In Philadelphia high school sports, they have this quirky but admirable tradition at girls’ basketball games.
When a young lady scores her 1,000th point, they bring out balloons and flowers and present her with the game ball. Philadelphia Phillies manager Charlie Manuel is sitting on 999 career wins and someday, though probably not soon with the way his team is playing, he will hit 1,000.
GM Ruben Amaro Jr. should start engraving a ball right now with the number 1,000 on it, purchase a few balloons and maybe some flowers and a plane ticket to Manuel’s offseason home in Florida. He should allow Manuel to win his 1,000th game out of a courtesy, but that’s it.
Manuel will not be back next year, not as a 70-year-old manager, and there’s no reason to keep him around as the Phillies play out this frayed string of a season. As much as Amaro owes it to Charlie to keep him around for the grand milestone, he owes as much to him and the millions of Phillies fans to give him an early vacation when he Manuel reaches it.
The Phillies under Manuel have been a lifeless team bereft of enthusiasm in the past few weeks. In a recent game, Manuel and pitching coach Rich Dubee watched as Raul Valdes gave up nine runs in two innings. Neither one made a move for the mound.
Amaro needs to see what kind of fire, if any, Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg can light under this team. If Sandberg can’t get a spark over the final month and a half, then Amaro will know he has to go outside of the organization for the next manager.
As disinterested as his players appear to be, they get their cues from the top, and this team has been off key for a long time. It’s time for a new maestro and to send the old one home with a baton, a ball and maybe some balloons and flowers.