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Charlie Manuel Gets Extension

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The Phillies took care of at least one important piece of business at the Winter Meetings, ensuring that manager Charlie Manuel will be at the helm for at least the next three seasons after guaranteeing Manuel's 2010 option year and adding another season at the end of his deal. Paul Hagen has the details

Manuel has become just the second Phillies manager to take the team to back-to-back first-place finishes; Danny Ozark won three straight division titles from 1976-78. Manuel is the first to have four straight winning seasons since Ozark (1975-78).

Since Manuel replaced Larry Bowa, the Phillies are 354-294 (.546), and he's finished as the runner-up in the NL Manager of the Year voting each of the last 2 years.

Manuel, 64, is scheduled to make $1.5 million next season and $1.7 million in 2010. His salary in 2011 could be in the neighborhood of $3 million, which would place him in the financial upper echelon of big- league managers. 

Manuel's story with the Phils is improbable in all kinds of ways. When he was hired before the 2005 season, most fans were disappointed that the team had not chosen Jim Leyland or other high-profile candidates who had been in the mix. Personally I thought it was foolish to choose a skipper whose main qualification seemed to be his personal closeness with Jim Thome, the team's signature player at the time, even if he had been relatively successful in a previous managerial stint with Cleveland. Manuel did a credible job that season, guiding the Phils to 88 wins while overcoming injuries to Thome, Randy Wolf and other key players and helping the emergence of Rookie of the Year Ryan Howard, but just falling short of the playoffs. The next year, the team was sluggish out of the gate and looked absolutely dead in June and July, and I thought the West Virginia native had lost the team. But the Phillies rallied with a blistering last two months of the season before, again, barely missing the playoffs. 

The same basic pattern seemed underway in 2007 when the team got off to its worst start yet. But from the night Manuel--in his mid-60s with a history of serious medical problems--offered to give obnoxious sports radio host Howard Eskin a thoroughly merited ass-kicking, something seemed to change. The Phillies, again beset with injuries and undermined by a porous bullpen, began to show a resilience not previously in evidence; when they finally got healthy and found a troika of solid relievers in September, they went on a late tear to seize the division and end a fourteen-year playoff drought before getting swept out of the playoffs. Manuel, whose initial three-year contract was up at the end of the 2007 season, got a two-year extension and a modest raise. 

You know what happened in 2008, when teamwide good health and a superlative relief corps elevated the team from a marginal contender to National League power and, ultimately, World F*&^% Champions. But Manuel's work  was indispensable to the title: from disciplining (but never alienating) defending MVP Jimmy Rollins, to sticking with streaky slugger Ryan Howard, to challenging talented but inconsistent outfielders Shane Victorino and Jayson Werth to merit everyday jobs, to patiently auditioning setup relievers after Tom Gordon's injury until Ryan Madson's late emergence, Charlie pushed the right buttons again and again. 

Somewhere along the way, he completed the transformation from "Elmer Befuddled" to arguably the greatest manager in franchise history, met with roaring approval by fans who had called for his job a year earlier. Whatever happens going forward, it's great to see him get his reward today.