Winter Meetings interview with Charlie Manuel

Winter Meetings interview with Charlie Manuel

Q. So when your GM has said he's going to be patient and kind of let the process play out a little bit and all, that's one thing, but as a manager, is it tougher to be patient as this off‑season goes along?

CHARLIE MANUEL:  Yeah.  I listen to things we're trying to do, and I definitely understand when he says be patient.  I think that we want to get the best possible people that we can get or players that we can get, and one that's going to help us the most.

I think we realize what we want to do, and it's just a matter of us, if we can get something done that's going to make us a stronger team and put us in a good position to contend next year and win our division, and our goal is always the same; go to the World Series.  We're definitely trying to put that kind of talent on the field.

 

Q.  What is your number one need in your mind right now?

CHARLIE MANUEL:  I think, for me, I'd say my first prerogative would be a centerfielder.  But at the same time too, it doesn't mean that has to be the first thing you do.  But any way we can make our team stronger is what I look at.  Anything we can do that I think would make us better.  I've always said that to you guys.

 

Q.  Charlie, do you get uncertain when you see other centerfielders signing and the options are kind of dwindling for you guys?

CHARLIE MANUEL:  I think at any time you see, especially the frontline guys, what they call them, or the best ones, however you would rank them, they start falling off the board, but that doesn't mean that you can't get a good player.  Baseball is that way.

And if you do trades or free agent market or whatever, you can get guys sometimes, if you know what you're doing and get the right guys, then things can work out for you.

 

Q.  Charlie, if you look back before the trade, what do you think it was that kind of caused Victorino to struggle this year and sort of not having his usual year for you?

CHARLIE MANUEL:  I think that he's ‑‑ first of all, if you know him, and I think the fact that he was a free agent, I think that he started ‑‑ he definitely started trying too hard, and he's always been what I call a high energy kind of nervous guy.  He has nervous energy.  He's that kind of player.

And I think that was on his mind, and it was on his mind too much.  I think that he had a real good career for us.  He definitely played a part in what we achieved, and once he got on the free agent market, he got a good deal.  That's kind of what I see.

 

Q.  In like six years, I guess, since he played right field for you way back in '06, if that's the position he ends up playing in Boston, which it looks like it might be, how do you think he'll do moving back there now, 32, six years later?

CHARLIE MANUEL:  I think he'll do good.  I think his arm plays big in right field.  In centerfield sometimes, the fact that you're strolling, because he has to run deep routes or angle routes, and the fact where he has to turn to throw.  I think in right field he can get under more balls or square it up better, if that makes sense.  If he can get more behind the ball, to me, his arm played bigger in right field.

At the same time, I think he'll do good in right field, defensively, yes.

 

Q.  Charlie, you talk about centerfield being what you feel is the biggest need.  What do you feel like the perfect centerfielder is in terms of helping you guys win?

CHARLIE MANUEL:  I think, when you see somebody that runs ‑‑ that covers a lot of ground.  When I mean ground, like he can go gap to gap.  There's guys in the big leagues, if I had to point to the best ones or something like that, you could probably rank ‑‑ you'd go with Bourn and Upton and Span.  He definitely goes in that category.  I've seen some young guys.  Ellsbury a couple of years ago, he was that good.  Just a matter of guys that you want to go see.

But guys that cover a lot of ground, guys that kind of smooth looking, going and catching the ball, and actually just tremendous ‑‑ they have to have speed.  They have to have first step quickness, and they have to be able to cover a lot of old ground and know the situations in the game.

 

Q.  Charlie, even if it's not centerfield, do you feel like you need a middle of the order bat?  Ryan and Chase, obviously, missed a lot of time last year.  I don't know how much you can rely on them this year?  The fact that Chase has the knees he has and Ryan still.  Do you think you need someone that you can slot in the middle of the order?

CHARLIE MANUEL:  I think we can definitely use some hitters.  Since we lost Pat Burrell and Werth.  They would sit fifth and sixth in our lineup.  They had .400 on base percentages.  Those were the guys that were always on base and allowed a 7th‑hole hitter like Feliz to knock in 85 runs.  He hit .248 or something that year, but he also had 84, 85 RBIs, and that's kind of what we're looking for.

