Charlie Manuel, who managed the Phillies to one of two World Series victories in team history, was fired today. The team named third-base coach Ryne Sandberg as his interim replacement.
Manuel was hired after the 2004 season and led the Phillies to the playoffs in five consecutive seasons starting in 2007. The pinnacle of that run was the 2008 World Series in which the Phillies defeated the Tampa Bay Rays for their first World Series since 1980.
Sandberg, a Hall of Fame second baseman with the Chicago Cubs, debuted as a shortstop for the Phillies in 1981. He was traded to Chicago prior to the 1982 season.
In 2010, Sandberg was named manager of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, which is the top tier of the Phillies farm system. He was promoted to Phillies third-base coach and infield instructor last October and was widely viewed as Manuel’s replacement-in-waiting.
The Phillies went into the All Star Break with a 48-48 record, but have won just five games since. Manuel’s last game as Phillies manager was a 6-3 loss to the Braves in Atlanta.
Sporting a pink button-up dress shirt, Manuel himself addressed reporters at Citizens Bank Park alongside Ruben Amaro Jr.
Asked about the timing, Amaro said he considered waiting until the end of the season but it ultimately came down to making sure that Manuel knew as soon as the decision to move on was made. He said making the decision and stringing Manuel along for weeks would have been unfair.
“It gives us an opportunity to see what we have in Ryne Sandberg and how he can handle being a major league manager for the Philadelphia Phillies,” Amaro said.
Manuel spoke to second baseman Chase Utley since the decision made, but has not had the chance to address other players from the team.
“I think that sometimes, people forget how much I love to win,” Manuel said when asked about how his Phillies tenure ended before the end of a season that disappointed the organization and fans alike. “I want us to compete and I want to win a World Series every year. … I hold myself accountable. When we don’t get the job done, I understand that I was the manager.”
Amaro noted that he thinks Manuel could manage in the major leagues for another two or three seasons, but that didn’t mesh with the Phillies’ look toward the future.
Asked whether the team tuned him out in the waning weeks in his career, Manuel said veteran players wondered whether they could turn a losing streak around, but didn’t know whether his words resonated with them.
“You’d have to ask them,” said Manuel, noting that the decision was made a day or two ago.
He said he managed the last game against the Braves knowing it would be his last.
“I’ve liked Ryne Sandberg since the first day I met him,” said Manuel. “He definitely deserves a chance to manage in the major leagues. He’ll be a real good manager.”
Amaro said, however, that Sandberg was not hired as Manuel’s perceived replacement.
With 780 wins, Manuel holds the record for most career victories for a manager in franchise history. The 102 wins posted by the 2011 squad represents a single-season franchise record as well.
Dottie Kelly of East Falls said she makes an annual “Charlie Manuel Cake” out of the Phillies Cookbook. She’s been a fan since the Connie Mack Stadium days.
“I feel bad, but they had so many losses. I just feel bad about it,” Kelly said on Friday. “Guess there was no alternative since he is the manager but he did take us to the World Series, and won the division so many times. I like him. I hope he sticks with baseball so the younger ones coming up can get wisdom from him.”
Ian Riccaboni, a writer for Phillies Nation and Phillies Nation TV, said he thinks it was “awfully horrible timing” for the firing.
“The winningest manager in Phillies history gets canned with less than a third of a season left on his final contract a few days before he is honored for his 1,000 win by the team?” he told NewsWorks. “I definitely agree that he should not have been brought back after 2013, this is poor timing by increasingly disconnected management.”
Phillies blogger Zoo With Roy also took the news hard.
“This breaks my heart,” he told NewsWorks. “There was nothing about Charlie Manuel that I didn’t like; he was humble and honest. And a champion, forever.”
On Twitter, reaction was mixed to the announcement.
Some, like Ellyn Avila, were shocked.
“It is simply rude!” she wrote. “This should be his last year – but send him out a hero!”
While fan Drew Desmond blamed Amaro for assembling a subpar squad, Cubs fan Gillian Kocher tweeted that she “is happy to see Sandberg at the helm. [I] can finally root for the Phillies.”
Sandberg press conference
Donning a Phillies cap and shirt, Sandberg lauded Manuel’s accomplishments and legacy with the organization.
“He left a big footprint here in Philadelphia,” said Sandberg.
He also noted that the team left Spring Training with “expectations to contend” but that didn’t come to fruition.
“There have been signs of lackadaisical play,” he said of the team’s performance of late.
Phillies press release
Minutes before the press conference started, the team issued a release announcing Sandberg’s hire. It reads:
“Ryne Sandberg has been named interim manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, effective with tonight’s 7:05 game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Senior Vice President & General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. announced today.
“Sandberg, 53, has spent the 2013 season as the Phillies third base coach, his first major league coaching position. This year is his third in the Phillies organization, having served the first two as the manager for triple-A Lehigh Valley, where he went 155-132 (.540) and led the team to their first playoff appearance.
“Before joining the Phillies, Sandberg managed four years in the Chicago Cubs minor league system, leading his clubs to two first-place finishes. He has an overall managerial record of 439-409-1 (.517) in the minor leagues.
“A 2005 inductee into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Sandberg was originally drafted by the Phillies in 1978 and made his major league debut with the team in September of 1981 before being traded to the Cubs. He played 15 years for Chicago and finished his career with a .285 batting average, 282 home runs and 1,061 RBI in 2,164 games.
“In addition to Sandberg being named manager, first base coach Juan Samuel will now be the third base coach and assistant hitting coach Wally Joyner will be the first base coach.”
WHYY/NewsWorks reporters Elizabeth Fiedler and Peter Crimmins contributed to this article.