Manuel's plans do not include retirement
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel gets animated standing behind the batting cage during batting practice. He is in the midst of a philosophical discussion with hitting coaches Steve Henderson and Wally Joyner.
Manuel is having fun.
And that's why all the talk about this being his final season as the Phillies' manager creates an uneasiness.
Yes, Manuel is in the final year of his contract. Yes, Ryne Sandberg, after six seasons managing in the Minor Leagues, including the past two in the Phils system, is now Philadelphia's third-base coach. Yes, that has sparked speculation that Sandberg, a Hall of Fame second baseman, will eventually be the manager.
But no, nothing is definite.
"I'm at the point where I don't even want to talk about it anymore," Manuel said.
When it comes to the Phillies, there is a lot of uncertainty about their future. Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz, Kyle Kendrick, Michael Young and Delmon Young all have contracts that expire at season's end.
Ruiz, the catcher suspended for the first 25 games of the season for a violation of baseball's joint drug agreement, and the team's projected starting infield of first baseman Ryan Howard, second baseman Utley, shortstop Jimmy Rollins and third baseman Michael Young are all in their 30s. Ditto the top three starting pitchers -- Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee -- and relievers Chad Durbin, Mike Adams and Jonathan Papelbon.
Are the Phils about to undergo an overhaul of their roster? Would that be a good time to adjust management? No decisions on either issue have been made.
Manuel, however, wants to make sure people understand that he's not making plans to increase his fishing trips and tune up his golf game next year.
"I am not ready to quit managing," he said earlier this week. "I'm not ready for somebody to make that decision. I still enjoy this."
Manuel can be deceiving. He has that down-home persona. His verbs don't always conjugate. But be warned, there's not much that slips past him. Manuel believers describe him as being country smart.
But most of all, he is competitive.
Flash back to the news conference the night the Phillies wrapped up the 2008 World Series championship. Spotting a member of the Cleveland media in the audience, Manuel asked him to "let the folks back in Cleveland know I've won a championship."
Manuel has never forgotten the quick hook he got from the Indians. After taking them to the American League Central title in 2001, his second season on the job, he was fired 86 games into the 2002 season.
But it worked out pretty well for Manuel. The next year, he joined Philadelphia as a special assistant, and in 2005 he took over as the Phillies' manager. After second-place finishes in each of his first two years, the Phils ran off five consecutive National League East titles, twice advancing to the World Series and winning that 2008 championship.
"I shouldn't have to explain to anybody -- the team or President Obama or anyone,'' Manuel said of his thought process.
Manuel does have a resume worthy of respect. His .555 career winning percentage is higher than any other manager not in the Hall of Fame with at least 1,000 career wins except Davey Johnson, Bobby Cox and Steve O'Neill. And O'Neill is the only one of the group who has been eligible for induction.
Manuel managed one of two World Series winners in Phillies history. Dallas Green managed the other, in 1980.
He has managed the Phillies to four of the nine best records in franchise history, including a club-record 102 wins in 2011.
Manuel is the only manager to have taken the Phillies to two World Series and he has filled out the lineup card for five of the 14 Phils teams to advance to the postseason. Danny Ozark did it three times, Green twice, and Jim Fregosi, Paul Owens, Eddie Sawyer and Pat Moran, once each.
"I am satisfied with my [current] deal," said Manuel. "Somewhere along the line, [team president] Dave Montgomery and Ruben [Amaro, general manager] and I will more likely have a talk. That's how I see it."
Manuel has been through his flirtations with major illness. From 1998-2000, he suffered a heart attack, underwent a quadruple bypass and suffered from kidney cancer and a ruptured colon.
At the age of 69, however, Manuel hasn't been slowed down a bit in the past decade.
"I'm in better shape now than I was when I came to work over here," he said.
And right now, Manuel is expecting to continue working in Philadelphia, this year and beyond.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.