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Manuel and the Phrightening Phillies

December 14, 2010 - Al Stephenson
As I entered the Dolphin Resort at the 2010 Baseball Winter meetings, it was apparent that Philadelphia Phillies manager Charlie Manuel and I were on a collision course. We were both headed for the escalator and it was my chance to speak with the former Tribe boss. I hesitated, letting him go first but not without starting the very brief conversation. I said simply, "hi." He responded with a "how ya doin" comment that meant a lot more to me than he likely intended.

Now I have been telling everyone that Charlie Manuel inquired about my well being. We all know that he was simply returning the greeting, but I would have loved the chance to sit down and talk baseball with the man. Manuel is from the "aw shucks" mold, but baseball has been his life and it would have been fun to pick his brain about the game. At the winter meetings though, there is nothing but big time baseball people all over the place. Despite that, my guess is that if I would have stopped him for a real chat, he would have obliged. He's that kind of guy.

Manuel was present each day that I roamed the lobby. He was also low pofile. There was no talk of any deals in the works for the Phillies. The main talk of the meetings was where Cliff Lee would end up. It seemed to be a two-team race with the Yankees expected to open the check book and outbid the Texas Rangers for the left handers services. The Washington Nationals had expressed some interest, but the prevailing feeling was that the Yankees would outspend the Rangers and acquie Lee.

Last night came the shocker. Cliff Lee decided to sign, not with the Yankees or the Rangers, but with the Philadelphia Phillies. I'm guessing Charlie Manuel is smiling more today than he did at the meetings and he was smiling a lot in Orlando. Cliff Lee will be added to a rotation that already includes Cy Young Award winner Roy Holladay, Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton and Roy Oswalt. If indeed it is true that pitching wins world championships, the Phillies just became the odds on favorite for the 2011 title.

There is never a guarantee when a team loads up. It does take some offense to win as well, but look at what Philly trots out in that regard. Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard will make many opposing pitchers shiver. The Phillies may not win the World Series; heck they might not even get there. Then again...

The view from my seat suggests that if you want to place a wager - starting with the Phillies would make a lot of sense.


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