I think Charlie Manuel is the greatest manager in Phillies history, and it's not particularly close. But he's made a few questionable decisions this year, from over-using his lineup regulars to sticking with cratered closer Brad Lidge way, way too long. The result has been a team that probably has under-performed its talent and made things unnecessarily hard on itself in the last days of the regular season; had Lidge converted even five of his 11 blown saves, the Phillies would have clinched the division last week. Instead, until last night's win and the Braves' loss to Florida, the specter of a historic collapse was haunting every Philly phatalist.
But not Cholly. He called a team meeting before Tuesday's game, and afterward had this to say about it:
“I like where we’re sitting right now,” Manuel said. “The only thing we’ve got to do is win three games. We’ve got to win three out of six games. We’ve got to play the Houston Astros and Florida Marlins and win three out of six games. I didn’t want nothing about this meeting to be a negative. You won’t see me panicking. I’ve been in this game a long time. I love everything about the game. Getting slapped and losing and getting up, that’s all part of enjoying it and having a good life in it. That’s what it’s all about. You’ve got to be tough, and you’ve got to mentally tough. That’s something we’ve got in common in Philadelphia. They always say how mentally tough or rough they are. Then, I belong here, because I’ve been tough. Ever since I’ve been in baseball, I’ve been a fighter and I’ve come to whip your [butt] every day.”
Emphasis mine. This is pretty much Buddhist philosophy for lay folk, at least as I understand it: life inevitably includes pain and struggle and doubt, and you're much better off recognizing and accepting this truth than resisting it. When my brother was diagnosed with cancer not quite five years ago, when I was getting ready for my heart surgery this past summer, whenever things have been painful, I've tried to keep this in mind. That Charlie Manuel understands it just further confirms my sense that he's a great manager--despite the fact that he had Lidge warming up again last night, and evidently was prepared to use him.