The Philadelphia Phillies are turning back the clock by bringing in former manager Charlie Manuel as hitting coach to fix ailing offense
The Philadelphia Phillies, just two games above .500 and currently out of a playoff spot, are turning to a familiar face in an attempt to turn around their season.
Charlie Manuel, the 75-year-old who managed the Phillies to their most recent World Series title in 2008, is taking over as hitting coach for the remainder of the 2019 season. Manuel is replacing John Mallee, who had been hitting coach under manager Gabe Kapler since the start of the 2018 season.
The Phillies were one of the most active clubs in the offseason, and with their big moves came big expectations. They signed Bryce Harper to a then-record 13-year, $330 million deal in March, then acquired All-Star shortstop Jean Segura and catcher J.T. Realmuto in trades with Seattle and Miami. They also signed former National League MVP Andrew McCutchen to a $50 million deal in December.
All that spending and the Phillies have had little to show for it so far this season. The club is 60-58 and two games out of an NL Wild Card spot. They’re just 4-7 in August and have lost five of their last six games. The potent offense the Phillies were supposed to have with so much star power in their lineup never materialized. They rank just 19th in runs scored this season and 24th in batting average.
The struggles of Harper after a well-publicized offseason courtship have mirrored that of the rest of the team. Harper has struck out a league-leading 137 times this season and is on pace for his worst OPS since 2016. Since the All-Star break, he’s hitting just .240 with six home runs.
The Phillies lineup took a big hit in June when McCutchen went down with a torn ACL. He last played on June 3. Since then, the Phillies are just 27-31 and have been outscored by 48 runs. They’re last in the National League in runs scored and above just the Marlins in OPS in the second half.
General manager Matt Klentak said on Tuesday that something needed to change. “I know that a lot of people are burying us and saying we have no chance and haven’t played well,” he said. “And part of that is correct … We have not hit well, especially since the All-Star break. But we are not buried and we are not out.”
“In my judgement, with 44 games remaining, it makes sense for us to try something different rather than continue to do the same thing we’ve been doing.”
That means that Mallee is out and Manuel is rejoining the team. Manuel spent parts of nine seasons as manager of the Phillies between 2005-2013, making the postseason five times and guiding the club to back-to-back World Series appearances in 2008 and 2009, winning the second championship in team history in 2008.
Manuel previously served as hitting coach for the Cleveland Indians in the 1990s, twice appearing in the World Series. Under Manuel’s guidance, Jim Thome blossomed into a future Hall of Famer who credited his former coach with turning around his career when he was inducted into Cooperstown in 2018.
The Phillies are hoping that the old-school coach can have that same impact with a new generation of ballplayers. Manuel took them to the top of the sport before, but he has his work cut out for him if he’s to do it again.