Five months ago, the Philadelphia Phillies said goodbye to Charlie Manuel — the man with a 780-636 record over nine seasons, five NL East titles, an NL pennant and the 2008 World Series Championship. He walked away with a Wawa bag in his hand, and a front office job whenever he wanted.
Yesterday, the Phillies announced that he was given that position. Charlie Manuel is the new senior advisor to general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. as reported by multiple outlets.
Are we as Phillies fans being punked right now? Where are Ashton and Dax?
It’s never a bad thing to do someone like Manuel — who’s been such an instrumental figure in the last decade of Phillies baseball — a solid and keep him in the organization. The problem with this appointment is the fact that baseball has changed so much in that decade and the Manuel/Amaro Jr. combination hasn’t caught up. Of course, I’m referring to the large elephant in the room. The Phillies have not embraced the one thing that just about every other organization in baseball does — advanced stats and analytics.
Take a look at the last four World Series Champions: last year’s Boston Red Sox, the St. Louis Cardinals and the San Francisco Giants (two-time champions). What do they all have in common? With the exception of last year’s Red Sox, neither team had an astronomical payroll in excess of $150 million. Those three teams — and other teams like the Tampa Bay Rays, the Oakland Athletics — have been using advanced analytics to make smart decisions and not wasteful ones. (Do you need more proof of how behind the times the Phillies are? The Houston Astros — THOSE HOUSTON ASTROS — have something called a “Decision Sciences” department.)
Back in November, the Phillies hired Scott Freedman of the MLB’s Labor Relations Department to be the man to teach the organization about advanced analytics. John Stolnis of The Good Phight — an SB Nation blog — wrote a piece the next day that sums up a lot of people’s thoughts. The Phillies will most likely ignore most of what Freedman has to say and continue with business as usual.
If those in the Phillies organization want to prove fans and Mr. Freedman wrong, we’ll believe it when we see it being embraced. Let’s just say that hiring Charlie Manuel to be Amaro’s new senior advisor isn’t exactly one way to do it. Manuel’s appointment only shows the fans how much advanced analytics will most likely continue to be ignored even if that is the nature of successful baseball teams in the last five years or so. If the Phillies really wanted to push into the 21st century, there would have been plenty of more suitable candidates to push Amaro and the Phillies into this new direction.
You almost have to question whether or not the Phillies actually WANT to go in this direction. For the last two seasons, the Phillies have been a team whose window to win titles has closed and is simply too old. Trade after trade was done by Amaro in those years that has all but decimated the farm system — aside from one or two bright spots like pitcher Jesse Biddle or third baseman Maikel Franco. The Phillies would have been in the perfect spot to go the road of the Boston Red Sox a couple of years ago when they simply stood pat and admit to themselves and the fan base they wouldn’t be winning a championship. They took their time, built a roster focused on analytics and won the World Series last year.
The Phillies did not do that, and with Manuel back in this position, there’s no real indication they will. It will be business as usual this off-season in the Phillies executive office. They’ll spend money — some smartly and some not so smartly. They’ll put a product on the field, but they’ll once again ignore what is making good teams good in today’s game.