Is it critical mass time for Charlie Manuel and the Phillies? Who knows... but it certainly seems that way.
One day after Jimmy Rollins was benched for repeated tardiness before the game against the New York Mets at Shea Stadium AND the Phillies fell out of first place for the first time since June 1, the skipper called a closed-door meeting at 4 p.m. before the game at Citizens Bank Park against the Atlanta Braves.
Yep, nothing like a good 'ol team meeting to turn around things.
Nevertheless, the second-place Phillies met in the clubhouse for 20 minutes where Manuel reported that he was the only one who spoke. A believer that too many meetings do more harm than good and are a general waste of time, Manuel decided one was needed now in order to help the club shake its doldrums where it has lost four out of its last five games.
In fact, the proverbial closed-door meeting in baseball is slowly becoming an anachronism. They are a rare event these days even on the most discordus and woeful ballclubs. Still, there usually one closed-door meeting a year with the Phillies over the past decade. Thursday afternoon was the day.
"It's up to us not to stay there," Manuel said about being in second place. "We can control our own destiny. But if we're going to win our division we need to play better."
He's certainly correct on that point. Meanwhile, Rollins reportedly rolled in around 3:49 to 3:56 p.m. this afternoon. Normally, reporting a little before 4 would give Rollins enough time to be in uniform for the mandatory team stretch at 4:15 p.m. Today, though, he made it with a few minutes to spare before Charlie's pep talk.
Rollins is slated to start at shortstop and leadoff against the Braves this evening. We'll have more from the ballpark a little later. Meanwhile, here's what Charlie told the scribes before Friday's game and after the meeting:
Few things you wanted to say to the guys?
"I just wanted to talk to them. That's all I got to say about it."
"No, I just had some things to say."
Disappointed at all in what Jimmy said after yesterday's game?
"I didn't see what he had to say, I didn't read the papers. Figured it might be a good day for me not to even pick up the papers."
Jimmy was saying that he didn't think he let the team down.
"I have no comment on that. Like I told you guys yesterday, that's between Jimmy and I."
You said yesterday that the team needs an extra kick. Are you worried that might get out of control?
"I'm not worried at all. I know this -- I don't know who's gonna win the division, but I know we can. And I know it's kind of...the way our schedule sets and the fact that we play everybody in our division mostly in the next two months, we got a real good chance. We definitely control our own destiny. If we don't get it done, it's not because we couldn't of did it.
"I think there's something missing on our team. It's that little extra -- that little extra kick we had, that resilient effort. That going all the way. For instance, the road trip was a good example of it. When we beat Miami the first night, had a real good game, then all of a sudden we lose the next two. Did the same thing in New York -- come back the first night there, then we end up losing the next two games. Yesterday, Moyer pitched a good game. Sunday in Miami, Hamels pitched a super game. When we come out 1-2, 1-2, we're not winning the series. We need to get, I said yesterday, that shine back. Wore off a chandelier. We need to get that back. We need to re-paint it, or dip it or something."
Jimmy's year last year had that shine. How important is getting him right?
"I think he can get right. I think that he's that type of player and he has that swing. I think it's just a matter of time. I think lately, he's definitely been swinging better."
Are you comfortable with the leadership you have in your clubhouse right now?
"We talk about leadership a lot. Sometimes a player being a leader is fine, but when that don't happen, I guess that's when the manager is supposed to be the leader. That's kind of how I look at it." "I've always at myself, if I'm the manager, then I'm the guy that's supposed to be the leader. Any time you got leaders on your team, and they're good, and things like that, that's a bonus. That's better. That definitely can be better. That makes everything a lot better."
Would you prefer someone to kind of emerge into that role?
"When we're playing good, I think that comes up. I think that's all part of playing good. Right now, we haven't been playing good baseball. Are we a good team right now? Probably not. But we've showed that we can be a good team. At one time this year, we were a good team."
So you don't necessarily buy into that theory that every team has one guy that runs the clubhouse?
"There's guys that can do that. That's a big plus for the manager. When it comes right down to it, if your team, if you don't have leadership on there, then that's the manager's job."
When you make a move like you did yesterday, do you worry at all?
"Any kind of decision I make, I do what I think is right. I try to take time to think things over, instead of just react. I want to make sure that I get things right. But when I do something, it's because I thought it was right. I told you guys before, whether you know it or not, I don't look back. I look ahead. That's what I did, and that's what I thought was right. I think I'm a consistent person, and I think that I treat people right, and I think that's one of my better things. I definitely communicate with the players. I'm honest and I'm straight and I do what I think is right. As a manager and a leader, that's what you're supposed to do."
Did you consult with anyone yesterday?
"Actually, I wasn't even directly talking about yesterday. I'm saying, 'In general...' "
Did you yesterday?
"Yeah, I did. But I wasn't looking for advice."
What does this team need to do to get back to being a good team?
"The only thing we gotta do is come out and play good. Win a couple games, start winning and everything's gonna be fine. They say in baseball, 'We gotta turn it on.' Well, first of all, I look at it, 'From Day One, you shoulda turned it on.' When the season started, you turn it on. You play all the way through 'til you get eliminated in October or September or whenever."
You said you got a real good team at one point, but now, at this point in the season, you're seven games over .500.
"We're not good right now. We're inconsistent, and that leads to not being good. If we start winning, everybody'll look up and say, 'Hey, look at that team. Look how they can hit, look how they can pitch,' or something like that. That's baseball." "There's holes, but can we win? I look at who's in our division, and it's pretty close. Other teams have holes, too. They got holes, but I think we can win."
At one point, you said something's missing and at another point you said you've been inconsistent. What can you do to make your team more consistent?
"You can just talk in practice, relax, turn 'em loose and let 'em play."
Does the talk help you guys hit better?
"At times, it can. It comes to the point where you talk and hell, it can't hurt nothing. Believe me, meetings are something that you don't necessarily need all the time. Really, that gets old, too."
Pep talk? Anger? What was your mood?
"I just wanted to talk to 'em, I just wanted to get some things kinda right, let it go." "I was the only one that talked."
You guys were knocked into second place. Is that another reason for the talk? "Well, we're a game out, and we've been there before, of course, and at the same time...we can control our own destiny. We have to play better. If we're gonna win our division, we're gonna have to play better than what we've been playing. I think everybody in that room knows that. We tald about winning our division and going to the World Series, then we got to play the best in this division. I say that all the time, it's nothing new."