When Ruben Amaro Jr. put down the paper from which he was reading a prepared statement during Friday's press conference, the Phillies general manager let his guard down. He fought back tears and stumbled to get the words out as he explained how hard the process was of firing Charlie Manuel, who he called a "special person."
The two go way back. Amaro played for the Cleveland Indians from 1994-95 when Manuel was the team's hitting coach. The duo then worked together when Amaro was an assistant GM for Philadelphia and Manuel was a special assistant to then-GM Ed Wade in 2003-04. When Amaro was made the general manager following the 2008 season after Pat Gillick retired, the Philadelphia native became the boss of Manuel, who was the team's manager.
"More than anything else, I think he has a good feel for people," Amaro told me during the 2010 season. "I think he has a good understanding of how people think. He's a very respectful person. He's respectful of people's positions, their thoughts and their ideas. He's very much a gentleman. He was brought up right."
But then Amaro did wrong a few days ago. He let Manuel go with 42 games left in the season.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that maybe firing Manuel wasn't something Amaro really wanted to do. The tears in his eyes, the hurt in his voice and his inability to expand on his feelings for Manuel during Friday's press conference convinced me. He just didn't have the look of a man who was comfortable with what was transpiring.
I can't help but wonder if upper management told Amaro, "You fire him or we'll fire both of you."
If that happened to be the case, there's no way Amaro, no matter how close he is to Manuel, would have agreed to a scenario in which he also would lose his job. Having said that, there are no excuses for Friday's firing.
It's not the way to treat the winningest manager in club history, the man who was the main reason so many talented players wanted to sign with Philadelphia or were willing to waive no-trade clauses to be Phillies.
It's not how to treat someone you supposedly respect, something Amaro claims to have for Manuel.
"His way with people is probably his greatest asset," Amaro said to me three years ago. "He has a way of keeping the ship steady and being the same guy every day. He's the kind of boss you'd like to work for because you know what to expect out of him. … We find players want to play for Charlie. [There are] very few players that Charlie has not touched in a positive way. Let's put it this way: It's a lot easier to find people who have had a good relationship with him than those who haven't had a good relationship with him."
Amaro is one of them. He reminisced about the 1994 and 1995 seasons during which he had 23 and 60 at-bats, respectively, and didn't hit better than .217. But there was Manuel spending the same amount of time with Amaro as he did stars Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome and Albert Belle.
"They were clearly much more important than I was, but he was always willing to give me extra work, maybe sometimes too much," Amaro said.
With the tides having turned, Amaro wasn't willing to make a sacrifice for Manuel. He wasn't willing to give him the benefit of the doubt the way Manuel did Amaro nearly 20 years ago for his student. He wasn't willing to give his former teacher the extra time he needed, and deserved, the way Manuel reserved time for him.
That has to frustrate Manuel. But he never showed it Friday. Manuel was stoic as he answered questions about the Phillies' decision to make what they called, "a managerial change."
The 69-year-old didn't have to take part in the press conference. He could have issued a statement through the organization's media relations staff instead of sitting side-by-side with the man who had just taken from him what he called, "the best seat in the house."
Manuel didn't, though. He didn't criticize Amaro or the organization. There was no bitterness in his voice, no woe-is-me. He simply sounded disappointed to be forced out of Citizens Bank Park.
"I never quit nothing and I didn't resign," Manuel said.
That's a trait Amaro has been well aware of when it comes to Manuel.
"He's got a level of patience that in this day and age is tough, especially when the expectation is that we have to have so much success," Amaro said in 2010. "I'd say he gives you the benefit of the doubt."
Sadly, Amaro didn't give that to Manuel.
DID YOU KNOW?
Charlie Manuel was supposed to have been honored before Friday's game for becoming the 59th manager in MLB history to win his 1,000th game, which happened early last week. … He's met six presidents: Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush and Barrack Obama. … There is a street sign on U.S. Route 60 bragging that Buena Vista, Va., is his hometown and it notes he's the Phillies manager. … He's an avid fisherman and cook. … Led the Phillies to the best record in the majors in 2010 and 2011. … Played with three Japanese pennant-winners. … His middle name is Fuqua. … From 2007-11, the Phillies, under Manuel, posted the best record in the NL (473-337) and second-best record overall in MLB, trailing the Yankees (478-332) by only five games.
189: Home runs Charlie Manuel hit during the six years he spent playing in Japan, including a league-high 48 in 1980, which at the time was an American record for Japanese baseball.
CATCHING UP WITH FORMER PHILLIE … Charlie Manuel. Despite having been fired a few days earlier by the organization, the former manager still kept a commitment he had made to sign autographs Saturday at Granite Run Mall in Media. According to a picture posted on Twitter by several people, Manuel even signed a picture taken of him leaving Citizens Bank Park for the last time.leaving Citizens Bank Park for the last time.