Financial matters are a fine topic. That’s especially true these days, what with all the bailouts, bonuses and stimulus packages and whatnot. But I was more interested in something more analytical and a bit more in need of an expert’s opinion.
And truthfully, there are probably just a handful of people on the planet who understand hitting a baseball as well as Charlie Manuel.
Think about it – when Charlie was first coming up through the ranks in pro ball, none other than Ted Williams took a shine to the Phillies’ skipper. There was something about that big, lefty swing from that raw-boned kid from Buena Vista, Virginia that caught the eye of the greatest hitter who ever lived.
Then again, Charlie has that kind of affect on a lot of people. Even now, 40 years after his Major League career began, Charlie still makes friends easily. He’s always the most popular guy whenever he steps into a room, though compliments seem to embarrass him. Either way, it’s not all that surprising that a big-time star like Ted Williams was charmed by young Chuck.
Regardless, Charlie knows hitting. While coming up with the Twins, Hall-of-Famers Harmon Killebrew and Rod Carew were his teammates. When he joined the Dodgers, Charlie couldn’t unseat Steve Garvey, Bill Buckner, Ron Cey or Jimmy Wynn for playing time. Because he couldn’t get the opportunities in the U.S., Charlie went to Japan where he and the legendary Sadaharu Oh were the top sluggers.
Back in the states as a coach, Charlie mentored some of the all-time greats. Hitters like Kirby Puckett, Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, Albert Belle and now, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley thrived under Charlie. A few of them are headed to the Hall of Fame. No doubts there.
So when I went in to Charlie’s office at Bright House Field, the original plan was justification. Earlier this week after watching Albert Pujols take batting practice I decided he was the greatest hitter I had ever seen. That’s a bold statement. So with Chuck I presented it as Pujols was the greatest right-handed hitter of a the generation.
“He’s up there,” Charlie said. “He can be whatever you want him to be.”