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An interview with Charlie Manuel

An interview with Charlie Manuel

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You guys didn't see Furcal last time. What do you think he brings to this lineup and how does he change the complexion?

CHARLIE MANUEL: Like I said the other day, he's actually very similar to Jimmy Rollins, the fact he's a switch hitter, he's got some power and he can steal bases and he's a tremendous player, and he's a good base runner and he's got a lot of -- he's very close to Rollins, and I'm sure that when he gets on base he makes it very difficult to hold their offense, because he can steal and he can set up -- he's always in scoring position. Steals third base good, too. And he sets the stage for them.

You've always talked about the importance of keeping an even keel in the clubhouse over the course of a long season. Is that just generally your nature what you prefer, or did you take that from places where you played as a player where you preferred that kind of atmosphere as opposed to a lot of up and down?

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CHARLIE MANUEL: I think of all the teams that are on, I got to think of my experience in the game I learned things, just about every year that I like Bob and I like the even keel way, not getting too high and too low and also not looking ahead.

I think it's a very -- when it comes to baseball, like sometimes I used to -- when I first started managing the minor leagues or when I was playing I used to talk about mastering the game.

Actually, the more I got to realize and I was around people that had similar ideals as mine and my philosophies, it's called excellence is what it's called.

I've got a book that Davey Johnson gave me a long time ago called the Heart of the Order, the guy -- what's his name? Boswell wrote it. I've got a couple of copies of it in my office. I read it a long time ago and I kind of forgot about it. But Johnson and I used to talk baseball.

When I was in Japan, he played for with Tokyo Giants and I played for Swallows in the same league. We used to talk about our philosophies of the game. I always talked about master the game, do the best I can and work as hard like on aspects of the game every day, and if you play the game right, you know, over say 162 game season, you look up you'll be by the finish line and you'll be like you don't have to worry about the wins and losses because your success will be there.

That's why I kind of like the even keel part of it. And that's what works for us and I think our players buy into it and especially our core players and our guys that's been around and our guys that really love to play the game. I think that's been a big plus for us.

Last couple of years Jimmy Rollins has said that this team -- last year he said they were the team to beat. This year he said win 100 games. What has his leadership meant to the team even with some of the up and down things he went through this year regarding some of the things he got disciplined for? What has he meant as a leader on this team for the last couple of years?

CHARLIE MANUEL: I think actually Jimmy Rollins, his personality and the way that he goes about the game and how he feels about the game and what he brings to the table, I think that kind of makes him kind of a natural leader, if you want to know the truth. His personality, he's got a bubbly personality. Easy to get along with everybody. And his talent speaks for itself.

And I think on our ball club he's our guy that gets--he gets the engine started. He's the guy that gets us going. And like the middle of our lineup, he'll knock runs in. And he's definitely one of our top leaders on our team, of course.

You managed against Barry Bonds. Does Manny Ramirez, being in the lineup, change the game in a way that Barry Bonds did when he was with the Giants? And the second part of the question is, do you tell your pitchers that this is one guy you cannot let beat you?

CHARLIE MANUEL: Yeah, Barry Bonds to me, at one time Barry Bonds was the greatest hitter in the game I've ever seen especially when he was having his big years. I know there's a lot of talk about him and things but this guy, he kept his swing longer and consistency longer than anybody I ever seen.

That's when I talk about master of the game. When I get back to -- when I talk like that and if there's guys in the game, it might be why when I'm at golf I like Tiger Woods. On our team, Jamie Moyer comes to mind as far as how I talk and Utley, as far as his preparation and everything.

But when you talk about guys like Manny Ramirez and Barry Bonds, I look at Manny in this series like Barry Bonds. He'll make you change your ideas on things at times. He'll put some pressure on you, especially like in big situations in the game, and he's got a chance to do something big in the moment and beat you.

Manny is the same way. But at the same time I hear a lot of people talk. I hear everything said about him. If we play seven games, it's pretty hard to walk Manny 28 times. And like there's going to be times he's probably going to hit with bases loaded. There's going to be times of course when first base is open and more than likely like he's going to be put on. But there will be times when we have to pitch to him.

