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For Those About To Get Rocked—Fire!
2007-04-18 09:24
by Mike Carminati
Sweet fire the sire of muse, my soul needs this;
I want the one rapture of an inspiration.
O then if in my lagging lines you miss

—Gerard "Don't Call Me Effa" Manley Hopkins

Tut, man, one fire burns out another's burning,
One pain is lessened by another's anguish.

—William "Author" Shakespeare, "J.C." Romeo and Juliet

Peter Gibbons: I uh, I don't like my job, and, uh, I don't think I'm gonna go anymore.
Joanna: You're just not gonna go?
Peter: Yeah.
Joanna: Won't you get fired?
Peter: I don't know, but I really don't like it, and, uh, I'm not gonna go.
Joanna: So you're gonna quit?
Peter: Nuh-uh. Not really. Uh... I'm just gonna stop going.
—From the great Office Space

Apparently, Charlie Manuel is now trying to get fired.

Manuel drew headlines after challenging the polemical Philly sports-talk non-personality, Howard Eskin, who dared him to get angry and ride his players a little more given the Phils 3-9 record. Manuel called Eskin into his office to prove to him that he, Manuel, could in actuality get angry. The results were bad press for Manuel and good, juicy story for Eskin. The best-case for Eskin was getting some fodder for his radio show and that was exactly what Manuel gave him. You can't respect a man who is so easily outsmarted by a talking head of Eskin's caliber.

It seems that the malaise surrounding this team—yesterday's game was steeped in it—is headed in the general direction of Manuel getting fired. As for whether Manuel getting tough on his players, The Inquirer found that the largest segment of fans don't care. They just want the team to win.

Unfortunately, they are not winning, and aside from a couple of tweaks like juggling the batting order and redefining the bullpen roles, there are not many options within the organization. Pat Gillick earned his nickname "Stand Pat" by not pulling the trigger on a few interesting deals this spring and appears not to have any big deadlines in the offing (Brad Lidge?).

Should Charlie Manuel be fired? Yes, in a heartbeat. He is perhaps the worst manager that at least I have ever seen as far as in-game decision making is concerned. He cannot handle a bullpen, cannot determine the appropriate time to pull a starting pitcher, he doesn't use his bench except for pinch-hitting and late-inning defensive replacement duties, and, oh yeah, he still does not know how to double-switch even though he is in his third year managing in the NL.

However, is Manuel to blame for the current situation. No, not really. He's done his part, but he is also managing a dysfunctional team. Wes Helms does not have the defense to be a starting third baseman in the majors. Shane Victorino does not have the pop to be a starting corner outfielder. Rod Barrajas was a poor stopgap solution behind the plate that was a Phils knee-jerk reaction after ignoring the short-term catching solutions last year—specifically, why didn't Ruiz get more experience given that it was apparent that he had to be the starter in 2007. With all the free agents and mid-season deals in 2006, it was clear that their bullpen would be threadbare in 2007.

Really, all of the Phils problems this year, aside from Utley and Howard not hitting, were apparent by the All-Star break last year. In the offseason, their big moves were to pick up two starting pitchers, the highly questionable Adam Eaton and Freddy Garcia, who will be a free agent at the end of the season, and to fill spots with veteran journeymen like Helms and Barrajas. And who is to blame for all of this? GM Pat Gillick.

This reminds me of 2004 when Larry Bowa quietly (for him) lame ducked his way through almost an entire season before getting fired in the final weekend. Bowa was also a poor manager for different reasons and he deserved to get fired. But by the time he was let go, his ineptitude was marginalized by the abysmal job then-GM Ed Wade was doing at gathering needed talent (especially at the trade deadline).

Bowa became the scapegoat while Wade survived one more season. I get the feeling that Manuel is getting primed for the scapegoat role, and his little run-in with Eskin helped grease the skids. It seemed to start in the offseason when a slew of former managers were hired to fill out the coaching staff. This includes heir apparent Jimy Williams, who has managed with Gillick in the past. It also came after a number of Manuel's coaches were let go in a mini shakeup.

