Live from the ballyard: Charlie Manuel reconsidered (by me)

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.

107 comments Add your comment

jeffrey d

June 30th, 2009
2:54 pm

Charlie Manuel is one of the best examples of why it’s ridiculous to have baseball managers wear uniforms. That jersey is hanging on for dear life just to stay tucked in.

Mrs. Chanandler Bong

June 30th, 2009
2:55 pm

If the Braves are winning before you get to the stadium, get in your car and drive home.

Adam

June 30th, 2009
3:31 pm

Charlie Manuel is Wade Phillips with a baseball uniform. Probably a nice guy, but not a lot of issues making out the lineup.

Good, however, that he’s lost that weight so he looks better in that uniform.

Ken Stallings

June 30th, 2009
3:36 pm

Yeah, there was this hick from West Virginia who got his pilot wings many years ago. Had no formal education beyond high school. Talked with a thick country accent. People thought he was precisely who he sounded like — a hick from the sticks!

One thing though, this kid barely 125 pounds could fly the hell out of an airplane. They put him in P-51D Mustangs and before long he bagged a few German fighters. He was shot down and survived with the French resistance until he was repatriated. Given D-Day had already happened and we were rolling up France from the Nazis, he was not sent home but allowed to continue fighting.

By the time the war was over he was a multiple ace pilot. But then, after the war, he piloted the X-1 in level flight above the speed of sound for the first time in history. That country hick was Charles Yeager.

One more point, he was considered by all who knew him a very scientifically precise test pilot, with skills that earned him great respect, not to mention honorable mentions in a Tom Wolfe book he lampooned saying, “Well I met a few girls with the right stuff!”

Never judge someone from where they come from and what their accent sounds like.

NC Braves Fan

June 30th, 2009
3:45 pm

Saw a profile on CM on I think HBO, and the guy has overcome a lot of adversity in his life to get to where he is. It’s tough to argue with such a great guy reaping the rewards of his hard work.

Now that I’ve got that out there, can we please kick the crap out of the Philthies the next three nights? ;-)

mudcat

June 30th, 2009
3:50 pm

Reminds me of a guy in Michigan. So shy he didn’t talk much. Never had a date in high school because he was afraid to talk to girls. Didn’t even finish high school and had to get a GED. But he knew cars and came up with an idea on how to improve engine performance, and by the time I sold my company, that’s right, it’s me I’m talking about, my company employed 640 workers. That’s 640 families. Can’t judge people by appearances.

Sonny Clusters

June 30th, 2009
4:26 pm

We was always hitters when we was playing ball together and it didnt matter much what underpants we was waring. Nobody much could get us out. We was always swinging because if you dont swing at it you aint gonna hit it. I think thats what Jeff is thinking now. Coach once talked about us taking some pitches but we didn’t want to waste none. I think thats what Jeff is thinking. Mr Taber said nobody pays to see a looser and loosers dont eat free ice cream. I think Jeffs thinking that. I sure hope Jeffs thinking something. It dont seem to me that Bobby Cox is real smart and I think the Braves will need a smart manger to replace Bobby not one like Charlie Manual.

Paul H

June 30th, 2009
4:29 pm

Would Manuel put in a Peter Moylan or a Jeff Bennett when the game is on the line? That is the question…

Mark Bradley

June 30th, 2009
4:45 pm

Made it just in time for Charlie’s pregame media session. I enjoyed listening, and within moments I’ll share a few pearls with y’all.

Chop Chop

June 30th, 2009
5:01 pm

Hell of an article there, Mark. I get the feeling 95% of the crumbums who’ll post here won’t even read it. They ought to. Thanks for the link.

Mark Bradley

June 30th, 2009
5:18 pm

It’s the best sports profile I’ve read in a good long while, Chop. Thanks for agreeing with me.

cdog

June 30th, 2009
5:26 pm

IF KELLY JOHNSON STARTS LOOK FOR A PHILLIE SWEEP.WHICH I KNOW HE WILL WITH BOBBY COX MANAGING.JOHNSON IN COX EYES, IS A TOUGH COOKIE, WITH ALL OF HIS ERROS,.210 BATTING AVERAGE AND FAILURE TO CATCH A POPUP AND SIMPLE GROUND BALLS. MARK HOW CAN EVERYONE ELSE SEE THIS FLAW AND COX CANNOT?

Mark Bradley

June 30th, 2009
5:32 pm

Keep hope alive. Kelly Johnson is not starting.

