Clearwater, Fla. Charlie Manuel had just emerged from the dugout before an exhibition game when a typical Philly fan greeted him with another insult. "Two words, Cholly: double switch!"
Since replacing Larry Bowa as the manager of the Philadelphia Phillies two years ago, Manuel has endured constant criticism from fans and media. He's learned to ignore it and focus on trying to lead the Phillies to the playoffs for the first time since 1993.
Second-guessing Manuel's in-game strategy when he messes up a double switch that leaves a reliever batting the following inning is warranted.
Ridiculing his accent - a thick Appalachian drawl - and poking fun at his use of grammar and elocution are unfair.
"The first year I managed in Philly, a lot of times my brother would call me and tell me what people were saying and writing," Manuel said. "I finally told him, 'Look, stop telling me.'
"When they attacked me personally, it bothered me a little bit. I tried not paying attention to it, so I quit reading the paper and I quit listening to the radio because I wanted to come to the ballpark with a positive attitude because that's the best way to do things."
Manuel certainly wasn't the people's choice when former general manager Ed Wade hired him after the 2004 season. Most fans wanted Jim Leyland, the former Pirates and Marlins manager who led Florida to a World Series title. Leyland openly campaigned for the job and was the last candidate interviewed, but it appeared Manuel was Wade's choice from the start. Leyland eventually landed in Detroit and led the Tigers to the AL championship in his first season last year.
Meanwhile, Manuel kept the Phillies in contention for an NL wild-card spot until the final weekend each of his first two seasons in Philadelphia. He guided the Phillies to 88 wins in 200,5 and they walked off the field after winning their final game with a chance to get into the playoffs. But the Houston Astros ended those hopes with a victory later that day that gave them the wild-card berth.
The Phillies overcame a poor start and a midseason roster purge to take the lead in the wild-card standings with only a week remaining in the regular season last year. But they lost three of the next four games, including two of three to the last-place Nationals in Washington, and were eliminated on the next-to-last day of the season.
Manuel didn't get much credit for keeping the team together and getting the most from his players after general manager Pat Gillick said on the day he traded Bobby Abreu to the New York Yankees that he didn't expect the Phillies to be contenders until 2008. Instead, Manuel heard more boos down the stretch and was blamed for letting the team fall short at the end again.
"I understand people are always going to say things and there's critics out there who don't necessarily want to see you do good," Manuel said. "But I can't let it bother me, so things I don't know or I don't hear, I'm fine with it."