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As you may have realized by now, our Contributing Editor, Ron Carmean, is a devoted baseball fan. Today he takes over the blog in an attempt to perform a triple play. On first base is a vintage player named Leo Durocher; on second is ex-Phillies Manager, Charlie Manuel; and on third–well, on third is…Charles Dickens? Yeah, it’s a stretch, I know, but if anyone can round these bases it’s Ron…
Baseball, Business and Being Nice …by Ron Carmean
I assume many of you do not recognize the name Leo Durocher. That’s okay. Durocher played Major League Baseball for 17 years. His batting average was .247; he hit 56 home runs–in his entire career, not just one year. Babe Ruth (his teammate at the time) called him “The All-American Out.”
But as a manager, Durocher had more success. His teams won over 2,000 games. His reputation as a manager was made, equally, by his mouth as well as his teams’ victories. He was thrown out of dozens of games because of his feuds with umpires, hence his nickname, Leo the Lip. Durocher was certainly not known for being a nice guy. In fact, he is most remembered for one profound quote—one many of you will recognize: Nice Guys Finish Last. Hold that thought!
Today’s blog, however, is not about Leo Durocher. It’s about “a nice guy” who, this past Friday, lost his job. Charlie Manuel managed the Philadelphia Phillies for 9 years. His team won the 2008 World Series, played in the 2009 World Series and won 5 consecutive Division titles. Under his leadership, the Phillies won 780 games, including one year when they won 102—no Phillies manager, from 1883 to now, has ever compiled a better record.
Charlie Manuel was known as “a players’ manager.” That means he would encourage players, rather than berate them. He stuck with them when they were doing poorly because he believed they would eventually do better. He had 2 rules: be on time and hustle. He often said, as a manager, he “had the best seat in the house!”
In baseball terms, Manuel is a lifer. From the time he graduated high school until now, he has been in baseball. He played in the Minor Leagues, the Major Leagues and Japan; and he coached and managed in the Major Leagues. In this last capacity, his teams won 1,000 games. But his players got old, and injured. There were insufficient replacements. This year, Phillies’ losses have outnumbered the wins by a number consisting of two digits. Management let Manuel finish a road trip and win his one thousandth game. Then, they held a news conference the next day. Manuel said “he didn’t quit.” The general manager didn’t say “he was fired” but he explained the team “was going in a different direction.” That was the explanation for the news conference and Charlie’s absence starting the next day.
There were comments from his players, coaches (including the one chosen to replace him), reporters, media outlets, even the Tweeterverse–no one anywhere had anything negative to say about Charlie Manuel. Not anything. In 52 years as player, coach, and manager, he had made no enemies. Even the General Manager sitting next to Charlie finished “his announcement” in tears. Some people on television said: “You have to remember baseball is a business.” Apparently, when it is boiled down to its essence, baseball is just another business. Is that all it is? Really?
Where you work or go to school, is that a business, too? Is everything we do anymore… just a business? It makes me think of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Was Scrooge just doing his business, in a manner for which he would pay a high price after death? But in time, after his ghostly tours on Christmas Eve, Scrooge changed his ways. Tiny Tim did not die and Bob Cratchit’s family had a wonderful Christmas dinner—courtesy of a “stranger.” So where does Charlie Manuel fit in with all this? Well, for now, go back to what Leo Durocher said. That’s where.
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