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?
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 teamyesterday's game was steeped in itis headed in the general direction of Manuel getting fired. As for whether Manuel getting tough on his players, The Inquirerfound 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 yearspecifically, 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 Greenthe Phils love to hire from within the organizationturn 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:
Fired G 1-25
Fired G 26-50
Fired G 51-75
Fired G 76-100
Fired G 101-125
Fired G 125+
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.