CLEARWATER, Fla. – The Philadelphia Phillies rewarded manager Charlie Manuel on Thursday with a two-year contract extension through 2013, his prize for four straight NL East titles, a World Series championship and the team's exceedingly bright future.
Hardly a popular choice when first hired, the folksy Manuel has guided the Phillies to the best record in the NL since taking over. Hard-to-please Phillies fans have warmed to his Southern drawl, and he's even had his own bobblehead day at Citizens Bank Park.
"Between our players and everything in the organization, the things that developed here, I think we have a good thing going," Manuel said. "This is definitely the place I wanted to stay. I look forward to getting on down the road and seeing if we can't even get better."
Manuel turned 67 in January and is baseball's oldest manager. He said he isn't thinking about retiring any time soon.
"More than likely I'll probably stay around as long as they'll have me," Manuel said. "I don't think I'm going to catch (Penn State football coach Joe) Paterno. I'd like to, but he's got a head start on me. But at the same time, I think I made it pretty clear to Ruben, I'm not planning on getting out in the near future."
General manger Ruben Amaro Jr. said the new deal included reworking Manuel's salary for the 2011 season.
"We've basically torn up that contract and made it a three-year deal," Amaro said.
Details of the contract weren't made public but Manuel will reportedly be paid between $7 and $8 million total for the 2012 and 2013 seasons.
Manuel took over in 2005 and has never had a losing season, winning 88 or more games in five of six years. He and Bobby Cox are the only managers to win four straight NL division titles since baseball split into divisions in 1969.
Manuel guided the Phillies in 2008 to their second World Series title in team history — and first since 1980 — and led them to another NL pennant the next season.
During his tenure, the Phillies have the best record in the NL (544-428). He is fourth among Phillies managers in wins behind Danny Ozark (594), Harry Wright (636) and Gene Mauch (645).
In 2010, when six of his eight position players spent time on the disabled list, Manuel guided the Phillies to the best record in the major leagues (97-65). With the addition of Cliff Lee to an already strong rotation, the Phillies enter this season as one of the top favorites to win the World Series.
Manuel wasn't the people's choice when the Phillies hired him as the successor of fiery Phillies shortstop-turned-manager Larry Bowa in the fall of 2004. After interviewing several candidates, including Jim Leyland, Don Baylor and Jim Fregosi, the Phils picked Manuel.
The Phils' turnaround from pretender to contender, guided by Manuel's easy hand, quickly made him a popular figure among a hard-to-please fan base. He has his own local TV and radio shows.
"We've talked about it quite a bit, changing the culture and the mindset, making it a more positive environment ... Charlie deserves credit for this," Amaro said. "Not just for the players, but in regard to everybody, from the clubhouse people, the people on our training staff, it just made it across the board a new, different mindset was created. Instead of the glass being half-empty at times, we've gotten to the point I think where the glass has changed to half-full.
"He's basically the same guy every day in the clubhouse. Just as an employee, and any employee, you'd like for someone to be the same every day, and to believe in you and kind of have your back. That's the thing Charlie exhibits on a day-to-day basis and I think that's gelled very well with our players. And I think that's worked very well for us," he said.