We cannot ‑‑ if we have regular players that play on the corners and things in our outfield and things like that, we had to get more than 40 or 45 RBIs out of them.

 

Q.  What was your reaction and how concerned are you about Carlos Ruiz being suspended and missing him for basically a month there to start the season?

CHARLIE MANUEL:  I look at that like we bagged the drug program, and whenever you break a rule, that's kind of how I looked at it.

 

Q.  Are you concerned at all about missing him for a month?  Is that something that ‑‑ is that short enough that it's not an overly concerning absence?

CHARLIE MANUEL:  It's always a concern.  That right there is one of our starting players.  Like in that ‑‑ not only is he a tremendous catcher and a defensive player and he calls a good game, but last year he was one of our productive hitters, and he definitely balances out our lineup.

I'm concerned about it, but like I said, we back the drug policies.

 

Q.  What do you think you have in Darin Ruf and Domonic Brown?

CHARLIE MANUEL:  I saw Darin Ruf at the end of the year.  I saw him make good pitching.  I liked what I saw from him.  He showed me that he could handle the bat.  He hit the ball all over.  He hit the ball to right field, ball went away from him, he didn't mind hitting it that way, and he showed some power.

I think, if he's going to left field, I think he's probably played, what, 20 games.  I think what I saw was he caught what he could get to or what he's supposed to catch.  I think the more he plays, I think he can get a little bit better for us.  I'm interested in his bat because he hit good pitching when I saw him.

 

Q.  Could you be happy if he was your power right‑handed bat?

CHARLIE MANUEL:  I think I'd be happy if he hits 40 homers like he did in the minor leagues.  I think what you're looking at is a guy like ‑‑ I think Ruf has hit his way to the big leagues.  I think he's hit his way into getting a chance at the major leagues.  There's a lot of guys that get there that didn't really do enough to get there, and I think Ruf is definitely one of those guys.

 

Q.  So that being said, you don't ‑‑ he has to play every day ‑‑ he has to get at bats to show that he can play or not play in the big leagues, and I guess the same thing obviously with Domonic Brown.  But right now you guys have to make some decisions with regards to who you might have in those corner outfield spots.  Last year you go into a season with Mayberry, and he didn't necessarily earn that job, and there was a little bit of a hole there at times.  How do you balance that?  Do you think you need the corner outfielder?  If you did add a corner outfielder, what would that leave your situation with your young guys?

CHARLIE MANUEL:  I think, first of all, when you look and say what's young, I don't know what you call young.

 

Q.  Or inexperienced guys.

CHARLIE MANUEL:  I call young 21, 24, 25.  I don't call young 28, 32, 33.  I don't call that young, but at the same time, we look at players, anybody we got that gets a chance, and he can hold his own and he can stay in the lineup, I'm all for that.

If we got guys that can be productive and things like that, to me, that's fine.  But if we have to go ‑‑ if we're trying to win our division and trying to get better and we have to have something to fill our needs, I feel like we've got to go try to somehow get him.  Whether it comes from the minor league organization or somewhere else.

 

Q.  Would you like to see another corner guy added?

CHARLIE MANUEL:  I think we definitely need a corner guy.  I think we do have ‑‑ if we have to, I think we got our outfield as a platoon system or something like that, we might could cover that, but right now I don't think we could cover the other two spots.

 

Q.  You would not want Ruf and Brown going into the season as your two starting corner outfielders?

CHARLIE MANUEL:  You know something, for me to say ‑‑ I think I'm sending a bad message if I say that I don't want them.  I do want them.  I want them to be the best players in baseball, but at the same time, like I think we're asking them a whole lot, but that doesn't mean that they can't do it.

Now, if we're willing to go to Spring Training and play them and when the season starts, put them out there and play them, I won't argue against that.  But at the same time, for us to win our division and if we want to have a good chance, then more likely, if we could, we need to have more confidence in what we can get that are regular players.

 

Q.  Has this been a frustrating or disappointing off‑season to watch so far in the sense that you don't know what your future is going to be next year.  You could be in the dugout or not in the dugout.  If you're not in the dugout, this could be your last shot.  Wouldn't you like to see them get the best centerfielder, best third baseman, best setup man, and they've kind of come up empty.  How are you kind of handling that?

