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Phillies’ second Charlie Manuel era off to an auspicious start

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Hours before the Phillies opened up a three-game home series against the Cubs on Tuesday, the club announced that hitting coach John Mallee was fired. Former manager and then-senior advisor to the GM Charlie Manuel was hired to replace him.

Mallee was hired as part of rookie manager Gabe Kapler’s coaching staff last year. In 2018, the Phillies ranked 14th in batting average (.234), 10th in on-base percentage (.314), and 11th in slugging percentage (.393). In those same respective stats this season, the Phillies ranked 12th (.245), 10th (.322), and 12th (.417).

Manuel didn’t take his new role until Wednesday evening for game two of the Phillies’ series against the Cubs. The second Manuel era got off to an auspicious start as the Phillies’ offense battered Cole Hamels, making his first start in Philadelphia since being traded at the deadline in 2015. In two-plus innings of work, Hamels coughed up eight runs on nine hits and two walks. Reliever Alec Mill forked over a pair of runs in the third inning in relief of Hamels as the Phillies jumped out to a 10-0 lead after three frames. The crowd chanted, “Charlie! Charlie! Charlie!”

Bryce Harper opened the scoring in the bottom of the first inning with a two-run home run to left-center field. Starter Aaron Nola helped his own cause with an RBI single in the second and Rhys Hoskins later tacked on another run with a sacrifice fly. In the third, César Hernández and Adam Haseley both had RBI singles before J.T. Realmuto broke the game open with a grand slam off of Mills. Harper slugged a no-doubt solo homer off of Mills in the sixth for his second dinger of the game. Once again, the crowd at Citizens Bank Park erupted in chants of, “Charlie!”

Hard to draw it up any better than that if you’re the Phillies. They have the chance to go on a run as their upcoming schedule is not terribly difficult. After wrapping things up with the Cubs tomorrow, they’ll host the Padres before going on the road for five games against the Red Sox and Marlins. They’ll end August with home series against the Pirates and Mets, then head to Cincinnati for four games.

The Royals are paying everyone. Why can’t all of the other teams?

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Over the past several weeks we’ve heard a lot of news about teams furloughing front office and scouting staff, leveling pay cuts for those who remain and, most recently, ceasing stipends to minor league players and releasing them en masse. The message being sent, intentionally or otherwise, is that baseball teams are feeling the pinch.

The Kansas City Royals, however, are a different story.

Jon Heyman reported this afternoon that the Royals are paying their minor leaguers through August 31, which is when the minor league season would’ve ended, and unlike so many other teams, they are not releasing players either. Jeff Passan, meanwhile, reports that the Royals will not lay any team employees off or furlough anyone. “Nearly 150 employees will not take pay cuts,” he says, though “higher-level employees will take tiered cuts.” Passan adds that the organization intends to restore the lost pay due to those higher-level employees in the future when revenue ramps back up, making them whole.

While baseball finances are murky at best and opaque in most instances, most people agree that the Royals are one of the lower-revenue franchises in the game. They are also near the bottom as far as franchise value goes. Finally, they have the newest ownership group in all of baseball, which means that the group almost certainly has a lot of debt and very little if any equity in the franchise. Any way you slice it, cashflow is likely tighter in Kansas City than almost anywhere else.

Yet the Royals are paying minor leaguers and front office employees while a great number of other teams are not. What’s their excuse?