CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Charlie Manuel gathered his team Saturday morning at Bright House Field to talk about the future.
The manager wants the Phillies to improve their play in 2013. He wants them to work hard and hang tough when things go bad. He wants them to look like the teams that won five consecutive National League East championships, two NL pennants and one World Series championship from 2007-11.
This is a big year for Manuel. He enters the final season of a two-year contract extension, meaning this could be his final season in the Phillies' dugout. He has spoken about his contract status in the offseason, but he addressed it one more time Saturday after the team held its first full-squad workout at Carpenter Complex.
"This is the last time I'll answer about my deal, OK?" the manager said. "I'm very satisfied with the way it is. This is my ninth year and I know the good things that we've had, and I should never have to sit and tell somebody what we've done and I always give my players the credit for it and things like that. And I should never ever even have to answer what we've done. I definitely, if I needed to get established as a Major League manager, I definitely did that with kind of the help of my players. And if we lose 10 games or we win 10 games, well, I don't want nobody to ask me about it because it's not going to bother me.
"I've seen Joe Torre, his contract's run out before. Dusty Baker's last year, [former Cardinals manager Tony] La Russa. I've seen all these guys and there's still a couple this year. It's [Yankees manager] Joe Girardi this year. That's fine. It's the way it goes. And I'm not worried about it at all. So therefore, I want to stay focused. I want to stay totally focused on us winning. Us winning is more important to me than my contract. At the end of the year, somewhere along the line, [Phillies president] David Montgomery and general manager Ruben [Amaro Jr.] and I will more than likely have a talk, and that's kind of how I see it."
Manuel, 69, is optimistic to think his contract status won't be discussed if the team struggles, especially if it does early in the season. That is the nature of the business. He knows this. But he does not believe he needs to defend his record as manager on a weekly basis.
What is there to defend, he wonders?
Manuel has more wins than any manager in Phillies history (727). His .561 winning percentage with the team is the best among Phils managers with 300 or more games. He went to the postseason five consecutive seasons, winning one of the organization's two World Series championships.
"I shouldn't have to explain it to anybody, the team or President Obama or anybody," Manuel said. "Seriously. That's kind of how I look at it. I'm not worried about my contract. I've been in baseball 51 years and right now I definitely plan on staying in baseball and I plan on managing.
"What we did is sitting there in front of you. My record is just as good as anybody's in baseball. I don't want to sound like I'm an 'I-me' guy, because I'm not. But really, I mean, just look at it. What's wrong with it? Do you know what I mean? We want to win a World Series every year. But that's kind of impossible. The Yankees have 27 of them, so there's over 100 years the Yankees didn't win. You can look at it any way you want to. But it's what it is."
The players on the field will dictate Manuel's future, although there had been a feeling when he signed his extension in March 2011 that this would be the final year of his deal regardless of how the team performs on the field. But things always are subject to change, especially if the Phillies exceed expectations.
"When Ruben and I talked, I made it pretty clear that after this deal is up, it's time for him and I to sit down and for me to take a good look at myself and also the organization, sit down and have a good talk and see where we're at," Manuel said during that March 2011 news conference. "I want to stay with Philadelphia as long as I'm in baseball, and I'm a Phillie. I look at myself as a Phillie. Yeah, I was with the Indians and I was with the Kintetsu Buffaloes and I was with the Yakult Swallows and I was with the Los Angeles Dodgers. But I'm a Phillie. And if I cut my arm, it's going to be red blood and not [Dodger] blue."
Manuel said he never mentioned his contract situation during his Saturday morning meeting with his team.
"I would never do that," he said. "I would never do anything like that."
That would take away the focus from the field, and that's where a good manager gets his reputation as a good manager: the players on the field perform and win.
Is he confident this team can win?
"We won't know until we start playing games and when we get on the field and play," Manuel said. "At the same time, I look in there, we got a lot of options. We got some competitions going. Usually there's ifs on teams every year. You've got to turn those ifs into exclamation points. That's how I look at it. You definitely work to try and improve. Everybody we got, they'll get a tremendous chance to improve themselves."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.