When Thomas Boswell decides to write a baseball column, we are all the richer.
Thankfully we’re in luck, as today’s Washington Post contained a Boswell gem entitled Phillies Thrive on the Quirky Wisdom of Charlie Manuel.
There’s a lot to savor in this column:
Many have been amazed at the Phils’ gift for clutch play in this postseason, including late heroics by Werth and Ryan Howard that were topped here Monday night when Jimmy Rollins, the 5-foot-8 shortstop who is the core of the clubhouse, turned around a 99-mph fastball from 290-pound Jonathan Broxton and became the fifth man in postseason history to turn a defeat into victory when he represented the last out of the game.
But Manuel isn’t surprised at all by the Phillies’ comeback knack and their ability to shake off blown saves all season by their dubious bullpen. He and others in the front office, like Pat Gillick and Ruben Amaro, believe you can identify players who are at their best under pressure because they are both energized and focused by the spotlight, not paralyzed or distracted by it.
Charlie Manuel quotes an old Boswell book, The Heart of the Order, and a key Boswell precept: “There is no substitute for excellence – not even success.”
“You’ve got to be totally relaxed, you’ve got to stay focused and it gets back to the [idea of] excellence over success,” said Manuel. “If you strive to be the best, then success will be there.”
Charlie boiled it down to: “Don’t get hung up on success and what people think of you; focus on excellence, play the game the right way, enjoy the moment and don’t be scared of it.”
It is nice to see the Phillies – and their quirky manager who fundamentally understands the game – in the World Series again.
More to come…