Will firing Manuel and replacing him with either Williams, Davey Lopes, or even Dallas Green—the Phils love to hire from within the organization—turn this team around? What about a creative move like hiring someone like Joe Girardi, will that energize the team? I doubt it. It might help, but it won't resolve the personnel issues.

So much of what the Phils front office is about is designating scapegoats to fire to get some sort positive PR bump with the local yokels that it would almost be surprising if Manuel were to be fired this early in the season. Who would they blame come October? However, Manuel may force their hand if he continues to publicly pour gasoline on the fire, like with his public brouhaha with Eskin.

Anyway, I took a look at teams that fired their manager at different times throughout the year. Here are the breakdowns based on when the manager was fired. The average manager's record, average team record, and average record after the firing are listed along with the winning percentage difference before and after the firing:

SituationCount Mgr G Mgr W Mgr L PCT Tm G Tm W Tm L PCT Post G Post W Post L PCTDiff
Fired G 1-2562 15 5 10 .328 126 52 73 .418 112 47 63 .429.102
Fired G 26-5095 39 16 23 .401 142 63 78 .445 103 47 55 .462.061
Fired G 51-7580 62 28 34 .449 145 67 77 .463 83 39 43 .474.025
Fired G 76-10083 87 39 48 .450 152 69 81 .461 64 30 33 .477.027
Fired G 101-12543 114 52 61 .459 158 72 85 .458 44 20 24 .457-.002
Fired G 125+63 145 67 78 .462 160 74 85 .464 15 7 8 .476.014
Overall426 73 32 40 .445 146 66 80 .453 74 34 40 .460.015

The time to fire a manager is clearly early in the season with potentially a 100-point winning percentage turnaround on average. However, if the Phils improved their winning percentage by 100 points, they would still be among the worst clubs in the league. That said, if or when the Phils decide that Manuel is on his way out, the are better off making a clean break then allowing him to be a lame duck going forward.

Right now, I'm sure that the Phils brass is in their typical bunker mentality. They are thinking about how they can generate some fan interest after all the offseason optimism and season ticket sales. With the bad weather it's hard to say whether the 27K they drew yesterday against their alleged rival, the Mets, was due to a growing lack of fan interest. But I am sure that the walk-up ticket sales will weigh as heavily on the front office's mind as the team's lackluster record. Only they know when they will make their next move, but unfortunately for Manuel, it appears that when that move comes it will come in the form of his dismissal.

2007-04-18 15:24:58
1.   King of the Hobos
Don't worry, I foresee Manuel really turning it around. Just look at his first move after this post, making his ace a middle reliever after 2 bad starts, that screams brilliance. With a few more moves like this, such as benching Howard in favor of Barajas, I can see the Phillies going to the World Series.
2007-04-18 16:40:07
2.   williamnyy23
It definitely seems Manuel wants to be fired. Just to make sure, he has now decided to move Brett Myers to the pen in favor of John Lieber. I can't imagine that will go down well in Philly.
2007-04-18 17:40:24
3.   sanchez101
re: the Myers move

How does this make any sense? I mean, what is the absolute upside here? Let's say Myers morphs into vintage Eric Gagne - does that solve the situation in the outfield, 3B, or C? Does that make Eaton a better pitcher? Does that help a porous defense?

Maybe, maybe, it helps the other pitchers in the bullpen. But this team has bigger problems that adding a arm (even a really, really good one) to the bullpen won't solve. Except they're not adding an arm to the bullpen, they're just switching it from a 200 inning role to a 80 inning role. Never mind that now the team has a new problem to solve - rotation that lacks an ace.

So, you have a team beset with multiple problems and the answer is shifting your best pitcher into a situation where he pitches FEWER innings?

Now that's assuming that Myers is immediatly one of the best relievers in the game (not entirley rediculas). Now, what if, lets just say, Myers isn't up for the task, or doesn't appreciate getting yanked from the rotation? The Phillies get much worse.

To review:
Best case scenario - the Phillies remain a crappy malaise-filled team

Every-other case scenario - the Phillies get worse, scuttling any chance the might've had to contend.

Wow, text book high-risk, low-reward manuevre. Touche Manuel, touche.

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