Manuel beats out eight candidates

PHILADELPHIA -- Charlie Manuel's thick Southern drawl, down-home charm and folksy nature make him an odd fit for gritty Philadelphia.

He'll be a perfect choice as manager if he leads the Phillies to the playoffs.

Manuel was hired Thursday to replace Larry Bowa, taking over a talented but underachieving club that hasn't reached the playoffs since 1993.

"I came here to do a job," Manuel said. "It's a we, not an I. And we're going to get the job done. Our goal is to get to the World Series and win it. That's what we're going to do."

Manuel, 60, managed the Cleveland Indians from
2000-02. He beat out seven other candidates, including finalists Jim Leyland and Jim Fregosi.

Manuel spent the past two seasons with the Phillies as a special assistant to general manager Ed Wade and served as an instructor and a scout at the major- and minor-league levels. His familiarity with the team clearly gave him an edge over other candidates. His affable personality, strong communication skills and reputation as a players' manager make him the anti-Bowa.

"Charlie has the great ability to communicate with his players and build relationships with them, yet he demands excellence," Wade said.

Manuel had a 220-191 record with the Indians and led them to the AL Central title in 2001 but was fired after a 39-48 start in 2002.

Bowa was let go with two games remaining in a disappointing season in which Philadelphia finished 10 games behind first-place Atlanta in the NL East. Bowa led the Phillies to a winning record three times in his four seasons, but they never finished closer
than two games behind in the NL East.

A star shortstop on Philadelphia's 1980 World Series championship team, Bowa was very popular among fans. But he wasn't well-liked by some of his players because of his intense, fiery demeanor.

"I'm a motivator," Manuel said. "I motivate by energy, enthusiasm and discipline. I'm a 24-hour-a-day baseball guy. I think I'm a perfect fit for the Phillies. I'm an upbeat guy, a
positive guy. I'm a guy you have to get to know. I grow on you. I'm a people's person."

Manuel is friends with Phillies first baseman Jim Thome, who credited Manuel for helping him make a smooth transition after signing as a free agent with the Phillies.

"I think they picked the right guy. He's a great baseball man and everybody's going to enjoy playing for him," said Thome, who thrived in Cleveland when Manuel was the Indians' hitting coach.

"The effect that he brings is positiveness every day," Thome said.

Manuel likes to get close to his players, spending time interacting with them in the clubhouse but doesn't consider himself a pushover. He has a hands-on approach on disciplining players but prefers doing it behind closed doors.

"If you're playing good, I like you. If you're playing bad, I still like you, but I'll work with you," Manuel said. "I'll never quit on you."

Throughout his career, Manuel has maintained a good rapport with young players and veterans.

"I think Charlie will be a great fit for this team," second baseman Chase Utley said. "I'm excited to see him in action."

Closer Billy Wagner called Manuel "a positive person."

The Phillies entered last season as favorites to win the NL East. Despite a $93 million payroll, they failed to live up to their hype.

Injuries and inconsistency took the Phillies out of the playoff race in early August, causing fans to turn against the team in the first season at Citizens Bank Park.

Manuel's name was often the first mentioned in rumors to take over when Bowa's job status was tenuous during the season. So Manuel distanced himself from the dugout and spent less time with players for fear of being seen as someone waiting for the job.

"I didn't come here to take nobody's job," Manuel said.

Manuel didn't think about managing again when he joined the Phillies 22 months ago. But teaching hitting and evaluating players in his role as an instructor got him wondering about another shot at running a major-league team.

Former major-league managers Grady Little, Don Baylor and Buddy Bell, Braves hitting coach Terry Pendleton and Pirates third-base coach John Russell also were interviewed by the Phillies.

Leyland, who led Florida to its first World Series championship and guided Pittsburgh to three division titles in the '90s, was the people's choice among fans who are starved for a winner. Fregosi managed the Phillies to the NL pennant 11 years ago, before he was
fired after the 1996 season.

Little, who led Boston to the ALCS in 2003, could end up on Manuel's coaching staff.

Manuel was an outfielder who spent parts of six seasons in the majors with Minnesota and the Los Angeles Dodgers. He hit .198 with four homers in 242 games. Manuel later became a star in the Japanese league, hitting .303 with 189 homers in six seasons.

"Charlie knows a great deal about baseball and has the ability to lead players and make them better than they are," Dodgers senior vice president Tommy Lasorda said.