Charlie Manuel Begins to Motivate

In his press conference after he got the job, new manager Charlie Manuel said, “I’m the right guy for this job because I’m a motivator.”

Charlie’s job would have been a lot easier in 2005 if his team did not have to play Houston; for the second year in a row, the Phillies were 0-6 against the Houston Astros,  and it was decisive because  the Phillies finished one game behind the Astros in the Wild Card race.

September was crucial. Beginning the month, the Phillies trailed Atlanta by four games in the Eastern Division race and were tied with Houston at 71-62 in the Wild Card race.
On September 5th  at Citizens Bank Park, the Astros were in town for a three-game series, trailing the Phillies by a half game in the Wild Card. Houston won the first two games behind Andy Pettitte and Roy Oswalt. Then came Game Three, arguably the most deflating loss in a doleful history of more than 10,000 Phillies’ defeats. It was an emotional roller coaster; trailing 5-3 in the eighth, the Phillies tied it on a two-run home run by Bobby Abreu, and took a 6-5 lead on a pinch hit single by Shane Victorino.

Enter Sandman! The music blasted all around Citizens Bank Park as former Astros' closer, now firing his 100mph darts for the Phillies, Billy Wagner sprinted in from the bullpen behind the centerfield fence. No problem for Billy Wags, the first two outs were easy; so was the third, a nice one-hopper to thirdbaseman David Bell. Bell checked the label, then fired the ball into the lower grandstand behind first base. An infield hit by Willie Taveras brought gritty Houston veteran Craig Biggio to the plate; he quickly broke hearts all around the Delaware Valley with a blast into the leftfield bleachers for an 8-6 lead that Houston closer Brad Lidge nailed down for his 35th save.

The Phillies had no time to mope as they faced  seven games with Atlanta, four at the Bank, and three at the Ted in Atlanta. The Phillies took five out of those seven from the Bravos in a series of tight-fisted, up and down games, and finished two games behind. They had a chance to tie for the Wild Card, but Houston, behind Roy Oswalt, and a save from Brad Lidge, won the final game of the season over Greg Maddux of the Cubs to win it and advance to the post season.

The Phillies and their fans were dazzled by the performances of Ryan Howard and Chase Utley in the September countdown. Howard in particular was a shining light. Phillies’ followers wondered what it would take to convince Charlie Manuel that the young slugger was no flash in the pan, but a legitimate piece. Howard delivered 10 home runs and 21 runs batted in during September despite hitting out of the sixth and seventh spots in the batting order, and not playing at all against lefthanded starters. 

The Chase Utley-Ryan Howard erea in Phllies history began on July 1, 2005, the day Howard was called up from AAA Scranton Wilkes-Barre to replace first baseman Jim Thome who was on the disabled list with right elbow tendonitis. Howard was 25 years old, and had been terrorizing minor-league pitching since the Phillies signed him on July 2, 2001. Three weeks before Howard was called up, the Phillies traded Placido Polanco to at last open up the second base job for Utley. Utley is one year older than Howard, and had signalled his star quality at Veterans Stadium on April 24, 2003 by delivering a pinch-hit, grand slam home run for his first Major League hit.

The Phillies were 40-39, 7 ½ games out of first when Howard and Utley first teamed up; they would go 48-35 the rest of the way and finish an agonizing one game away from making the post-season as the Wild Card representative. In half a season, Howard blasted 22 home runs (two grandslams), piled up 63 runs batted in, and was voted National League Rookie of the year.

Bobby Abreu won Gold Glove.

On November 2, Ed Wade was replaced by Pat Gillick as Phillies’ general manager. Gillick brought impressive credentials to the job; a successful record as GM of American League teams, Toronto, Baltimore, and Seattle. Gillick was general manager of the 1993 Toronto team that beat the Phillies in the World’s Series that year.

Gillick was on the move in a hurry:
November 25 – Traded Jim Thome and a cheesesteak to the Chicago White Sox for Aaron Rowand, Daniel Haigwod, and Gio Gonzalez.
December 6 – signed RHP Tom “Flash” Gordon from free agency.
December 12 – Traded RHP Vicente Padilla to Texas for one long horn.

By max blue
Andy Pettitte, Billy Wagner, Bobby Abreu, Brad Lidge, Charlie Manuel, Chase Utley, Citizens Bank Park, Craig Biggio, Ed Wade, Houston Astros, Jim Thome, Pat Gillick, Philadelphia Phillies, Placido Polanco, Roy Oswalt, Ryan Howard, Shane Victorino


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