The Braves’ batting order: McLouth, Prado, Chipper, McCann, Glidin’ Garret, Kotchman, Frenchy, Diory Hernandez and Lowe.

The Phils’: J-Roll, the Flyin’ Hawaiian, Utley, Howard, Werth, Dobbs, Feliz, Ruiz, Blanton.

jeffrey d

June 30th, 2009
5:35 pm

Keep hope alive. Kelly Johnson is not starting.

Beautiful, Mr. Bradley

the truth...

June 30th, 2009
5:37 pm

So Mr. Chop Chop are you saying that 95% of the posters here are “crumbums”?

Mark Bradley

June 30th, 2009
5:39 pm

New Braves lineup! Just announced after batting practice: Blanco starts for McLouth, who apparently is still hurting. (According to publicist Adam Liberman, McLouth said he was OK but Cox decided to sit him.) And Escobar, according to Dave O’Brien, said he couldn’t go after BP. And that’s why you have the star-studded middle infield of Prado and Hernandez.

Peter

June 30th, 2009
5:45 pm

Gosh too bad Frenchy won’t read this.especially this line…….”if we are selective and work the counts and things like that”…or this……..”The more disciplined Ryan is at the plate, the better he is”.

In fact why don’t you tell Terry P to read this as well……It seems the Braves don’t have a clue at the plate !

Chop Chop

June 30th, 2009
5:45 pm

We’re all crumbums, the truth….

In this case, I’m one of the crumbum five-percenters.

Knock-a-homerun

June 30th, 2009
5:46 pm

Good to not rush McL back. Going to miss his bat and Escy’s too though.

All I'm Saying Is...

June 30th, 2009
5:49 pm

To really understand how mediocre our outfielders are, compare the not so fabulous four we have versus the Top 5 Outfielders in NL per Verducci of SI.com in terms of key offensive stats:

B.Hawpe, Rockies, 245 ABs, .327 BA, .588 SLG, 12 HRs, 55 RBIs, 24 2Bs, 30 BBs, 0 SBs, 55 Ks
R.Braun, Brewers, 280 ABs, .321 BA, .568 SLG, 16 HRs, 53 RBIs, 17 2Bs, 35 BBs, 6 SBs, 62Ks
J.Upton, D-Backs, 264 ABs, .318 BA, .580 SLG, 14 HRs, 45 RBIs, 19 2Bs, 35 BBs, 10 SBs, 67Ks
M.Kemp, Dodgers, 285 ABs, .309 BA, .484 SLG, 10 HRs, 41 RBIs, 10 2Bs, 28 BBs, 19 SBs, 71 Ks
H.Pence, Astros, 273 ABs, .315 BA, .509 SLG, 10 HRs, 32 RBIs, 15 2Bs, 34 BBs, 8 SBs, 44 Ks

Braves Outfielders
J.Francoeur, 274 ABs, .248 BA, .347 SLG, 5 HRs, 32 RBIs, 8 2Bs, 12 BBs, 5 SBs, 40 Ks
N.McLouth, 255 ABs, .259 BA, .463 SLG, 12 HRs, 45 RBIs, 14 2Bs, 28 BBs, 10 SBs, 46 Ks
G.Anderson, 190 ABs, .284 BA, .411 SLG, 4 HRs, 27 RBIs, 12 2Bs, 10 BBs, 1 SB, 24 Ks
M.Diaz, 170 ABs, .270 BA, .421 SLG, 3 HRs, 17 RBIs, 6 2Bs, 13 BBs, 3 SBs, 28 Ks

Clearly, Nate is the best and that should tell you how awful we were (I’m not even going to put in Schafer’s stats) before Nate came on board. Thank goodness GA is putting it together from a batting average stand point.

Should I even post the top five for 1B and 2B and how horrible Kotchman and KJ are by comparison?

These three positions are killing us at the plate: RF, 1B, and 2B. Please Wren make a move either promote some kids up from Gwinnett or Mississippi or get some new players in here—-we can’t do any worse!

All I'm Saying Is...

June 30th, 2009
5:52 pm

Glad to read KJ is not starting. He should be sent down to AA or AAA to find his swing. Get him out of Atlanta and give someone else a shot completely. Same thing for Kotchman.

Knock-a-homerun

June 30th, 2009
5:53 pm

KJ and Frenchy too. Atlanta could get by with Kotchman at first if they had any real production out of 2B and RF.

sidslid

June 30th, 2009
5:58 pm

Off topic a bit. Are the Pirates broke? These deals they did today are checkbook balancing. The Yankees take Hinske for a net $1 million off the Pirates payroll. Yankees do not need outfielders. Are they keeping Bucs afloat? The second deal is really weird. Two loser pitchers swapped out and Pirates trade their one young star for a head case in Milledge. Don’t know respective salaries, but if it is a net gain for Bucs then I stand by my theory.

