Can Nats reverse fortunes vs. teams over .500?
ATLANTA — Jayson Werth openly admits he is the player he is today in large because of Charlie Manuel. So when asked today whether he'd like for the suddenly available Manuel to manage the Nationals next season, the veteran right fielder didn't hide his feelings.
"Oh, of course," Werth said this afternoon. "I don't know if he fits into the organization's plan or whatever. But I mean, I love playing for the guy."
Fired by the Phillies today after a 4-19 stretch since the All-Star break, Manuel now finds himself out of work after 12 years managing in Cleveland and Philadelphia, posting a 1,000-826 record, winning six division titles and a World Series. The 69-year-old said he would need some time to contemplate his future, but his name could surface as a candidate to replace Davey Johnson in 2014.
Werth said he spoke to Manuel earlier this season and asked his former skipper about his future plans.
"He guaranteed me he would be managing somewhere next year," Werth said. "This was probably ... I think I was on the DL in May when I talked to him. We'll see. Time changes things. But at the time when I talked to him then, he was adamant he wanted to manage."
To be clear, there has been no actual suggestion the Nationals would be interested in Manuel. He's only one year younger than Johnson, who won't return to his position next season, and club officials may prefer a younger manager who is primed to hold the position for many years.
"I think they've had their fill of old managers," Johnson said. "I have no idea. I haven't had those discussions with Riz and what he has on his mind. [Manuel] is a good one. I like him."
Werth played four seasons for Manuel in Philadelphia, enjoying the best success of his career. The outfielder spoke glowingly about his former skipper today, crediting Manuel with giving him a chance to play every day in 2008 and helping him become a player who commanded a $126 million contract from the Nationals after the 2010 season.
"I owe him a lot," Werth said. "It took a lot for me to win him over. But once he put me in there, he believed in me as much, if not more, than anyone I've ever played for. I owe him a lot. He was the one that kind of pushed me to become the player I became."
Werth called Manuel "the best manager I ever played for, nothing against Davey."
Johnson also spoke lovingly of Manuel, recalling their days playing against each other in Japan in the 1970s and their interactions as opposing managers in recent years.
"It was tough. I hate to see anybody get relieved of their duties," he said. "I know how much he loves the game of baseball and how much he enjoyed managing that ballclub. He's a character. I'll miss him. He's fun to watch and he's fun to manage against."