PHILADELPHIA | It’s not unusual for Philadelphia Phillies manager Charlie Manuel to turn even the most mundane baseball question into a story. And with his team one win from a championship, Manuel was in perhaps the most relaxed mood he has been in during the World Series on Monday.
That meant a trip down memory lane, through an unlikely managerial career that somehow turned the folksy manager with a Southern drawl into a perfect fit for this tough Northeastern town.
During his press conference before Game 5 of the World Series, Manuel reminisced about the travels that got him to the doorstep of a championship, from playing for Billy Martin with the Minnesota Twins to his days in Japan and the start of his coaching career in the minor leagues.
His homespun style is often a bigger focus than his instinctive managerial traits, but closing out a championship would start to change that perception.
“People are going to say a lot of things about you, and I’ve always taken that sometimes personally,” Manuel said. “When somebody attacks me personally, yeah, that kind of upsets me because I wish they were standing in front of me. But at the same time, that’s part of it. And that’s part of being mentally tough.”
Manuel’s stories ranged from his early days coaching in the Twins’ minor league system - when an opposing scout saw him taking batting practice and mistakenly filed a scouting report on him - to what he learned from playing in Japan. The biggest laughs were reserved for his stories about Martin, the off-and-on Yankees manager who got his first managerial job with the Twins in 1969, when he led Minnesota to the AL West title.
Martin was fired the next season after he got into a fight with one of his players, and Manuel said even in good-natured situations it wasn’t unusual for Martin to trade punches with players.
“He used to love to fight us. We boxed and stuff like that,” Manuel said. “I mean, we used to have some good blows, man. I really enjoyed him. He would always keep you involved in the game, too. Once the game was going on, you better be watching because he’d always check you on how many outs there were, where the outfielders were playing or infielders or something like that, and if you give him the wrong answer, he just might smoke you.”
That style has rubbed off on the 64-year-old Manuel over the years. But more than anything, he said, he became a manager because he loved to teach the game. One more win and he might be recognized for that.
“In my wildest dreams, I did not think of ever coaching in the big leagues, I did not think of managing in the major leagues,” he said. “I always give credit to my players, but at the same time I also think I can communicate with people, and that’s the part of it I like.”
Maddon shifts lineup
Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon shuffled his lineup against Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels before Game 5, dropping struggling sluggers Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria a spot in the lineup and moving Carl Crawford up in the order.
Pena and Longoria, who have been hitting third and fourth, entered the game a combined 0-for-29 in the series, while Crawford has hit two home runs.
“It’s bumping Carl up as much as anything,” Maddon said. “And I wanted to unfreeze those two guys a little bit. The fact that they’ve had problems in the normal slots, I thought just giving them a little different perspective [Monday] may help.”