Manuel accepting any and all feedback

Manuel accepting feedback

PHILADELPHIA -- After watching his team's two-month offensive stumble, Charlie Manuel, himself a former hitting instructor of some renown, has opened the floor for suggestions.

A .236 team batting average with a .314 on-base percentage since June 13 will allow for radical indulgence on the manager's part.

"I'm puzzled. I stay up late at night thinking about how we can get our offense going," Manuel said, before his team beat San Diego, 2-1, at PETCO Park on Sunday. "I'll listen to what anybody's got to say. Fans. Cab drivers. President Bush, anybody."

With the U.S. president mum on Philadelphia's inability to string together hits, Manuel jokes that the thoughts from those who offer them have been similar.

"'You got to get on those guys,'" Manuel said, acting as if he was reading a card out of a suggestion box. "'You have to fire those guys up. Let's go! That's what Billy Martin would do.'"

Manuel may have played for Martin, but he isn't Martin, and he believes yelling or tossing over clubhouse spreads isn't going to wake up a cold offense. His players don't need to be reminded about their offensive woes or a National League East Division that may be slipping from their grasp.

They entered Monday's day off two games behind the Mets with 38 games left on their schedule. Last season, Philadelphia overcame a seven-game deficit with 17 games remaining to capture the East. Manuel would rather not have to rely on a repeat performance.

He hopes his offense reappears. The disturbing aspect of this season is that the Phillies have a reverse problem from 2007, when a deadly, high-powered offense carried a pitching staff that produced the NL's 13th-worst ERA, at 4.93. This season, Cole Hamels and Jamie Moyer lead a rotation that has a 3.96 ERA, good for sixth best, and Brad Lidge, Ryan Madson, J.C. Romero and company head a bullpen with the second-best ERA, behind the Dodgers.

Since June 13, the pitching staff has a 4.21 ERA, with 56 homers allowed in 54 games, and 495 hits allowed in 483 1/3 innings. Save for five starts, Kyle Kendrick had kept his team within reach, and Brett Myers returned from the Minor Leagues a confident, inspired pitcher.

Though suspect to stumbles, pitching hasn't been the issue.

"Unfortunately, our offense is putting a lot of pressure on them," catcher Chris Coste said. "Hopefully, our pitchers won't try to do too much. They have to keep doing what they're doing and let our offense come around. It's nice to win a game, 1-0, like we did the other night, but you can't rely on that all the time. If our pitchers give up three runs in a game, we need to win that game. No one saw this coming, and no one saw us struggling offensively for this long."

Even when discussing the pitching, the topic seems to return to offense.

"The only thing about the pitching staff is they don't hit enough homers," Coste said. "They could hit a home run or two a game and give us a better chance to win. Not necessarily homers, but a few hits a game, we'd have a better chance to win."

Is that really what it's come down to?

The Phillies batted .190 on a seven-game road trip through Los Angeles and San Diego. They've slipped to fourth in the league in runs scored, and they'd be 12th if not for two games in which they scored 20 runs.

They have scored three or fewer runs 50 times and have been shut out seven times. Offensive woes are widespread. Since June 13, Jimmy Rollins has batted .257; Pat Burrell .245; Chase Utley .242; Ryan Howard .256; Geoff Jenkins .183. Shane Victorino, at .284, and Jayson Werth, at .267, have been consistent.

Through June 13, the team sported a .265 average with 99 homers in 69 games.

"It's important to stay upbeat and relaxed," Manuel said. "We're definitely trying, maybe too hard. We take fastballs and swing at balls out of the strike zone. We used to talk last year. [General manager Pat] Gillick would say that we led the league in leaving guys on base. Our answer was that we lead the league in scoring runs. When you lead in runs scored, you're going to leave the most on-base. Now, we don't say that because we're not leaving people on. We're not getting them on.

"The pitching has been better than I thought it was at the start of the season, but at the same time, if we hadn't hit then, we would've been in deeper. Our bullpen has been good and our rotation has been better than I thought, but we can't get consistency. On nights when we have pitching, we don't have hit. On nights when we don't hit, we have pitching."

The Phillies won two games against San Diego, despite scoring a total of three runs in the wins. They scored three runs in the middle game of the series, but lost.

Despite trailing in the division, Manuel believes the Phillies have time to make a strong push.

"If we don't win, it's our fault, because we're definitely capable of winning our division," Manuel said. "We definitely can control our destiny. With 39 games to go, the team that gets hot is the team that can claim our division. We have to stay with them and play consistent."

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