I’m going to the Braves-Phillies game and will be doing another in our series of live chats — please note the Braves have lost the past two times we’ve tried this — but I’ll be a little late getting to the ballpark. We Digital folks at the ol’ AJC have a media coaching session this afternoon, and if you recall my encounter with the Mayor of Cleveland you know I need all the media coaching I can get.
In the interim, I’ve giving you folks a little homework. Read this story, by Mark Bechtel of Sports Illustrated, about Philly manager Charlie Manuel. When first I had occasion to speak with Mr. Manuel — back in 2007, as I recall — I walked away thinking, “He reminds me of Eddie Haas.” And that is not, I should stipulate, a comparison you’d want me to make about you.
But the Bechtel story — it’s terrific — opened my eyes, and it also made me feel a bit ashamed. If anybody should know the perils of drawing conclusions from background and appearances, it’s a guy who was, in the summer of 1975, called “a hick from Maysville” by some jerk from cosmopolitan Covington, Ky. (Not that I remember things like that.)
OK, that’s your assignment. I’ll check back in a bit. And there will be a quiz.
At the ballyard now: And just in time for Charlie’s pregame media session, which I found highly illuminating. A lot of managers suffer these daily audiences grudgingly, but Charlie doesn’t seem to mind them. In fact, he talks longer the more he goes.
On outfielder Raul Ibanez, who’s doing a rehab stint in Reading and who could be back with the Phillies this weekend: “It seems to me our run-scoring has gone down [since he went on the disabled list two weeks ago]. That’s without me looking at it real hard, but I notice our hitting has gone down. He’s a .300 hitter. He gives us production. He’s definitely going to get chances to hit hitting behind [Ryan] Howard. The more disciplined Ryan is at the plate, the better he is.”
On his offense, which is hitting .258, two percentage points higher than the Braves: “Our whole team could be hitting better. We should be a .270, a .280 hitting team in our league if we are selective and work the counts and things like that.”
On Jimmy Rollins, who’s hitting .211 and who will play tonight for the first time in five games after a Manuel-mandated respite: “He’s one the big reasons we’ve been successful the last few years. When he’s going good, his swing is short and compact.”
On hitting [Manuel was the acclaimed hitting coach of the Cleveland Indians back in the '90s]: “I always say a little means a lot. Hitting is a lot of luck and a lot of confidence, and luck definitely breeds confidence. People say it’s ‘See ball, hit ball,’ but there’s a whole lot more to it than that.”
On Philly still leading the East by 2 1/2 games despite having lost 11 of 16: “It’s good [being ahead], but we know we’ve got to play better. We know we can play better. If we get all our players back [in addition to Ibanez, starting pitcher Brett Myers is out, and closer Brad Lidge just returned], we know we have the talent to win our division. It’s up to us. We control our own destiny.
“Injuries hurt. They make your weaknesses show up even more. And we’ve got to improve our pitching. I’ve said it all along. It doesn’t matter how we do it — if it’s in-house — but we have to do that. That’s how we’ve won: Our pitching has been very consistent and our play has fallen into line behind it. But it’s hard for a team to put its game together [while injured]. But I don’t want to make excuses. We still have to go win. I still expect us to win.”
And with that, I’ll check out for a bit. But join me during the game for another in our series of live chats, which so far have produced great entertainment but not yet a Braves victory. We’ll see if anything changes when Derek Lowe toes the slab against Joe Blanton.
Toes the slab: Love that expression.