Reid Adair

June 30th, 2009
6:01 pm

Thanks for the link, Mark. That is a great article. Even though he manages the Phillies, I have a lot of respect for Charlie Manuel and what he’s been through.

Be-little, BeBOLD

June 30th, 2009
6:01 pm

McLouth has the BD (Braves Disease) already . . . don’t play if you don’t want to. You get your pay just the same! Escobar wants to play in Cuba so he’s showing his true self in Atlanta! Cox doesn’t want Lowe to have any offense again tonight . . . sit ‘em all BC!

Escobar Rocks

June 30th, 2009
6:05 pm

I hate that McLouth and Esco are out again tonight. The Braves need to get those two guys healthy and FAST.

Escobar Rocks

June 30th, 2009
6:07 pm

Sidslid, Milledge is MUCH younger than Nyjer Morgan and much more talented. The Pirates won that trade by a landslide.

All I'm Saying Is...

June 30th, 2009
6:09 pm

“…get by with Kotchman at first if they had any real production out of 2B and RF.”

What are you, his agent? Although Kotchman is doing better by comparison to our outfielders specifically RF, that is nothing to be proud of when compared to the top five 1B in NL.

Compared to these guys, Kotchman is stinking up the joint and needs to go too:

Name, Team, BA, Games, ABs, Runs, Hits, Doubles, 3Bs, HRs, RBIs, BBs, Ks, OBP, SLG, OPS
L.Berkman, Astros .256 72 250 37 64 13 1 16 45 53 53 .383 .508 .891
R.Howard, Phillies .256 72 289 47 74 18 2 20 59 30 92 .330 .540 .870
T.Helton, Rockies .313 71 262 43 82 20 2 9 53 38 42 .393 .508 .901
P.Fielder, Brewers .304 76 270 46 82 19 2 19 73 54 65 .424 .600 1.024
A.Gonzalez, Padres .269 75 260 48 70 9 0 24 47 63 54 .414 .581 .994
A.Pujols, Cardinals .328 77 262 59 86 19 0 28 74 59 31 .450 .721 1.171

C.Kotchman, Braves .269 63 219 17 59 18 0 2 28 17 23 .326 .379 .705

Albert is out of this world but Kotchman stinks even compared to the rest. 2 Homers and 28 RBIs? Come on, dude, that is horrible for a first baseman which is one of the key slugging positions. Kotchman slugging percentage is .379 which is 40-50% less than these other guys.

(And, by the way, Todd Helton should not be too comfortable either as he is not likely to get another deal from the Rockies given his stats despite playing at high altitude).

Mrs. Chanandler Bong

June 30th, 2009
6:10 pm

Like I said before, MB, if we lose this game, I will blame it on you and this thrice live blog. I’m sure you’re just doing it to take the heat off of KJ and Frenchy.

All I'm Saying Is...

June 30th, 2009
6:13 pm

Here’s the link if you want to check out Verducci’s AL and NL all stars.

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2009/writers/tom_verducci/06/30/all.stars/index.html?eref=sihpT1

It’s too painful for me to compare any of the rest of our everyday players to his list (plus I think you know by the fact that even Bobby decided to bench him how terrible KJ is versus the leading NL 2B-men)

Mac

June 30th, 2009
6:17 pm

Hey, I missed your Cleveland dustup. And, what’ve you got against Birmingham anyway? The love of my life was born there. Don’t tell my wife that, though.

Peter

June 30th, 2009
6:27 pm

All you Kelly Johnson haters fail to realize he got a huge raise this year, and like last year will end up with a respectible batting average late in the season……….

Of course the Braves will be 15 games out in 4th place at that time, so he will have been worth all that money !

Mike

June 30th, 2009
6:31 pm

Just saw Chipper give an interview where he complained that “it will be nice to be the favorite in your own ballpark.”

Well….Chipper…..perhaps if the AA product that has been put out there isn’t enough to draw a friendly crowd then certain players should step up, grab their stones, and provide a little leadership to get the team moving.

Just a thought.

Mark Bradley

June 30th, 2009
6:38 pm

Nice one, Mac. And I’ll do my best, Mrs. CB.

DP

June 30th, 2009
6:38 pm

Mark, thanks for the link to the article on Manuel. Great stuff.

