The start of spring training brings new hopes and expectations for every team in Major League Baseball.
But for the Philadelphia Phillies, spring also brings some big questions. One of them is what the future holds for Charlie Manuel.
The 69-year old manager is in the final year of his contract, which could potentially be his last in Philadelphia.
However, fans in Market East believe there is a chance for Manuel to return after the 2013 season.
“Last year was disappointing,” Lansdowne resident Maura Williams said. “I think he’ll come back, at the very least if they win the division.”
“The thing that the Phillies have been known for is loyalty,” Center City resident Bill Covington Jr. said. “He’ll come back provided they do well. They don’t necessarily have to win it all, just make it to the playoffs.”
But if the Phillies do win it all, North Philadelphia resident Wayne Wilson believes that this season will be Manuel’s swan song.
“I think this is it,” Wilson said. “But only if they win the World Series. Anything short then no.”
If a playoff berth is what it will take for Manuel to return for another season as manager, then he will have a tough road ahead of him.
The Phillies are coming off an injury-riddled 2012 campaign that saw them miss the playoffs for the first time in five years.
The defending National League East champion Washington Nationals and the Atlanta Braves, who clinched one of the two wild-card spots, were good teams last season and have only gotten better during the offseason.
The Nationals acquired a leadoff hitter from the Minnesota Twins in center fielder Denard Span, then added free agent relief pitcher Rafael Soriano to a bullpen whose earned run average ranked seventh in the major leagues last season.
Meanwhile, the Braves strengthened their outfield by adding brothers B.J. and Justin Upton. Atlanta signed B.J., who hit 28 home runs and stole 31 bases with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2012, as a free agent, then acquired Justin, a two-time all-star, in a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
“Charlie will have his hands full this season,” North Philadelphia resident Tony Marra said.
Should the Phillies not make the playoffs this season, and decide to part ways with Manuel, new third base coach Ryne Sandberg would be the likely candidate to succeed the manager who led the franchise to a World Series title and five division championships in eight years.
Sandberg has managed the Phillies’ Triple-A team, the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, for the past two seasons, and was a candidate to become the manager for the St. Louis Cardinals when the job was open last year.
However, Sandberg stuck with the Phillies, while St. Louis found someone else for the job.
Now, with Manuel’s contract coming to an end, Sandberg has finally been brought up to the big league level.
“They’ll bring in Sandberg,” Jefferson University Hospital security officer Barry Beddis said. “If they don’t do it this year, they know they’ll lose him. He got a few other offers, but he was promised (to become manager) here.”
The season that will decide Manuel’s, as well as Sandberg’s, future with the Phillies begins on April 1, with a three-game road series against the Braves.
- This story was an assignment for my Writing for Journalism course at Temple University. Special thanks goes to class instructor and Calkins Media managing editor Karen Naylor, as well as all the fans who spoke with me to help me write this article.
(Image from AP.org)