Like do we want Manny Ramirez to beat us? Of course not. That's not the strategy of the game. But at the same time we'll take the game kind of as it kind of -- let it play out a little bit. But he's the guy we don't want beating us.

What did you see different in Cole Hamels between his playoff start last year and his playoff start this year and how much confidence do you have in him now that he has that one dominant playoff game under his belt?

CHARLIE MANUEL: I think last year when Cole pitched, like he had already pitched a lot and was coming off being hurt. If you remember, I think he pitched, what, a couple times before he pitched in the playoffs after he came back.

This year, of course he's pitched more and he's completed the full year, but I think the rest that he got really made the difference, if you want to know the truth as far as the stuff he had and the command and his control and everything.

I think the rest he got from his last start up until the time he pitched, like had a whole lot to do with it. And I think it also helped Brett Myers.

Charlie, you swept the Dodgers here. They swept you in LA. Does that mean a home field advantage is a bigger deal than usual or is all the regular season out the window now?

CHARLIE MANUEL: I think a home field advantage becomes an advantage to us in two ways: I think our fans, I think it's very noisy. I think our players, they like to play for our fans especially when all the energy is in the ballpark. I think that definitely plays a part in it.

And the fact that we would have four games here. If it happens to go seven games. I think that definitely helps us. I think you're going to see very balanced, two very balanced teams. I think it's going to be a real good series. And I don't see no reason why we can't be the winners, though.

How did you contain Manny this year? You guys did a good job on him. How did you contain him? And the second part, on those occasions when you do have to pitch to him in this series, is there something he's susceptible to? How will you attack?

CHARLIE MANUEL: I'm not going to talk about that, why should I give you

Just taking my chances.

CHARLIE MANUEL: I know about Manny. I've had him since he was 18 years old. And he's not like Manny is going to get some hits. If he doesn't get any hits, like we're going to stand a real good chance of winning the series. But at the same time we also -- we've got our way of how to handle him.

I know you go way back with Manny. What were your first impressions, how you met him, and what were your first impressions of him when you met him, what he would become?

CHARLIE MANUEL: I heard about him when I was managing for Cleveland in the minor leagues. It was AAA. He was in rookie ball. And I used to get these reports every morning. They come across on the punch them on the phone like in voice mail. And his manager was Dave Keller and he would say, Manny Ramirez hit a home run, Manny Ramirez hit two home runs, Manny Ramirez hitting .430.

And at the end of the year he had like 20 -- rookie ball I think he hit like 20 homers, 24, something like that. I used to think, man, this Manny Ramirez, I can't wait to see him. And I saw him in Instructional League, and I watched him hit. And he was a really good, tremendous young looking hitter.

What I really liked about him, I liked his approach at the plate. I liked his weight shift. And for his mechanics, they were in the same mechanics he's got today. And he's very -- he's well balanced at the plate and everything. He swings slight -- he's got a slight lift on the ball. It's not an upper cut, it's not swinging underneath. And I liked everything about his swing.

Then I want to say the following year, I want to say I think it was the next season, I think, he moved all the way to Akron. And then I was managing AAA in Charlotte and they sent him to me in July.

When he first came to the ballpark that day, he walked in my office and I asked him where his baseball bag was and his luggage, and he said he didn't know. I said what the hell you mean you don't know. He said he left it at the airport. He didn't even get his luggage. He came in to get his cab money, too. He came in to get this limo money from me. I asked him where his luggage was at. And he left it at the airport. We sent back and got his luggage.

He goes out to hit. And he's up, he's standing in the batter's box and he's kind of pushing the ball into right field. And I told Luis Isaac and Dyar Miller, I remember this like it was yesterday, I said, oh, no, there's another guy I'm going to have to work with.

And I didn't say nothing to him that first day. He got into the game that night, hit a home run just to the right of center field, over the backdrop and hit it a long ways. Next time up he got a little bit better and hit one a little farther to kind of the left center over the backdrop.

