Diamond in the Rough

In a virtual game of baseball managing, I do no better and no worse than Phillies manager Charlie Manuel.

By Daniel McQuade
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 1 | Posted Aug. 31, 2005

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Someday, when they write the epitaph for the local baseball nine, it'll hardly be remarkable if it starts with, "The Philadelphia Phillies began on a drunken dare."

Okay, wait. There's no evidence that original Phillies owners Al Reach and John Rogers were on the sauce when they founded the team. But would it really surprise you?

In 1883, their first season of baseball, the Phillies were 17-81. Over 122 years, the Phillies have won five pennants and one World Series. They won their first World Series game in 1915, and didn't win another one until 1980.

It gets worse: In 1894 the Phillies managed to have their entire outfield hit over .400, and they still didn't win the pennant. In 1964 Gene Mauch, the Phils' manager with the most career wins, managed to blow a six-and-a-half-game lead with only 12 games to play. And in 1993 the Phils managed to lose a World Series game 15-14 after the opposing team had essentially ceded them the win.

All told, counting every season they've played, the Phillies are more than a thousand games below .500. They could win every single game over the next seven seasons and still have an all-time losing record.

Little wonder we hiss, boo and even throw opposing teams' home-run balls back onto the field � la Wrigley. Despite the Phillies' recent run for the wild card, fans have turned their attention to the Eagles, and they aren't looking back.

It's our way of saying, "We know you're going to disappoint us again."

Baseball players come in all shapes and sizes. There are fat guys, skinny guys, power hitters, slap hitters and left-handed relief specialists. Baseball just seems easier than other games. Despite the virtual impossibility that any fan would be able to hit a Billy Wagner fastball into the petunias at Citizens Bank Park, a lot of people passing through the turnstiles think they could, given the chance.

Heck, if Garth Brooks has been to spring training (four times!), there's really no reason why Tony from South Philly can't play ball, right?

My own baseball experience consists of the following: two years of T-ball, first and second grade. I played second base, didn't swing my bat into the T most of the time, and didn't laugh at the kid on my team who refused to answer to anything but "Von Hayes."

Okay, maybe I'm not cut out to be a ballplayer.

I could be a manager, though. I do have experience. Lots of it.

I'm a major student of the game. Growing up in a sports-crazed household in the Northeast, I saw my first Phillies game at the Vet, sitting along the third base line, when I was 2. (I think they lost.)

I was at the aforementioned 15-14 loss to the Blue Jays in 1993.

And I wasn't always a bad luck charm: I saw the Phillies' first win at Citizens Bank Park. And three days later I saw an even more remarkable feat: a Doug Glanville walk-off home run.

I have hands-on experience.

I mastered RBI Baseball at 6 and Bases Loaded at 7. I dominated Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball at 10. These days I eat up pitching in MVP Baseball 2005.

(Okay, so I'm out of it in my fantasy baseball league this year, but baseball managers keep getting rehired even after horrible track records-see: Bell, Buddy.)

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