CHARLIE MANUEL:  I want the best team in baseball, but at the same time, I ain't worried about my job.

 

Q.  I didn't mean that.  I mean ‑‑

CHARLIE MANUEL:  I look at it like, first of all, I'm going to give you everything I've got anyway.  I've gone through years where I didn't have a contract.  I have a lot of confidence in myself.  I have a lot of confidence in getting a job, really.  But at the same time, I'm not saying I do not want to manage in Philadelphia, something like that, because Phillies is the only thing that's on my mind right now.  I'm not thinking about losing my job.

But at the same time, I want the best team I possibly can be given, and that right there is going to give us a chance to achieve our goals.  That's kind of how I look at it.

 

Q.  I think it was suggested maybe it wasn't absolutely necessary to get a reliever or setup guy but he'd like to get one.  How do you feel about that?

CHARLIE MANUEL:  I think we've got good young pitchers in the back of our bullpen.  I like Horst, Aumont, De Fratus.  Valdes did a good job for us, Rosenberg threw the ball for us good at the end of the year.  I look at those guys, and they're still young.  They're still developing.

Like we got Bastardo, and, of course, Papelbon did a tremendous job for us.  But we could definitely use a guy to pitch the eighth inning for us or definitely go into the eighth inning with Bastardo.

 

Q.  You talking about your job kind of reminded me you've been close with Andy Reid over the past few years.  What have you thought, kind of seeing what he's going through this year?  Can you kind of commiserate with him?

CHARLIE MANUEL:  No, I pull for Andy Reid.  I want him to win games.  I want him to win a championship.  I want the Eagles to win.  I want them to win a Super Bowl.  At the same time, I'm sure he's doing the best he possibly can.  That's kind of how football goes.  That's kind of how baseball goes at times.  Just like his season is not doing good, so people are going to talk about him.

Like I think that Andy Reid, knowing him, he's a very ‑‑ he's a very good coach, and he's tough, and I'm sure he'll be okay.

 

Q.  The names that they're kicking around right now, when you're up in that suite, do you like the names they're kicking around?  Like if they get some of those guys they're talking about, are you pretty happy with your team, or are you going feel like you're still a little short?

CHARLIE MANUEL:  Some of the names they're kicking around up there, yeah, it definitely could help us.  I feel, yeah, I would feel, if we get some guys that could help us, I feel very good about it, yeah.  Some of the names that you're talking about, yes.

 

Q.  Charlie, a lot of things didn't go well for the Phillies last season.  What was the worst surprise from your perspective?

CHARLIE MANUEL:  I think ‑‑ I've said it before.  Like I don't like to keep repeating and stuff like that.  I think that during the course of the year, the fact that our knowledge on how to play the game, you know, like from a fundamental and situational standpoint and also the fundamental parts like being able to read balls when we're base runners, read balls that are hitting the gaps or hit down in the corners, like where we need to advance and take an extra base are also ‑‑ our leads and stuff from second base with two outs, things like that, just the fundamental play.

After you watch it for a while, I question our knowledge of the game, like if we actually knew how to play the game right.

 

Q.  Given how many veterans you have in the lineup, why do you think that happened?

CHARLIE MANUEL:  First of all, our vets, lots of them were hurt.  I think we were playing a lot of guys that were minor league players or guys that we brought over to be bench players.

 

Q.  Let's say you guys got a centerfielder who could cover ground, play defense, hit .270, maybe steal some bases, and then got a right fielder who could hit 20, 25 home runs, .380 on base percentage, at that point would you be comfortable going into the season with some combination of the young guys and the veterans in left field and either Frandsen or Galvis at third base, or do you think you'd still need to address third base?

CHARLIE MANUEL:  I think Frandsen, when we put him in the lineup, he did a tremendous job for us.  He earned the right to play.  At the end of the year, the guy played real good.

I think you're talking about where he's been at his age, and the big question is do you think that he can last 550 at bats or something like that?  Or if you can platoon him and Freddy Galvis on a day to day at third base, and I look at that, and when I think about it, definitely would try if we absolutely have to, but if we can get somebody that can play more on a regular basis, like that would help us, of course, more.