I told Dyar Miller, my pitching coach, I don't think I'm going to have to work with this kid. (Laughter) and the problem I used to have Manny Ramirez can make you a good hitting coach. I want to tell you something, he's that good.

But the problem I used to have, whether you know it or not, and I think I definitely helped him, one of the biggest reasons, I had to keep people away from him. Because everybody knows how to hit and everybody wanted to talk to him and everybody wanted to mess with him. If he went 0 for 4, they want to spread him out, change his stance. The biggest problem was getting people to leave him alone because he could hit from the first time I ever seen him.

I don't know if you noticed in the playoffs if you notice he's been hitting the ball down, and actually that's the only thing we used to work on, when I had him as a hitter, he would kind of come up and pull off and throw the ball real low to him out of the strike zone low. And by him -- I'd tell him to swing at it. By him hitting the ball that kept him on the ball, if that makes sense. In order to hit the ball down, he had to stay on it. That's the only thing we used to do to him. And I've been watching him when he was hitting the playoffs against the Cubs and stuff, if you go back and look at the balls he's been hitting he's been smoking the balls down low.

And, I mean, he's an extraordinary talent and he loves to hit.

Can you talk about the way Davey Lopes has affected the way you guys run the bases?

CHARLIE MANUEL: Davey joined us, this is Davey's second year here. Davey Lopes is absolutely without a doubt he's the best base running instructor I've ever been around. He sees things that I don't see, other coaches don't see. Managers don't see.

That was his trademark when he was a player. And he's tremendous at it. He can pick up things that a pitcher does that is absolutely unreal. I'll tell you something, I give him -- our base running has improved the last two years. I give him -- believe me, like I can't say how much credit I should give him because he's been that good.

Getting back to the idea of possibly pitching around Manny at least some of the series. You see that sometimes I guess with Ryan Howard specifically. What does it do beyond the obvious fact you take the bat out of his hands, what does it do perhaps to the rest of the lineup knowing that Manny's not going to be getting a hit? Can it deflate the team a little bit saying our big guy is being pitched around, or can it have the other effect of making the other players take the responsibility on themselves to say we're going to have to do something?

CHARLIE MANUEL: I see where Pat Burrell said Sunday where they walked him, kind of made him mad a little bit. I know, whether or not you believe it or not, when I used to play in Minnesota I used to hit fifth behind Killebrew and they would walk him a lot. That used to ticked me off. I didn't hit two homers like Burrell did.

But that right there -- that has an effect on you, but at the same time, you've got to remember you're putting another guy on base. Like any time you do that, like one of the things that pitching coach always said, look, we don't want to walk people.

To me like when you walk a guy it's like him getting a base hit. But there's also situations in the game where it will require us to walk Manny Ramirez or definitely pitch around him. But it depends on how long the series go and everything. Like I said, it's going to be hard to walk him four times every day for seven games.

Can you talk about, I think last series you had mentioned at this time of year you don't really want to touch too many guys' swings even if they're in a slump. With Chase and Ryan now, is there anything that this little break has allowed you to work on with them, or at this point do you kind of let things go the way it's been going?

CHARLIE MANUEL: Most of our guys have a routine. Utley likes to hit off the tee he likes to hit by himself. And he has drills that he does. And that kind of gets his swing, he feels like it gets him kind of grooves his swing down for him and everything. His approach gets better. Ryan Howard has these, he has a routine where he has a soft toss routine in the cage where Milt will be down there. Milt throws to him sometimes and at the same time our left hand pitcher Modami throws to him. And so like he goes through his routine every day.

And Milt of course is down there talking to him a lot. Even when we get around the cage we talk to Ryan a lot about his hitting. Chase, he doesn't really like for you to get into to tell him a lot. He'll listen if you see something he's doing wrong. But at the same time he likes to concentrate on what he's doing.

And I find sometimes that when everybody's got their own routine and how you handle a guy that's the communicating part of it. And also that also feeds confidence to like how he goes about his business.

I think when you are talking about every day is different. People look at you -- you look at Chase Utley, you think him getting four hits every day, but that don't work that way. Baseball is 162, get in the playoffs how many games is it. So therefore that's the way you look at it.

