PHILADELPHIA -- There's more than enough blame to go around for the Philadelphia Phillies' miserable season. Surprisingly, though, it's virtually impossible to find anyone in the clubhouse or front office willing to point a finger at the manager.
Jim Fregosi has received almost universal absolution, from everyone from team president Bill Giles to first-year pitchers, for his club's disappointing first half. And yesterday, just eight days after the Phillies completed a 2-11 road trip with the league's worst record, Fregosi received a one-year contract extension.
The timing of the decision apparently was made to quiet recent speculation, particularly on radio talk shows, that the second-year manager was responsible for the last-place Phillies' performance.
"Why we did it now is that there was an awful lot of talk around town about Jim not doing a good job," Giles said.
Giles said neither he nor general manager Lee Thomas "felt that way. We always knew he'd be coming back next year, so we just thought we'd let the world know, too."
Thomas, who also made a joking reference to radio talk-show callers who have demanded Fregosi's head, was somewhat more vague in attempting to explain the timing.
"We just felt it was time to do something for Jimmy. He deserves it," Thomas said. "It's been a trying time for him, for myself and for the whole organization.
"This team has had a lot of bad things happen to it. I won't use injuries as an excuse, but we just haven't got too many darn breaks. I don't think anyone could have kept us afloat any better than Jim."
The financial terms of Fregosi's contract were not disclosed, but a source with the team put the manager's 1993 salary at about one-tenth of what his top players make -- in the $250,000 to $300,000 range.
"I'm surprised they didn't extend it a couple of more years," said outfielder Len Dykstra. "If you can't play for Jim Fregosi, you can't play for anyone."
Of course, the extension is far from a guarantee that Fregosi will be the Phillies manager at the end of the 1993 season. His two immediate predecessors got longer contracts shortly before they were fired.
Lee Elia had his extended in July 1988 and was fired with nine games remaining in that season. Nick Leyva's pact was lengthened midway through the '90 season, and he was replaced by Fregosi 13 games into last season.
Fregosi said the extension should put to rest any lingering questions about his status in a clubhouse that was marked by unhappiness and finger-pointing as the Phillies' play deteriorated in the last month.
"He is the best manager I've ever played for," said Mariano Duncan.