"I think once the season starts, I think that I don't want to talk about my contract," Manuel said.
It sounded like Manuel might have set a personal deadline for negotiations. Did he mean he would stop talking to reporters about his contract, or the Phillies?
"I'll call [Albert] Pujols and ask him," Manuel said.
Pujols has set a highly publicized deadline to reach a contract extension with the Cardinals before halting talks until after the season. Manuel could do the same. Of course, there are risks. If he waits and the Phils don't win the World Series (or much worse, don't make the playoffs), the club holds the power.
But if the Phillies do everything they expect to do, he holds the power.
"Hopefully something happens in Spring Training," Manuel said. "First, my extension and my contract, I definitely don't want it to be a distraction. I definitely put my team first. I think the players and how they play, that's why I've got a contract. That's the whole purpose of what I do. That's kind of how I look at it."
Manuel is believed to be seeking a contract in line with the top managers, which could put him at more than $4 million per season. The Associated Press reports he is making $2.4 million in 2011.
Manuel actually worked in the final season of his contract in 2006, when Pat Gillick replaced Ed Wade. Gillick considered replacing Manuel after the season, but retained him. Gillick said it was one of the best moves he made.
"Every now and then, you might think about something," Manuel said. "You stay focused on where you're going. And that's part of the season and everything. You stay busy and if you do your job, then things will work out."
Is he surprised he hasn't reached an agreement?
"Does it surprise me?" he said before a long pause. "Not really. No, it doesn't surprise me."
Does it concern him?
He paused again.
Philadelphia general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. wouldn't characterize the negotiations with Manuel, which have been ongoing since December. But he said, "Obviously, we want to get him done. We'd love to keep Charlie in our uniform, obviously. Hopefully, we'll get something done."
Amaro said he has no concerns about Manuel's contract status becoming a distraction in the clubhouse.
"It's not the first time a manager goes into the season without a contract extension," Amaro said. "I think there are a lot of those out there. I'd like to put it to bed, but we'll see."