"If I'm responsible for losing games for the Phillies, then I've got to go," Manuel said. "If somebody else loses games for us, then why wouldn't they have to go? I think when you get paid to play the game, you are supposed to play it right. When you're a manager or a
coach ... I think that accountability comes into play for everybody."
To be descriptive, Manuel wasn't angry, upset or particularly emotional during his postgame meeting with reporters. On some level, it can be viewed as a man bracing himself for baseball reality that states: when a team struggles, the manager takes the blame.
Manuel knows this reality well, having been through this before. With the Indians, he was dismissed on July 11, 2002, days after serving on Joe Torre's coaching staff in the All-Star Game. He knows this can be a scary time for the manager on a struggling team like the 40-47 Phillies.
His comments can be characterized as contrite, conciliatory and accepting of his fate. While he
doesn't think he's about to be dismissed, he can't help what other people think.
"If you want to know the truth, you come to the ballpark and people look at you like you've got
cancer," said Manuel, who beat colon cancer in 2000. "Heck, they act like they don't know what to say to you."
No one has said anything to Manuel about his job status, but radio talk shows and local sports columnists have been criticizing him for his perceived acceptance of mediocre play, lack of toughness with players and questionable decisions. Under his stewardship, the Phillies charged to 88 victories in 2005, missing the playoffs by one game, but notching their highest win total since 1993.
This season, things have gone worse than expected, but players say the manager shouldn't be blamed.
"If you can't play for Charlie, you can't play for anybody," center fielder Aaron Rowand said. "He doesn't put pressure on you. He doesn't make you feel like you have to go out to do things. [The media] doesn't get to see him come in here and rally the troops. It's not his fault we're where we're at.
"I've felt like that all year. Whenever we lose a game, I feel bad about the fact that not only did I not do it for my teammates, but for Chuck. Nobody pulls for guys more than he does. He wishes you well and lets you know that. Regardless of what happens, he's on your side. It's a [bad] deal that he got dealt right now."
When Manuel's job status was called into question last month, general manager Pat Gillick issued a
standard, "No change," when asked to comment on whether Manuel would be let go. Though he didn't offer a
vote of confidence, he expressed satisfaction with the job the skipper was doing.
"I think he is [doing a good job]," Gillick said on June 18. "It's the old story that he can't go out and play for them. Basically, there has been inconsistency. Pitching sets the tone for the club. The games we've played with the Mets and Tampa Bay, our guys have been behind the 8-ball from the get-go."
Gillick was en route to Pittsburgh and was not immediately available to comment on whether that opinion had changed.
This much is true. Gillick has only changed managers midseason once -- in 1989 -- and Manuel still
has another year left on the three-year, $2.4 million deal he signed in November 2004.
Manuel intends to honor that, and he won't ask Gillick for any further clarification.
"I won't quit or anything like that," he said. "I'll come to work every day and do the best I can.
I have a contract. I don't ask for nothing and I don't look for nothing.
"When we go to San Francisco, I'll
come to work, and we'll play the game as best that we possibly can, and I'll try to put a team on the field
that can win the game. I won't ever ask anybody for nothing."
Except for his team to play better.