Charlie Manuel was fired today as manager of the Philadelphia Phillies. It’s an unfortunate move, but also hardly surprising, given how much the Phils have disappointed for two consecutive years. I don’t see it as Manuel’s fault—the organization shoved all its chips on the table with big contracts to veterans and those vets just couldn’t stay healthy consistently—but it’s hard to deny that it’s time for the Phils to take a new direction.
The new hire needs no introduction to anyone who watched baseball in the 1980s or early 1990s. Ryne Sandberg was one of the game’s great second baseman when he lead the Chicago Cubs into the National League Championship Series in both 1984 and 1989, and if not for a guy with the last name of Jordan, “Ryno” would be the most beloved Chicago athlete of our lifetime. He’s been the third base coach for Manuel, and now we’ll see if this turns into a real shot at his first managerial job.
Philadelphia’s failure to catch fire is one of the reasons the National League playoff race remains devoid of major drama. Washington joins the list, and Arizona is fighting to keep from sliding off the ledge. As we sit here on August 16, the five playoff teams—Atlanta, Los Angeles and the NL Central’s Big Three—remain comfortable in their position with only the Diamondbacks even within six games.
Arizona has chances to make some hay in the week ahead. They have NL Central-leading Pittsburgh coming in for three games, and the Pirates are coming off a rough stretch where they were swept in Colorado and lost a couple crushing games in St. Louis. The Diamondbacks then host the Reds, who are currently the team most directly in front of Arizona, although a recent Cincy hot streak has tightened the NL Central race up enough that any of the three could vulnerable to an Arizona charge.
Los Angeles is 7 ½ games up in the NL West, with Atlanta still rolling right along at 14 ½ in front in the NL East. The best races remain in the American League, which TheSportsNotebook’s MLB coverage updated earlier this week.