By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
A Guiding Hand: Manuel Returns To Baseball with Randolph, Mets
FLUSHING, N.Y.— He has served under some of baseball’s best managers (Jim Leyland and Felipe Alou to name a few). He’s also been a successful field general in his own right, as his six seasons with the Chicago White Sox will attest to.
Now, he’s trying to help one of the sports’ newest skippers deal with the pressure cooker that working in New York can be. When Willie Randolph was named the Mets’ manager last November, he made a short list of baseball men he wanted to help assist him.
One of the first names on that list was former big league manager Jerry Manuel.
Manuel, who compiled a a 500-471 (.515) mark (1998-2003) on the South Side, now serves as New York’s first base and outfield coach. Known for his quiet demeanor, Manuel has been a calming influence on the first year manager.
“He (Randolph) called me after he was hired and said he had some openings in his staff”, said Manuel. “We got together shortly after that. One thing led to another and I got hired and it’s worked out real well”.
“I’ve been helping him some of the little things that a first year manager has to go through. Even though he’s been in the game for a while, you still have a few things you have to prepare for when you’re in your first season running the show”.
Given Manuel’s resume and his success, Randolph would appear to be in good hands.
A LONG JOURNEY After playing parts of five seasons in the majors with the Detroit Tigers (1975-76), Montreal Expos (1980-81) and San Diego Padres (1982), Manuel served as a minor league fielding coordinator in the Montreal organization from 1988-89.
A year later, Manuel was named the 1990 Southern League Manager of the Year after guiding Jacksonville to an 84-60 mark. He would go to manage Montreal’s Triple-A Indianapolis affiliate in 1991.
Later that year, Manuel served as the third base coach for the Expos. After six seasons (1991-1996) in Canada he would become the bench coach in 1997 under Jim Leyland and the World Champion Florida Marlins.
Finally, Manuel got his long awaited big league managerial shot with the White Sox in 1998.
WINNING A TITLE After two seasons of finishing second in the AL Central, Manuel and the Chisox broke through in 2000. The South Siders finished with an AL best 95-67 mark and a division crown. Manuel was named The Associated Press’ Major League Manager of the Year and he also won American League Manager of the Year honors by the BBWAA and The Sporting News.
His laid-back style was in contrast to the Chisox aggressive nature on the field. Manuel was well-liked by his players but he wasn’t a pushover. He and All-Star Frank Thomas had a highly publicized screaming match during spring training in 2000 after the slugger refused to participate in a running drill because of a foot injury.
Manuel’s tenure with Chicago was a successful one. His 500 victories rank fourth in White Sox history. Following another second place finish in 2003, Manuel was let go by the Chisox at the end of the season.
The White Sox were .500 or better in each of Manuel’s last four seasons, and finished below second place only once under Manuel, in 2001 GETTING BACK IN THE GAME After being away from the game for a brief time, Manuel is looking forward to the remainder of the season and the NL East race. “I’m really excited about this team because I think we can do a lot of good things”, said Manuel.
“This division is going to be one of the most competitive races in baseball no matter how you look at it. I like the fact that after having a bad start, we came home, played well, and got the fans into the game like they can here.”
When asked if he still had any managerial aspirations, Manuel said yes. But he also stressed that he’s not in a big hurry to leave the Big Apple right now, unless the right situation came along.
When you consider his success, you get the feeling that if given the chance, Manuel will be back filling out lineup cards again.