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Sorry, Charlie: The World Series Isn't to Blame

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When a game is postponed for rain, sports journalists are always in a treacherous position.  The newspaper or website still needs content, but there's been no game.  So you have to see what juicy quotes you can dig up from the guys who didn't play that day.  Oftentimes it results in nothing more than fluff pieces published that night or the next day, something to fill column-inches when there's no game to report on.

But sometimes you strike gold.  Which is probably what the Phillies' beat reporters thought yesterday when Charlie Manuel opened up to them on his concerns about the Phillies' slow start.  He pointed fingers at the team (not individuals) for being distracted by the World Series and letting the celebration and euphoria over that take them away from preparing for this season.

"I think that sometimes you can do things that get away from the fact that the game is the first priority, and winning the game is the first priority," said Manuel.  He continued, "There will always be things that make us think of last year. Like, for instance, if you look at the pictures on the wall. There is the fact that we won. But at the same time, the celebration comes to an end. These are memories, but the game goes on."  The whole story is here and here.

Of course, this is a nice narrative for the manager to spin to get the team to focus: Team has first taste of championship, gets too excited by it, is lax in the off-season, comes into the new season not as prepared as they should be, suffers as a result, and needs the manager to whip them into shape.

The only problem with the story is this:  it's all truthiness and no fact.

Here are the facts.  Through 11 games this season, the Phillies are 5-6.  Under Manuel's leadership, that's tied for the best record the team has had through the first 11 games.  The team has a .805 OPS, which is just short of the team's first-11-game best under Manuel of .806 in 2006.  Of course, the team's pitching has been horrible, but we've seen that before as well.

Here's a chart showing how the Phillies have performed over the first 11 games under Manuel.  And, in case you need any recollection, in only one of these years did the team win the World Series the fall before:

Record OPS ERA
2005 5-6 0.729 4.36
2006 4-7 0.806 5.66
2007 3-8 0.782 5.14
2008 5-6 0.752 3.87
2009 5-6 0.805 6.87

 

Manuel has his facts wrong. Through 11 games, the Phillies are playing no worse this year than any of the other years he's managed the team. Thus, if there's something wrong with the team through 11 games this year, then the same thing was wrong with the team in each of the years Manuel has managed.