“We can beat you any way you want to play. You want to slug it out, we can do that. We need to play small ball, we can do that.”
Those are the words of Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel spoken during the AL Division Series. He has been proven right as the Phillies are headed to the World Series to defend their title.
Manuel will again gain much attention as one of only two managers working in November. He comes across as a laid-back, ah-shucks kind of man and in no small part he is.
However, don’t let that fool you as to his ability to manage a baseball team and we’re not talking about just during the game.
We sat and talked in Denver prior to an NLDS game and I asked him about the patience his team has at the plate. They finished first in home runs in the NL and second in the majors only to the Yankees.
Yet, while scoring 45 percent of their runs with the long ball, the highest percentage in the majors, they still have a lineup of deep-count hitters.
“Charlie, do you preach patience at the plate to your ballclub?” I asked.
“Oh yeah,” said Manuel. “But I don’t have team meetings or sessions with hitters to do it,” he said. “I’m always doing it,” he smiled.
“The guys get tired of me always reminding them about taking pitches or whatever it is I want a player to be thinking about,” he laughed.
“I talk to them in the clubhouse, in the dugout, around the cage, in the field — wherever,” Manuel added. “I do it as I walk by them. I just throw out the comment.”
Manuel laughed again as he said, “I’ll ask them if they think they might take a pitch today, or would they mind trying to hit the ball the other way, or if they think they might try to get a pitch THEY want to hit today.”
“Sometimes,” said Manuel, “they see me coming and before I can say anything they tell me, ‘I know what you’re going to say.’ So, I tell them, all right, I won’t say anything. They say, ‘Yes you will. You’ll be telling me that forever.’”
Says Manuel, “They’re right. I will be telling them forever.”
In the world of negotiating, this would be called “jaw boning.” It’s the art of persuasion through discussion, in this case almost subliminal in nature.
Combine that technique of disseminating information to players with the ah-shucks persona of Manuel and you have success in managing.
The players love him as the old-school baseball man who lives by his gut in on-field decision making.
They respect him for his knowledge of the game and his persistence in trying to make them better through his unrelenting “remarks in passing” approach.
What the players and many others may not realize is the very depth of “Manuel managing” that is brushed off as something said in passing.
His passing is not an accident.