 

Q.  If you can do that and get the corner outfielder and get the centerfielder, from what you've talked to Ruben about?

CHARLIE MANUEL:  I think we can, yeah.  I think if things feel right for us.  I think we can do that.  But at the same time, we'll play what we got, and like I said, if we play right, any way you look at it, we'd like to improve from what I said was the biggest problem last year, which is our knowledge of how to play.

 

Q.  Charlie, does it bother you there's an assumption out there this is your last year?

CHARLIE MANUEL:  I don't care about that.  It doesn't bother me at all.  Like when I first got that job, I've been there now eight years, this is my ninth year, I heard that for, I don't know, two, three years.  Then like I heard that until we won, and then it quieted down some.  And then every time you lose a game, you hear it again.  It doesn't bother me.

Really, I think I'm ‑‑ actually, I guess I'm outgrowing that by now.  It doesn't bother me.

 

Q.  You coached Omar Vizquel and watched him go from being a pretty below average hitter early in his career to becoming a very good offensive player.  Do you get that sense from Galvis that he's that type of guy.  Does he remind you of him a little bit?

CHARLIE MANUEL:  He sure does.  I heard Omar say like I probably said that because ‑‑ I said that he was a lot like Omar, and Omar's statement was Charlie probably only knows one more player that came from Venezuela.  So that was Freddy.  So I'll say the same thing.

No, Freddy Galvis, when I see him play, very knowledgeable how to play the game.  He does things right.  He's limited in the mistakes he makes.  He's around the ball all the time, his instincts and his ‑‑ the way he Fields the ball, he's very special.

I think the kid that Atlanta's got that came up last year is a tremendous shortstop, I think, but I think Galvis is a tremendous shortstop, and he showed he can play second.  I don't know see no reason in the world, if we want him playing at third, I think he can.

 

Q.  Do you think he's going to improve offensively a lot?

CHARLIE MANUEL:  I think that he ‑‑ if he can get to .260, be a consistent .260 hitter or better, I think he can do that because I saw Omar Vizquel when I was hitting .190 and .200.  That's how we got him in Cleveland, and he came over to be a real good player, a tremendous, maybe a hall of fame player.

 

Q.  I know that you don't have any choice but to be optimistic that Utley is going to be ready to go this time.  Given what's happened the past couple of years, is there any part of you that just won't believe it until you kind of see it, or do you really think ‑‑ is there some reason to believe that you really can count on him being there for the first couple of the months of the season this year?

CHARLIE MANUEL:  From what I saw of Utley last year, he was in 82 out of 85 games or something like that.  He probably started 78 or 80 or whatever.  And I looked at that, and I was very pleased with that really.  I thought we were going to have to rest him more than that.

I think, if Utley can come back, I don't think he's going to play 162 games, but if he plays somewhere, I don't know ‑‑ I can't put a thing on it, but if he gets 500 or more at bats, I think you're going to see a very productive year out of him.  He ended up hitting 250‑some, but at the same time, it was a hard 250.  He hit into some tough luck at times, and I don't see no reason in the world why he can't bounce back.

There's two guys that I got on my team that I definitely know that they're going to give the most that they possibly can, and that's Halladay and Utley.  If anyone can come back and play on a regular basis, Utley can do it.  And if anybody can pitch on a regular basis in the rotation, Halladay can do that.  I have a lot of respect for those guys.

 

Q.  What about Ryan?  He's obviously a guy that's coming off a big injury, and people wonder if that power is going to come back.  Do you think it's going to be an automatic thing, hit the ground running in the spring, or what do you think?

CHARLIE MANUEL:  First of all, I think the power's still there.  I think it's just a matter of him getting some at bats and playing.  I think he proved, when he first came back last year, his RBIs were up until he broke his toe and things like that.  Ryan definitely ‑‑ he definitely can improve on his strikeouts.  I look for him to have a big year.  I think Howard ‑‑ I don't even think of Howard bouncing back as far as from injuries and things.  I think that he ‑‑ with the type of injury that he had, it's very serious.

I think, when he comes into Spring Training next year, he will be more strong in his leg, and he'll be fine.

