It’s easy to love the Philadelphia Phillies even when they’re losing, which is more often than not so far this season. It begins with the manager as he ambles hesitantly to the pitching mound with a hangdog look on his face, as if he truly regrets the purpose of his visit.
Charlie Manuel is that man. Taking the ball from the departing pitcher seems like an act that requires all of his will and energy. From first steps out of the dugout to the final glimpse as he slowly shuffles back to his game day perch, it’s easy to feel empathy and affection for him.
Manuel is not alone. Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz has the same demeanor. Come to think of it, the right side of the infield could be somehow related to Manuel and Ruiz. Both Chase Utley and Ryan Howard have similar “aww shucks” personas. No matter what’s going on, Utley never loses the slight twinkle in his eye and smirk on his face.
Howard, in my opinion, is like that comfy old sweater that you never want to throw away. Try as he might to look intimidating, it doesn’t work. It’s as if he’s been cast in the wrong body for his passive style. He’d make a great fishing buddy but not the player you build your franchise around.
For many of the Phillies, the similarities are striking. John Lannan would make a great hypnotist with his sleepy personality. John Mayberry Jr. might be better suited as the counselor you spill your guts to; he’d be empathetic and unflappable.
Kevin Frandsen and Erik Kratz would make ideal EMT’s providing calm and comfort to patients while assuring them all would be fine. Raul Valdes and Chad Durbin could continue to provide relief, just not on a pitching mound. Instead, serving food to the homeless would match their less-than-intense personalities. At least, Manuel wouldn’t have to come get them off the mound.
At heart, this is a warm and caring manager and these are lovable players. In fact, you’d invite them to your family’s Thanksgiving dinner with little or no hesitation. Not because they’re well-known athletes, but because they’d fit in and you wouldn’t have to worry about the conversation being awkward.
It’s easy to imagine Charlie carving the turkey. He’d do it in a rambling, almost bewildered manner as if he didn’t really want to take that leg off the bird. But, true to form, he’d get the job done and then amble over to the recliner for a few winks.