We're getting back to that even keel. That up and down. Like guys they don't hit every day. And human nature plays a big part of the game. And it's hard to sit and explain to someone how you feel and like what's going on and like with you and all that, and that's the mental part, and also that's the part we have to work through and that's the part where guys on some nights they can go four for four, they have hot and cold nights and they have hot and cold weeks. Sometimes they have a cold month.

Sometimes they have a season cold. But at the same time, I mean, that's the way the game goes. And I hear people say how come you can't fix him. How come you can't fix him. If it was that easy believe me we'd fix him. But that's kind of what makes it a game, what makes it a good game. It's kind of like a pitcher is the same way when you send him out there he's been inconsistent all of a sudden he throws a gem. Can I explain it to you? Yeah, he pitched real good. I can tell you what he did to get them out but I can't tell you how I'm going to go about fixing him forever because that's the human nature of the game.

Can you talk about what Brad Lidge has meant for this team this year, Lights out Lidge, what he's meant for your bullpen?

CHARLIE MANUEL: He's given us very consistent -- he's been perfect in the closer's role. And like he's given us -- he's a closer and he's been the best in the National League as far as I'm concerned. I mean, who is better than he is? He's been perfect.

Could you please share with us a little bit about your personal relationship with Manny. He today said you were like a father figure for him and that he's very proud that you reached this level in the playoffs.

CHARLIE MANUEL: Manny is like my son. I've been around him a long time. But those guys over in Cleveland, they used to say anybody who hit good was my son. They were probably right to a certain time. But like if you don't hit maybe, you're not my son no more. (Laughter).

I had him for so long and I've seen him grow and I've seen him as like a young man or when he was a kid, and I seen him I've seen him grow up over the course of his career. I kept up with him when he went to Boston. And Manny's -- he's very close to me. I love Manny. I mean, he is like my son because I spent a lot of time with him. I spent a lot of time in the cage with him. I spent a lot of time throwing extra batting practice to him. I spent a lot of time talking to him. His locker was right beside of me when I was in Cleveland. I was very fortunate to have a locker between Manny and Eddie Murray, and we used to talk about hitting all the time.

Manny, I tell you something, Manny, he's fun, he's different. He'll do some things sometimes you don't understand. But if you get to know him, and I guarantee you you'll like him. You'll have to like him. I always talk about playing the game and I talk about tension free.

Manny is tension free in life. I don't know if you've heard me say that. And to me that's what makes him good and that's what makes him hit. He wants to be there. He's not scared. He's not scared to fail and he wants to be there in the moment. That's what makes him good. Just you can get him out today doesn't mean you can get him out tomorrow. And that's how he goes about playing. Might look like he's nonchalant, but don't ever take that for granted because he's definitely out there trying to beat you.

In the Chicago series, the Dodgers did a nice job of keeping their pitches low, working it inside, outside, and Chicago's a pretty aggressive hitting ball club, much like your ball club is. Is there a different approach that you're going to have to take to get your hitters to be a little bit more patient, or do you just let them go out and just let them keep the style that they've been playing all season?

CHARLIE MANUEL: Basically, we'll keep mostly the same style of play. Like the first guy starting, low sinkerball pitcher, like you sink, or slider, breaking ball, change up, but he mostly throws sinkers, he has a good sinker. And like we kind of know how we're going to -- like what we're going to try to do against him. It's no secret. We're going to try to make him get the ball up, like we're also going to concentrate on getting good balls to hit.

Billingsley, he's got a little more power on a fastball. And he's young. And he's got a good arm. And like those are two guys we'll see here. But at the same time, how we play is, like I say, it's how the hitters approach either like both of these pitchers, and like we'll take Lowe first and how the approach that we have on him and how patient we can be and how the balls that we can get to hit.

Like as long as we get strikes and balls to hit, I feel we can hit him. We have some left handed hitters in our lineup. I think our left handed hitters have a chance to step up and have a big series, really.

Courtesy of FastScripts by ASAP Sports.
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