The Deal Not Done (Yet)

15 Feb

Did you all enjoy the hoopla surrounding the Joe and the Four Aces press conference yesterday?  It looked like quite a scene.  My favorite moment was when a reporter asked Cole Hamels how it felt to be the only member of the staff with a ring and he pointed down the table at Joe and said, “He has one.”  Good to remember that even with all the Cy Youngs, All-Star appearances,  and 20-game winning seasons racked up by Lee, Halladay, and Oswalt, Joe already has what they all came here to get.  Funny how this game works, isn’t it?

Here’s another thought I had seeing all those guys together in their Phillies shirts. Remember when Citizens Bank Park was first built?  Many so-called baseball experts said the park was too small.  Curt Schilling called it a “bandbox” and a disgruntled Billy Wagner (after he left the Phillies) complained that the game-winning homerun he gave up would have been a “long fly ball anywhere else.”

The common wisdom was that the Phils would always be a hitting team, that they’d never be able to attract top pitchers to come to this too small ballpark.  Well, tell that to the Gang of 5 (see, I included Joe) sitting behind the table yesterday. Not only did they all want to come here but some say Cliff Lee left as much as $50 million dollars on the table to join the Phillies.  Bandbox that!

So kudos are due to Ruben Amaro, Jr. for putting this group together.  But there is a deal not yet done that is getting lost in this pitching lovefest.  Charlie Manuel has yet to sign an extension to his contract which is up after this year.  Entering the season without a new deal can only add more stress to an already pressure-packed season.  What’s Ruben waiting for?

Now if you had told me several years ago that I’d be writing in support of a new deal for Charlie Manuel, I’d have laughed in your face.  I’ll admit it.   I was in the Jim Leyland camp when the Phils hired Charlie.  I was guilty of laughing at some of Charlie’s word inventions.  Can anyone forget my all-time favorite “flustrated?”  And I was appalled when he admitted that he didn’t really know how to execute a double switch.

But even before their World Series win in 2008, I knew that I was selling Charlie short.  It became clear that his folksy style was perfect for this team and that he was not the country bumpkin some painted him to be.  In fact, one of the reasons that stellar staff sat fielding questions yesterday is that players want to play for him.  They want to come here, to Philadelphia.  That is quite a turnaround for a city so often maligned by the national press.

Charlie Manuel has led this team to four straight National League East Titles, one World Series win and an appearance in another.  He has given this city more to celebrate than any manager or coach of any Philadelphia team in recent memory.  So yes, I’m glad we have the Four Aces (and Joe) and I’m glad we have Ryan Howard and Chase Utley locked up but it’s time to give Charlie a new deal.

Let’s go Ruben.   Don’t make me “flustrated!”



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