I've also been one of those who believes, Jerry Manuel has unfairly singled him out and has been ruining his season. Whether it was a personality conflict or a so called "doghouse" for errant play, Manuel seems to have been on his case since spring training.
Church's treatment from Manuel seemed unusual, since he seemed to be the type of gritty, tough player the team was lacking and after missing most of last season, I thought he could become a clubhouse leader. After all, he was one of the only players to speak out, in the last week of the season about the lackadaisical locker room.
Initially I thought Manuel was attempting to motivate Church but the more and more he made moves that seemed detrimental to Church, I began to believe that Manuel simply had no faith in the outfielder.
When Church was hitting over .300, he was benched and once he started to struggled, Jerry buried him at the bottom of the line-up, along with constantly pinch hitting for him in critical situations. Church thrived last year in the two hole, if they really wanted to get him going that's where they'd hit him.
But maybe, I got the whole situation wrong, this just might be the Cliff Floyd situation all over again. When Willie and Jerry took over in 2005, Cliff Floyd was coming off the worst offensive year of his career, in which he played over 100 games.
The new management specifically targeted Floyd, they felt he could be a leader of the team but that he needed to be pushed hard, for that to happen. Manuel was instrumental in the tactic, rem. the 2006 NLCS, Floyd thought Jerry had influenced Willie into letting him bat instead of Glavine bunting.
I'm not sure, that there isn't a rift between the two and maybe it happened as the tactic back fired or this is just Jerry's way of developing Church into the behind the scenes leader that Floyd had become in 2006.