2011 minor league manager of the year. That gives him a familiarity with the organization as well as the rising stars that can be on the team’s 25 man roster by 2014. He rose up through the Chicago Cubs farm system, managing three of their teams to winning seasons. But when Lou Pinella left the game, Sandberg was passed over in favor of Mike Quade, who only lasted one season as Cubs manager and then was replaced by Dale Sveum. Sandberg was interviewed by the St. Louis Cardinals after the 2011 season, but he was not selected as manager. It’s likely that he will be offered interviews again for any post 2012 opening so he might not even be available to pick up the clipboard when Charlie puts it down.
Pete Mackanin: The Phillies current bench coach interviewed with both the Cubs and the Red Sox this past offseason. He has years of managerial experience in the minors. He served as a mid season interim manager twice and it is surprising as to why he hasn’t gotten a job yet. He took over bench coach responsibilities from Jimy Williams in 2009 so his Phillies experience counts for something.
Mickey Morandini: Morandini came back to the game after years being a power dad at home. In 2011 he managed the short season class A Williamsport Crosscutters. In 2012 he made the move up to the A level Lakewood Blueclaws in what was known as the “Parent Shift” when Mark Parent left his spot as Reading Phillies manager to be the bench coach for the White Sox and the minor league managers each moved up a spot. If Sandberg takes a job elsewhere, he could find himself in Clearwater in 2013 and become closer to Charlie’s spot.
The Phillies could decide to go with someone with experience managing a big league club down the road, regardless of a potential manager’s previous record.
Ken Macha: Macha led the Oakland Athletics to four straight winning seasons and two division titles but was canned by Billy Beane after getting swept in the ALCS in 2006. He came on board with the Brewers for two seasons in 2009 and 2010 but finished third both years.
John Russell: Russell played for the Phillies between 1984 and 1988. He managed the Pittsburgh Pirates for three seasons. During the 2010 season, the Pirates announced that John Russell’s contract had been extended through the 2011 season; though the extension occurred during the previous off season, the Pirates waited until June to announce the new contract, a move unpopular with many fans. He was fired anyway after the season and replaced Juan Samuel as 3rd base coach in Baltimore, only to move to the bench coach position due to bad knees. I doubt anyone will hold his lack of success in Pittsburgh against him. Find me a manager who can deliver a winning season there and I’ll show you manager of the century.
Terry Francona: It could happen. Francona could be the biggest managerial free agent of the 2012-2013 off season. Many managers take a year off and come back to the game with a new spirit. Francona is only 52 and his success with the Red Sox can’t be ignored. He did what he could with the Phillies tight check book in the 90’s. Whether or not he wants to manager after this year will be a major factor in all MLB vacancies.
The Phar Phuture
Jimmy Rollins: Jimmy has four years left on his contract with the Phillies. This season, keep your eye on him. Or watch footage of him from past games. He is never far from Charlie Manuel. Watching. Learning. Soaking it in. Rollins is a player with a great career and a legacy in Philadelphia, but anyone can see how much love he has for the game. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t find a way to wear red again after he hangs up the cleats.