Glad to see Kelly Johnson on the bench. I think they should have put him on waivers after his defensive fiascos on Sunday. At some point they’ve got to send a message.

Mark Bradley

June 30th, 2009
6:39 pm

Or my worst, depending on your point of view.

scottbravesfan

June 30th, 2009
6:50 pm

How the hell is Nate not in the lineup tonight? Bobby has got to stop babying his players and the players have to step up and tell him that they are playing. This is way too big of a series to sit one of your big bats like McLouth.

And Turner Field is going to be empty for this game tonight. I bet they don’t even draw 30,000 for this game. What’s the matter with Atlanta and their lack of support of their sports teams? Was all of the 5 million people in metro Atlanta picked on by the jocks in high school and now they have a stigma towards sports now? The only city that I can think of that is even close to Atlanta in it’s lack of sports passion is Miami and I can kind of understand that it’s South Beach and a bunch of retirees. But Atlanta doesn’t support the Braves, Falcons, Hawks, or Thrashers. Georgia Tech doesn’t even sell out all of their football and basketball games so you can’t say it’s because it’s a college town.

Mrs. Chanandler Bong

June 30th, 2009
6:52 pm

Hey, best case scenario: the curse is broken and we win. Worst case scenario: we lose and it’s just another day. I’m resigned to it.

Mark Bradley

June 30th, 2009
6:54 pm

That’s the way to think, Mrs. CB. If you win, it’s a trend. If you lose, it ain’t.

Mark Bradley

June 30th, 2009
7:12 pm

Jimmy Rollins strikes out swinging to begin the game. So much for four days’ rest.

mr baseball

June 30th, 2009
7:19 pm

Another terrific lineup by Chance the Manager. Why is Blanco playing? He’s useless offensively and the defensive difference between him and Diaz is neglible, especially when you factor in Blanco’s Pierre-like arm.

As lame offensively as Johnson has been, eventually he’s going to hit. Prado, on the other hand, is never to going to be any more than a serviceable backup.

Hernandez has shown nothing thus far to indicate that he’s ready to play at the major league level. He needs to go back to Gwinnett along with Blanco with Canizares and Burke going west on 85.

That will give the Braves a decent RH bat off the bench and a platoon option at 1B (Kotchman has has some awful ABs against lefties), and a marginally better backup at both SS & CF.

As for tonight, considering who’s hitting 1-2, Chipper & McCann ain’t getting many RBI opportunities.

Mark Bradley

June 30th, 2009
7:23 pm

Blanco wasn’t in the original lineup but was inserted when Cox decided, after batting practice, to rest McLouth for one more day.

Mrs. Chanandler Bong

June 30th, 2009
7:24 pm

“Mr. Baseball”: Hernandez is playing because Yunel told Bobby he couldn’t go after batting practice. Blanco is playing because we had to scrap Nate on the fly and Diaz usually only plays against lefties. And “eventually [Johnson] is going to hit”… the time for that was about two months ago. I think you’re at the wrong blog if you’re calling for Kelly to stay in.

Mark Bradley

June 30th, 2009
7:26 pm

Shift pays off. Three infielders on the right side, and Howard hits a ball that Prado fields 10 feet into the outfield. And Prado throws him out.

Lowe looking sharp, by the way. Thirteen of his first 19 pitches have been strikes.

And then, just as I type that, he walks Werth. Am I a jinx?

Mark Bradley

June 30th, 2009
7:28 pm

Speaking of … Blanco misplays a Dobbs liner in center field and drops the ball. Men on second and third, one out.

Bases loaded now. Intentional walk to Feliz.

sidslid

June 30th, 2009
7:29 pm

The anti-blog lineup:

Blanco
Hernandez
Anderson
Francoeur
Johnson
Kotchman
McCann
Jones
Lowe (not because he is pitching, but he ain’t gettin the love)

Mark Bradley

June 30th, 2009
7:31 pm

After a pause to reflect, official scorer — and esteemed former colleague — Jack Wilkinson calls Dobbs’ ball a double. And Lowe induces Ruiz to hit into a 5-3 double play to get out of the second. No score.

Knock-a-homerun

June 30th, 2009
7:31 pm

Nice DP by Chipper

Mark Bradley

June 30th, 2009
7:40 pm

Braves load ‘em in the bottom of the inning, but Derek Lowe pops to Rollins. Still scoreless.

Mark Bradley

June 30th, 2009
7:41 pm

Was anyone surprised Snitker didn’t send Kotchman home on Francoeur’s double to right? I thought once the ball got past Werth it was a cinch run.