David Lennon: Your office at Citi Field is located in a part of the clubhouse that is off-limits to reporters and television cameras. How is it decorated? Is there something in the office that has significant personal value to you?
Jerry Manuel: The most important thing is the picture of the house that I grew up in. It might have been like a shack, but it was like a castle to us because it was built with my father's love. It's a beautiful picture and it reminds me of where I came from - how fortunate and blessed I am to have this opportunity and the exposure that goes with it, which sometimes can be dangerous as well. The picture reminds me, "Hey, don't get too caught up in all this.''
Lennon: You're an avid reader. I see the two books on your desk now - "I Asked for Wonder" by Abraham Heschel and a critique of C.S. Lewis - probably don't involve much discussion of on-base percentage or WARP. But does this type of literature translate to baseball in some way?
Manuel: The book by Abraham Heschel was given to me by a family friend and it's spiritual - it opens up your mind a little bit. Lewis is a favorite writer of mine and I thought it would be interesting to see what other people think of his work. It's funny how these things work with me. They somehow give me revelation for baseball. It's a weird thing - thinking and challenging yourself to be creative and use your imagination.
Lennon: What about sports books?
Manuel: I don't read baseball books. I don't read sports books for the most part. But I want to know how a Gandhi or a Tolstoy would think about this game. What would they say? What would C.S. Lewis say? What would Jesus Christ say?
Lennon: That suggests you probably have more of a philosophical approach to the game than statistical analysis. Managers take some heat these days for going with "gut instinct" on occasion. Describe your approach.
Manuel: Well, the numbers are basically history. And if I don't have a history or feel for something, then I like to refer to the numbers. Or if I'm looking for confirmation of something that I'm feeling, then I like to go back and see if it matches up, to know that I'm in the rhythm and the flow. That's what I use them for.
Lennon: Was it a helpless feeling last year to watch the Mets come apart at the seams? To have one All-Star after another wind up on the disabled list and basically destroy the season?
Manuel: Because of the beauty of baseball, you feel like you can compete despite what you have. You still feel like you can get this thing figured out. Like you can put the pieces in the right places or make the right decisions that that will help you win. So that's always enjoyable. That's what you look forward to.
Lennon: Did it ever reach the point where it felt hopeless? That no matter what you did, the team was too damaged to win?
Manuel: No, because the game always allows you an opportunity to do that. Now whether it will work or not, talent still dictates what goes on. But as a manager, you still have to continue to stay focused and still try to put out there what you think gives you the best chance to win. Obviously, that didn't work out for us because of the depletion. But what we did notice is that we could have been better - or the people that we put in those spots probably could have been better fundamentally. Whether that would have won it or not, that's still yet to be determined. But you would have done everything and went about it the right way.
Lennon: Heading into the final year of your contract, in a must-win situation, do you worry about your job security?
Manuel: I've been through it before. I think it's a different feel because of the growth that you have when you have been fired. You first go through the process of blaming. But if you're real about it, then you begin to look inside. What could I have done differently? Or how is this going to help me to get better? New York is a unique, passionate, knowledgeable and a "got to get it done now" place. Those are all things that I embrace, so if I embrace those things, then I've got to be ready for the criticism that comes with it.
Lennon: Does it affect how you manage the team?
Manuel: That doesn't affect me because I feel this is what I'm supposed to be doing right now. I don't do anything else well - just ask my mom. She'll tell you all I know is baseball. In that sense, I just feel excited about having the opportunity to do it, and whatever comes now for me, you know, it comes.
Lennon: If you weren't managing, what would you be doing?
Manuel: I knew early on that motivation and moving men was what I enjoy doing. The people that I admire most, they move nations. All I want to do is move 25 guys.
Lennon: How about in the political arena?
Manuel: No, no, that's not my thing. Politics and truth don't always line up.