 

Q.  When you look at the corner outfield guys that are out there, it's kind of a wide array of skill sets and talent levels.  You've got guys like maybe Harrison and Ross who might be rotational guys or kind of more power and not necessarily on base.  You've got maybe a Ludwick and then you've got a guy like Swisher that reaches base a lot and hits home runs and can switch hit.  What, to you, do you need there?  What kind of guy do you need?  Are you thinking more of a rotational guy to play or guys like Swisher, or what do you need?

CHARLIE MANUEL:  I don't rule out what we can get to help us.  If we get people, that means that we've got depth.  That gives us more depth.  That gives us more option.  But at the same time, like when you look at ‑‑ I look at guys like Cody Ross or Ludwick and guys like that ‑‑ Ludwick had a definitely big second half of the season last year, and also Cody Ross knocked in like 82, 83 runs and things like that.  That's kind of a corner outfielder.

There's people out there that can definitely, if you look at it on paper, can definitely, if you figure it up on paper and put your team together that way, can help us.  And if we ever ‑‑ when we do, if we get people like that, then we become stronger because the guys that we got is going to help fill out our team, and it should help make us a better team.

 

Q.  Charlie, when Howard came up, he was like a 25, 26‑year‑old when he got that shot, and he was productive immediately and he was a college guy.  I'm not saying Ruf would be that good, but he's kind of the same situation.  He's a 26‑year‑old, played college ball.  Do you think there's something to that?  Do you expect maybe those guys to be more polished right off the bat when they get that first shot?

CHARLIE MANUEL:  I think Ruf has hit all through the minor leagues, and I think that's a good indication.  I think that he ‑‑ like I said, I think he's hit himself into a chance to getting into the big leagues.  That's what Thome did.  That's what all those guys when I was over in Cleveland did.  Every one of those guys, they produced in the minor leagues, at the minor league level, and that's how they got a shot.

They were players just like Ruf, but Ruf happens to be 25 where some of them were younger now, but at the same time, he's hit his way through the minor leagues.  He's hit at every level he's played, and he showed ‑‑ at the end of the year, he showed me that he handled good pitching when he played at the end of the year.

 

Q.  Would you be shocked if he hit 30 home runs this year?

CHARLIE MANUEL:  Not at all.

 

Q.  You wouldn't?

CHARLIE MANUEL:  No, not at all.  Seriously, not at all.

 

Q.  Last year he was kind of a phenomenon.  First of all, did you even know who he was going into last Spring Training?

CHARLIE MANUEL:  I'd heard of him.  I hadn't seen him play.

 

Q.  And you thought maybe he's one of these minor league phenoms, crushed AAA pitching when he's a 25‑year‑old.  Hits the major league, hits the Venezuelan league.  At what point during that time did you say, oh, okay, this guy is actually kind of legit.  He's not just a fluke.

CHARLIE MANUEL:  When I saw him at the end of the year, like when we was playing him and how he hit the ball and how the ball jumped off his bat, the fact that he could hit the ball away and take it to the opposite field.  There's things about his hitting that I don't even want to talk about that I like and things like that.  That's what convinced me that he has a chance to be good.

 

Q.  Charlie, you said you want a centerfielder who can really go get the ball.  If they came to you and said we can get you a centerfielder, speed guy, with good defense, or we can get you a right‑handed quality bat to knock in some runs, but you can only have one, which one would you have?

CHARLIE MANUEL:  I think a centerfielder is really important to us.  I think we used to be ‑‑ I think our defense ‑‑ we didn't ever talk much about our defense, but our defense was very good.  It was very important, and how we played the game is definitely what made our team a special kind of team.

I think that we definitely need to limit mistakes that we make, and I think it's very important that we get somebody that can go catch the ball for us.

 

Q.  Do you think Kratz is your opening day catcher?

CHARLIE MANUEL:  I would say Kratz would be my opening day catcher.

 

Q.  In your mind is Bourn the best defensive centerfielder in your league?  Or has he been in recent years?

CHARLIE MANUEL:  If he's not, he's definitely in the top two or three.  I think the guy in Pittsburgh is pretty good.  There's some good ones out there.  But, yeah, he's definitely ranked.  He's in the top three or top five, whatever.

 

Q.  Has it been an adjustment for you to sort of wrap your head around the way the division has evolved with the nationals establishing themselves the last year or so?

