How many ill-conceived, pre-programmed decisions will it take before the love affair ends between Charlie Manuel and the fans? Can blind affection survive a horrific season? What will it take for the smartest fans in sports to see he is killing this team?
People who blame injuries or bad luck or dumb acquisitions have something in common this season. They are not watching every inning of every game, the way I am -- like it or not -- because of my convalescence from a major operation. And the way Manuel has managed is making me sick to my surgically-repaired stomach.
In fact, he isn't really managing at all. He is deciding what to do long before games, when the pressure of actual thought is not required. Let me say this one more time: Charlie Manuel is the worst strategist in baseball, and the worst I have ever seen in a half-century of watching the game.
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T he latest example was the critical loss last Friday night, when Kyle Kendrick had the best change-up of his career and had shut out Atlanta for seven innings on 89 pitches. Nevertheless, when the Braves sent up left-handed pinch-hitter Juan
Francisco and his .226 batting average, Manuel summoned a slumping Antonio Bastardo, who promptly gave up five runs.
After the game, Manuel revealed the manner behind his mindless managing style. He said he had already decided that he didn't want Kendrick to face the top of the Atlanta order again. Instead, he got to hear the fans boo Bastardo off the mound after a grand slam by Brian McCann.
My only complaint is that the fans didn't boo Manuel just as hard. Bastardo should have never gotten into the game. Kendrick was having a brilliant night; Bastardo has been awful. Hello?
Finally, the spotlight seemed to move closer to Manuel when president Dave Montgomery had a closed-door meeting with the overmatched manager just before Sunday's loss. Witnesses said the skipper looked puzzled by the session -- or exactly the way he has looked when required to think during any game this season.
A ll we know right now is that Montgomery asked Manuel to communicate better with his oblivious, underachieving players, though the manager admitted after the game that he had already tried everything to awaken his comatose team. Manuel even asked the reporters if they had any ideas.
Well, I have one. After watching Michael Martinez bat with a game on the line, after watching Chase Utley not bat in a similar spot last week, and after watching Jonathan Papelbon wasted repeatedly because Manuel uses his closer only in the ninth inning, my suggestion is for Manuel to find a new team to ruin.
Eventually, even his adoring fans will see the truth. It's time for him to go.
Sad reality is divorces are messy
The first instinct after news so stunning is to minimize it. Ah, nothing will change. Everything will be fine. Life goes on. But if you have ever endured the emotional upheaval of a divorce, you know better.
Jeff and Christina Lurie acknowledged on the Fourth of July that they are splitting up after 20 years of marriage. Jeff is the richest owner in Philadelphia history, a billionaire because of the
Eagles. Christina is the most active wife of a sports owner in Philadelphia history, leader of the Eagles Youth Partnership and the brains behind the new look of the team in the mid-1990s.
In their joint statement, they assured everyone that they would continue to work together in overseeing the Eagles. If their situation is like mine and countless others, that goal will be a far greater challenge than they could ever imagine.
Because Jeff and Christina were married during their entire 17-year tenure as owners, they will probably have to split the team 50-50. In other words, Christina will either agree to equal say on running the team, or Jeff will have to come up with more than half a billion dollars to buy her out. Good luck.
And once Christina has equal say, what happens when the front office wants the next Mike Vick and she is appalled by that idea? Who wins that battle?
The truth is, no one wins when there is a divorce. And in the case of Jeff and Christina Lurie, that includes the fans of the Eagles.
- Angelo Cataldi is the host of 94 WIP's Morning Show, which airs weekdays 5:30 to 10 a.m.
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