While Charlie Manuel was telling the media on Sunday afternoon that Roy Halladay was fine, the former ace pitcher was right down the hall informing everyone that he was not fine. There is no better way to capture the current dysfunction of the Phillies than in those two contrasting scenes.
Halladay, a $20-million pitcher with the worst ERA in baseball, lied to Manuel and the fans for two weeks about the state of his aging arm for one very simple reason: he could. The culture on the Phillies under Manuel has always been player-friendly, even if that means doing something that is not in the best interests of the team. Whatever Roy wants, Roy gets.
Remember, Chase Utley hid his offseason injury a year ago until it became a three-month in-season injury, and Brad Lidge lied about his fickle arm for years before that. Players have usually done whatever they wanted under Charlie Manuel, the manager who often chooses not to manage at all.
So, as the drama unfolded Sunday, Manuel played the part of complete fool to perfection, unaware that his legendary pitcher had already been undergoing medical tests from a training staff that didn't bother to notify the manager of a potentially serious injury. Where pitching coach Rich Dubee was during all of this is anybody's guess. He also functions with no apparent supervision.
That the Phils have become a model of ineptitude should be obvious now to anyone who is still paying attention. Even before his current crisis, Halladay was demanding that he pitch with a sore arm in his final start last season, and openly feuding with catcher Erik Kratz about pitch selection last month. It is hardly a secret now that Halladay has become a bit of a prima donna.
Just don't expect anybody to do anything about it while Manuel is still managing. Only now, with the ballclub in free fall, is the truth emerging about the most successful skipper in team history. He is overrated, absurdly overrated.
Even setting aside his undeniable struggles with strategy, wasn't managing the personalities in the clubhouse widely viewed as Manuel's biggest strength? Then how should we rationalize this Halladay fiasco?
All you really need to know about the way Manuel has handled Halladay this season is what happened after the prickly pitcher announced to the world — not to his loyal manager — that he had a sore arm. As Manuel himself described it, he spotted his former ace on the flight to Arizona but never approached him to get the real story.
"I didn't want to bother him," Manuel said.
Halladay deserves plenty of blame for placing his own interests above that of the team, which absorbed two 14-2 losses because he wouldn't acknowledge his injury. But Manuel is the bigger culprit here because he refuses to do his job. As usual, he is far more interested in making friends than in running a baseball team.
How many more embarrassments like this will it take before someone in power on the Phillies does something about Charlie Manuel?
Rich athletes being rich athletes
Andrew Bynum was not in the NBA playoffs last week. He was flamenco dancing in Madrid. Claude Giroux was not in the NHL playoffs last week. He was karaoke singing at a Center City bar. Thanks for nothing, rich boys.
While the Wells Fargo Center was dark, two of our highest-paid players took a moment from their busy social calendars to wave a middle finger at the fans of Philadelphia. And the saddest part has been the fan reaction — or rather, the lack of it. In an Internet poll, 78-percent said they were OK with players cutting loose in public even when their teams were spectacular failures. Really? Have we actually reached the point now when basic civility is no longer required?
Bynum received $16.9 million to play in zero games for the Sixers this season, which is not to suggest he led a sedentary life. No, he injured his brittle knees bowling and saved his best moves for the Café de Chinitas in Madrid last weekend.
The Giroux fiasco at McGillin's in Center City drew less attention because he played hard during a brutal Flyers season. Still, he is captain of the team, he did not meet expectations and he should know better. In this smartphone age, he had to realize that the image of him joyously warbling off-key would look bad. But he didn't care. We haven't made him care.
This city has been a proud, supportive, demanding place for a very long time. The Flyers sold out every game. The Sixers banked millions of extra dollars under false pretenses. The sports fans of Philadelphia deserve much better than they got last week. And they will get it. But only when they demand it.
Eagles steal top spot back from Phils
Well, that didn't take long. After a few years battling the Eagles for supremacy in Philadelphia, the Phillies are back in second place, and the teams appear to be heading in opposite directions with their fans.
Attendance at Citizens Bank Park has been dropping sharply for the first five weeks of the 2013 season, down more than 8,000 per game. The only team experiencing a bigger drop is Miami, a decimated franchise with a despicable owner. The buzz is gone in South Philly for our baseball team, because an ordinary club doesn't appeal to us after the thrilling teams of recent vintage.
Even more depressing is what lies ahead. Take a look at the current starting lineup and name the players who will definitely be stars three years from now. Time is up. The answer is none. There is not a single position player certain to bloom into the upper echelon of baseball. The closest thing is Dom Brown, and we've traveled that road to nowhere many times before.
Meanwhile, the Eagles are proving right now that fortunes can change quickly — in this case, as fast as removing a tired act like Andy Reid with an exciting new approach from Chip Kelly. No one can predict, Kelly included, how well he will do in his rookie NFL season, but it will definitely be fun.
Single-game tickets for the Eagles go on sale Thursday at 10 a.m. If you want them, don't wait. They will be gone by 10:15. The Eagles are kings again in Philadelphia. Thank you, Chip Kelly.
Idle thoughts from Cataldi
» Flyers chairman Ed Snider called Paul Holmgren's work as GM "outstanding," which leads to one simple question: What platitude would Snider have used if the Flyers had actually made the playoffs this season?
» The PR campaign for Rich Dubee is laughable. The surly pitching coach, whom manager Charlie Manager said he would defend "until I die," has $65 million invested this season in three aces whose team is 5-15 in games they started, and the coach is blameless? Then how should Dubee be evaluated? By his charm?
» Now that his dream of playing again in the NFL is over, Terrell Owens has turned to bowling. That's right, bowling. The former Eagle is already a semi-professional, and he is predicting great things. Hey, maybe Andrew Bynum is available for some pointers.
» Michael Vick finally accepted the challenge in a footrace with LeSean McCoy, and the aging quarterback proceeded to smoke the young running back by five yards over the 40-yard course. McCoy says Vick cheated. Now what in Vick's past suggests that he'd ever do anything like that?
» According to Andy Reid, the former Eagles coach has already tried 50 barbeque places in Kansas City, and he has loved them all. In a related matter, Reid just got an endorsement deal with Tommy Bahama big-man shirts, and is in serious talks with a prominent tent company.