CHARLIE MANUEL:  I've always thought that they ‑‑ I could see them growing.  They came a little bit quicker than I thought they would.  I felt like the last year, at the first of the year, when we seen them, they jumped out and took the lead in our league, and they were only tested at one time.  About the middle of the season last year, Atlanta went in there and won the first two games, and they had a chance to really gain ground, but the Nationals won the last two.  They still ended up going ‑‑ leaving with about a four‑game lead.  Nationals had a four‑game league.  That's the only time they really got tested in our league.

At the first of the year, when I saw the starting rotation, and I saw Gio and Strasburg and Zimmerman and those guys, I knew they had a good rotation.  You add Parker with the youth that they had and Harper, they made ‑‑ they made the complete turnaround as far as energy and life and just the whole cohesiveness of their team coming together.  It looked like a completely different team, and they had more energy.  They had more get‑up to them.  They had more spunk.  They had more fight.  And they started playing better.

That's kind of what I seen.  And they deserved to win our division, and they played the best baseball all year long.

 

Q.  Davey says that he likes it better if every team in the division is strong because he likes to beat the best to know that he is the best.  Is that how you view it?  Obviously, the Braves are strong.  The Nationals look to be strong again.  How do you view that?

CHARLIE MANUEL:  When I go to Spring Training, I look at every year the same.  I look at it we're going to win our division, and our ultimate goal is to go to the World Series and win.  I want us to have the best team in baseball.  I want us to have the best pitching staff.  I want us to have the best defense.  I want us to have the best offense.  I want us to play the best baseball.

If we do that, more than likely, we'll have a lot of fun, and we're going to win a lot of games, and I'm an excellence over success guy.  Like I want to master the game.  And if we ‑‑ it's a day to day basis.  I've been saying that ever since I've been managing the big leagues, and I think that's how you look at it.  Every day you go, don't look behind you, and don't look ahead of you.  You try to win that game on that day.  You're going to win that game.

And that's kind of how I look at it.  The better team you have, the most talent you got, that's the chance you have to have the best team.  I think, if you look at Washington, last year when their first baseman hit 30 homers and knocked in 100 runs.  Morse the last few years come into his own.  Zimmerman has always done good.  Werth is a good solid player.  And Harper is a good rookie and hit the ball to the table and the pitching staff the way it was, they were much better than they were before.

I look at it, and that's how you get there.

 

Q.  People who might not be privy to Ruben's thoughts and in those meetings might look at the Nationals adding Span and Haren and the Braves adding Upton and the Phillies not doing anything thus far and kind of say what's going on, the talents leaving the market, and be concerned.  Is there any concern on your part?  Have you been reassured at all?  Do the things that you hear up there make you think that there's still a plan that's moving forward and will come to fruition at some point?

CHARLIE MANUEL:  I think it ‑‑ I know our organization, and I know that we definitely ‑‑ that we're definitely going to put the best team we possibly can on the field and we're going to do everything we can to improve our team.  I feel that way, and I feel, if it's not the perfect team, what's wrong with us going out and overachieving or whatever?

Sometimes when people, they forget that ‑‑ I was watching the Giants last year probably going to the playoffs.  They definitely weren't the favorite to win, and I see teams like the Yankees and the Tigers and Washington and those teams, they fall out, and all of a sudden, the Giants are sitting there, and they play the best baseball and they execute the best, and they definitely deserve to win.

That's just what makes baseball.  Just because a couple of years ago we won 102 games, and we got eliminated.  What does that tell you?  That tells you that anything can happen once you get into the playoffs, but at the same time, if you play right and things are going your way and the kind of baseball that I talk about playing, I think you've kind of always got a chance.

 

Q.  Charlie, as a possible candidate, have you been talking about Ichiro?

CHARLIE MANUEL:  Yeah, we've talked about Ichiro.

 

Q.  In your perspective, what kind of player did you see last year?

CHARLIE MANUEL:  I seen him through when he came to the Yankees, and I got to see him a lot on television.  I didn't get to see him in person, but he still can play, and he's still got a lot of baseball in him.  He's still a good player.

 

Q.  What kind of things ‑‑ what kind of contribution you can expect from him?

CHARLIE MANUEL:  I think from the standpoint, Ichiro could help our team, yes.