Howe, Williams and Lopes bring a wealth of Major League playing, coaching and managing experience to the Phillies. They combined to skipper 4,305 games -- compiling a 2,183-2,122 record -- and have played in 2,717 games.
"The experience carried a lot of weight," Manuel said. "From my perspective, these are top-notch guys who are very outstanding in the baseball world. I've known all three of these guys for a long time."
Manuel played with Lopes with the Dodgers and against Howe. Manuel also managed against Williams in the American League, when Manuel guided Cleveland and Williams helmed Boston.
When Manuel met with GM Pat Gillick after the Phillies fell short of the postseason, Manuel suggested making some improvements to the staff. While he made it a point to consistently laud the efforts of his former coaches, that didn't stop him from seeking upgrades.
"My last three guys were very good," Manuel said. "(The new guys) are a little bit older. They've been in the game longer. All three have managed at the Major League level. Lopes is a guru of baserunning."
The hope is that the players will draw on it and improve to the point where they're playing in late October.
"They have instant credibility," Gillick said. "They're going to do a great job. Of course, the
players are going to have to believe in their instruction and in what they're trying to accomplish. Hopefully, the players will listen to some of the ideas that [the coaches] have."
In addition to coaching first, the 61-year-old Lopes will and serve as an outfield/baserunning
instructor, an area Manuel wished to improve. The hope is that he'll help turn the speedy Shane
Victorino into a more polished base-stealer. Victorino had worked with Maury Wills while with the Dodgers and said at the end of the season that he would welcome further assistance.
Lopes, who swiped 557 bases and scored 1,023 runs in a 16-year Major League career, had that dual role with the Nationals last season. The Nationals stole 123 bases, tied for fourth-most in the NL. Lopes spent parts of three seasons managing the Brewers (2000-02) and coached with the Padres, Orioles
"I'm looking forward to working with the speed we have here," Lopes said. "There's a lot of potential there, and my job is to maximize their abilities, and take them to areas where they didn't think they could go before. I've been in baseball a long time, and I have a pretty sufficient knowledge of baserunning and base-stealing. I'm sure they're going to have a much better year than they've had before as far as stealing bases."
Howe, 59, also will double as the infield instructor, and work with Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. This is Howe's first time back in uniform since 2004, his final season as manager of the Mets. He spent the 2006 season as a part-time postgame analyst for Astros games on FOX Sports Southwest and as a correspondent for MLB.com.
Despite managing the Astros (1989-93), A's (1996-2002) and Mets (2003-04), Howe said he's welcoming a chance to return to the calmer lifestyle of coaching.
"I always thought I'd come back as a coach," Howe said. "There are only so many managing positions out there. Maybe it will be nice to get away from that hot seat. For me, it's going to be a little breath of fresh air."
In the 63-year-old Williams, the Phillies secured another savvy baseball man. He'll take over for Varsho as Manuel's right-hand bench coach, returning to Major League coaching for the first time since 1996. Williams spent last season as a roving instructor for the Devil Rays. Williams served as Atlanta's third-base coach, and managed the Red Sox (1997-2001) and Astros (2002-2004).
Williams also has a history with Gillick, having served as Toronto's manager from 1986-89.
He was replaced during the 1989 season with Cito Gaston, the only time Gillick has made an in-season managerial change.
"Pat Gillick gave me an original opportunity, so how thankful can I be?" Williams said. "He gave me a chance. He believed in me. Our relationship is very good and has remained that way over the years.
He's a baseball rat just like we are."
The three hires complete Manuel's 2007 staff. Pitching coach Rich Dubee, hitting coach Milt Thompson, bullpen coach Ramon Henderson and catching instructor Mick Billmeyer already had been retained.
Like Manuel, all three are on contracts that will expire at the end of the 2007 season, and
Manuel and Gillick shrugged off the perception that any of the three could take over if the Phillies decide to make a midseason. Manuel is on the final season of a three-year deal he signed in November 2004.
"As a matter of fact, I feel good about it because of who we got and the fact that I know all these guys," Manuel said. "I feel that we have the best possible staff that I could have as far as what we want to accomplish. I feel they're going to help us get to that level."
Added Gillick: "We need as many good baseball men as we can. Our goal is to win this thing, and anybody who we can bring onboard that will increase our chances, I think it's our responsibility to try and put him on our staff. These types of people can only give you more comfort. Consequently, more ideas, more imagination, they talk more baseball. These are the types of resources that the manager can draw on."
There's plenty of it.