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Manuel out, Sandberg in as Phillies Skipper

By Todd Zolecki,

Charlie Manuel, who led the Phillies to the 2008 World Series championship amidst a run of five division titles, was replaced as the team’s manager Friday by Ryne Sandberg, who accepted the position on an interim basis.

Manuel won his 1,000th career game as a big league manager Monday in Atlanta, but this season has been a disappointment.

“I did not resign and I did not quit,” Manuel said at a news conference at Citizens Bank Park. “I think it was an agreement.”

Manuel, 69, was in the final year of his contract, and it had been expected that the Phillies would make a change following the season. It seems the team’s freefall in the National League East standings — the Phils have lost 19 of their past 23 games — accelerated that timetable.

Manuel has been asked to remain with the organization. He said he would take some time to consider the offer.

Manuel and general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. discussed the change on Wednesday night. Philadelphia was off on Thursday, so Manuel’s final game was Wednesday’s 6-3 loss to Atlanta. The Phillies are 53-67, 20 1/2 games behind the Braves in the NL East.

“It came down to a few things,” said Amaro, who was visibly shaken while discussing the decision. “One, I wanted to make sure that if the decision was made Charlie would not be back, he should know. I didn’t see any reason we should drag it out and let him sit for the next 40 games knowing he wouldn’t be manager beyond this season. I didn’t think that was fair to him.

“Additionally, it gives a chance to see what we have in Ryne Sandberg and how he can handle managing the Philadelphia Phillies.”

The Phillies went 780-636 (.551) under Manuel, who won more games than any other manager in franchise history. From 2007-11, the club won five consecutive NL East titles, two NL pennants and the 2008 World Series championship. Also in that time frame, Philadelphia posted the best record in the NL (473-337) and second-best record in Major League Baseball, trailing the New York Yankees (478-332) by only five games. In the postseason, Manuel’s Phils teams posted a 27-19 (.587) record.

Manuel is one of two managers to lead the Phillies to a World Series title, the other being Dallas Green in 1980. The Phils went to the World Series a second time under Manuel in 2009, but they lost to the Yankees.

“I think sometimes people forget how much I love to win,” Manuel said. “I think that goes unnoticed. I think sometimes I don’t talk about it, because I push it to my team and how important it is. Every day, I say our No. 1 priority is to win the game. When we get away from that, we get into trouble. I love everything about managing, and I think for us, the last couple years to fall back, I get upset very much so. I want us to stay where we were at, I want to compete for a World Series every year.”

A source said the Phillies’ front office had discussed possible scenarios for a managerial change in recent weeks, although until recently, nothing had been decided. The Phils’ front office held a conference call in the afternoon to discuss the change.

Sandberg, the Phillies’ third-base coach, was named to be interim manager through the end of the season. He had been the heir apparent to Manuel since he joined the coaching staff in the offseason.

“As it will be for everybody — the players, the coaches, myself — it’s an opportunity,” Sandberg said. “We have 42 games left. Being the interim manager, I think my main job will be to remind the players that they are Major League players, they’re getting paid very well and they have a job to play out the remaining 42 games.”

The 53-year-old Hall of Famer, a 10-time All-Star and the 1984 NL Most Valuable Player Award winner, Sandberg was drafted by the Phillies in 1978 and broke into the Major Leagues with them in ’81 but was traded soon after to the Chicago Cubs. He managed in the Minor Leagues for six seasons — four for the Cubs, two for the Phils.

First-base coach Juan Samuel will assume the third-base coaching duties and assistant hitting coach Wally Joyner will become the first-base coach.

“There is a possibility that Ryne would be the manager beyond 2013, but I haven’t made a decision one way or another,” Amaro said. “We’re keeping it open and trying to be as open-minded as we can be.”

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