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Manuel a strong runner-up in race

Manuel a strong runner-up in race

PHILADELPHIA -- Charlie Manuel guided his team to its first division title in 14 years this season despite numerous injuries and a pitching staff that compiled a 4.73 ERA, and he was rewarded on Wednesday with a strong second-place showing in the National League Manager of the Year Award vote, as named by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

In typical fashion, Manuel refused the credit.

"I guess my players turned [the voters] around, too," Manuel said, with a laugh. "We had good players, and they played hard all year. They're the ones who made me look good. We came together a lot, with [Kyle] Kendrick, [J.C.] Romero and [Greg] Dobbs helping. We never gave up."

Manuel received seven first-place votes, 11 for second and eight for third, totaling 76 points, second to D-backs skipper Bob Melvin. Colorado manager Clint Hurdle, whose Rockies eliminated the Phillies in the NL Division Series, finished third.

The 63-year-old Manuel is a constant presence around the batting cage, in the dugout and in the clubhouse. If there's laughter or a booming voice telling a story, Manuel is usually responsible.

Manuel is more than a storyteller and a father figure to his players. He gets in their face when needed, and any player with an issue will find Manuel's door always open. His communication skills this season were crucial amid constant turnover, as the club rushed prospects, such as Kendrick, into crucial roles.

"He never embarrasses a player, on or off the field," bullpen coach Ramon Henderson said earlier this season. "And he always has them ready to play."

Manuel wants his players to know that he believes in them, and he keeps them believing in themselves. While his in-game moves are sometimes fodder for call-in talk shows, he always makes an informed decision. No one questions how hard his players work for him.

"A lot of our success this season is due to the manager," said shortstop Jimmy Rollins, who is a contender for the NL MVP Award, which will be announced on Tuesday. "He never pushed the panic button. I don't think he has one."

Almost every player has a story about a conversation he's had with Manuel, and not all are warm and fuzzy. They're also seldom witnessed, because they occur behind closed doors and end with a mutual understanding. Since clubhouse chemistry is impossible to gauge in wins and losses -- Manuel's influence wouldn't matter so much if the team was, say, 14 games out -- it speaks to the attitude.

2007 NL Manager of the Year Award Voting
Manager, Club 1st 2nd 3rd Points
Bob Melvin, ARI 19 7 3 119
Charlie Manuel, PHI 7 11 8 76
Clint Hurdle, COL 4 10 8 58
Lou Piniella, CHC 2 3 6 25
Bud Black, SD   1 1 4
Manny Acta, WAS     4 4
Ned Yost, MIL     2 2

The players were a relaxed bunch, especially in the season's final week, when they took advantage of the Mets' collapse. Manuel always said that his players make him look good, while others say it's sometimes the other way around.

"There's a lot more to him than what everybody gets to see," outfielder Aaron Rowand said. "He doesn't showboat the fact that he's doing this and that. He's the leader of this group. The manager is the key, and it's not just pushing buttons during the game. He does a great job communicating and doesn't need notoriety for it."

Rowand may not be around to help Manuel overtake Melvin in 2008. The free agent's potential exit represents a blow to the NL's most potent offense. Manuel recognizes this and hopes the process has a happy ending.

"We have to see what develops," Manuel said. "I'm sure he'll get back with us at some point [for negotiations]. It's a deal where Aaron gets to pick where he can go, and he's looking at the financial matter now. He's a tremendous player. I can fill out the lineup every day and know I can put him in there. It's tough to find a player as tough as he is and a player who will grind it out. He was a big part of our team, but we have players who are capable of playing very good and becoming good players."

Manuel is also realistic in his team's needs. Despite the acquisition of Brad Lidge and the retaining of Romero, the Phillies are still pursuing pitching.

"If we can add another starter or bullpen piece or two, I think that will make us much better," Manuel said.

Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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