ON APRIL 23, 1964, months before his

agony, a hyperactive baseball genius named Gene Mauch managed Game 6 of the Phillies' season - a 6-5 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates - like this:

With the Phils down by 5-0, Don Hoak pinch-hit for pitcher John Boozer in the third inning and struck out. (Boozer had replaced starter Art Mahaffey in the second.) Down by 5-2 in the fifth, Cookie Rojas pinch-hit for reliever Rick Wise and grounded out. Trailing by 5-2 in the eighth, Wes Covington pinch-hit for reliever Dallas Green and popped out. And then Mauch got busy. (As always, God bless retrosheet.org.)

The Phils would score four in the ninth and win the game. Along the way, Johnny Briggs would be used as a pinch-runner who scored, Clay Dalrymple would pinch-hit for Gus Triandos and hit a sacrifice fly, and then pinch-hitter John Herrnstein would hit the two-out, two-run double that won it.

Mauch made six moves off his bench that day - and he had at least one or two more position players to spare, just in case, as teams were allowed to carry as many as 28 players for the first few weeks of the season back then.

Six moves. Six affirmative moves in which Mauch could play mad scientist, poking and probing his opponent rather than patching some unsightly hole. Six moves - he routinely made four or five moves with bench players in a game - in which Mauch could cement his reputation as this great diamond mastermind.

Six moves . . .

Many nights, Charlie Manuel would kill for four real moves.

This is a long way of getting into a discussion of why the Phillies' proposed acquisition of third baseman Pedro Feliz is so important. Because, yes, he will save runs with his glove and, yes, he will hit the ball over the leftfield wall in Citizens Bank Park. Just as important, though - and this cannot be minimized - is that Feliz will give Manuel one of his precious moves back.

You remember how last year went. Whenever Manuel started either Wes Helms or Greg Dobbs at third base, he had to go get him in the sixth or seventh inning of pretty much every game in which the Phillies were leading or tied. It was either that or risk a defensive disaster. And when you consider that Manuel had to do the same thing in leftfield - go get Pat Burrell - you can see where this thing was headed on a nightly basis.

Because 25 players is the limit these days, and there are times during the season when 13 of them are pitchers on any given night. Back in Mauch's day, it was nine or 10 pitchers, but that really is ancient history. Pretty much every major league team starts the season with 12 pitchers and good intentions but, more often than not, it degenerates.

As an example, in the first week of August last year, six National League teams were dressing 13 pitchers, the Phillies included. That's how hard it is in the 21st century to get 27 outs.

Twelve pitchers leave a manager with five bench players - at least two fewer than Mauch typically carried. Thirteen pitchers leave a manager with four bench players. It makes for an insanely different set of calculations that a modern manager has to make every night.

Now, consider poor Manuel. He went a

couple of weeks there last year with only four moves and two of them - two pretty much

every night - were taken up with spackling over the defensive holes at third and in left.

There is no room for creative thinking at that point, little opportunity to play a hunch - and the idea that you can go get the starting pitcher in the second inning, and then pinch-hit for the pitcher's spot every time it comes around, is folly.

On many, many nights, Manuel was left with survival moves, nothing more. As often as not, he was left with two opportunities to hit for the pitcher in the late innings of a tie game, and that was about it. When they had only 12 pitchers, he could maneuver a little bit more, but only a little. On his best nights, Manuel had only half of the maneuverability that Mauch had.

And it was all because Manuel could not, in good conscience, stand to look at either Helms or Dobbs wearing a third baseman's glove in the late innings, or Burrell out there in leftfield.

Well, Burrell is coming back so that late-inning defensive move is still going to be pretty much automatic. Feliz, though, gives one back - one more chance to do the lefty-righty thing, or to match a guy with a great career average against a certain reliever, or to pinch-run in a key spot in the seventh, or to go get a struggling starter a little bit earlier than you might otherwise.

While Manuel will never have a chance to go 3-for-6 with his bench moves, as Mauch did that day in 1964, he will have more games where he gets a chance to make four legitimate moves if the Phillies sign Pedro Feliz. And it will matter. *

Send e-mail to hofmanr@phillynews.com.

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