A Booster Shot
I think everyone can look back at some type of figure in their personal or professional life that was supposed to provide leadership or guidance and fell woefully short. Maybe it was a teacher or professor that was dangerously close to retirement, just going through the motions. Maybe it was a supervisor that seemed to always be missing in action when a decision needed to be made. These are examples of leaders becoming more of a figurehead and passively falling short in their responsibilities. But their are active examples as well. Anyone who has played an organized sport in our formative years can remember a coach or parent that repeatedly pushed all the wrong buttons and brought out a poor performance from their players or child. Sometimes just simple mannerisms and tone of voice can inflate or deflate confidence and spawn great play or make it impossible to emerge. It's a subtle difference to some, but an important one whether you are coaching tee-ball or something much more serious like leading men into battle. I can remember my father (who coached nearly every team my brother and I played on as a child) coaching infield play when I was a wee tee-baller, "There's no point in making a good catch if you aren't going to make a good throw to first." The manner in which he would say it would make you hunker down and concentrate when that next grounder would find you, but had he used a different tone or different mannerisms, he might have had an opposite effect on our play.
Larry Bowa has the "opposite effect". And sometimes it's not even subtle. Let's examine some of the vibrations emanating from Bowa recently:
- From Todd Zolecki in the Philadelphia Inquirer: "It feels like a funeral in the Phillies' clubhouse after a loss. Players eat silently. They walk through the room quietly. Last night proved to be no different after a 5-2 loss to the Florida Marlins at Pro Player Stadium...'No excuses,' Phillies manager Larry Bowa said afterward. 'As a manager, I'm not even playing and I'm embarrassed. They should be embarrassed. They should be embarrassed. Any more questions?' Bowa shook his head, cursed, and said 'embarrassing.' He then walked out of his office. 'Embarrassing,' he repeated aloud to nobody in particular. The words pierced the quiet clubhouse air."
- From Jim Salisbury, also in the Inquirer : " 'What do we have now?' Bowa said. 'Three triple-A pitchers. So we'll see what happens.' " (in response to a question regarding Wagner's and Madson's sidelining injuries)
- From Rich Hoffman, Philadelphia Daily News: "...'there's going to be some guys [pitching] in the sixth and seventh inning that we normally wouldn't go to'...'I could hope for five Cy Young winners,' Bowa said. 'I could hope for nine Vladimir Guerreros. It's just wasted energy' "
Think the vibrations from Bowa don't reverberate with the players? Examine these quotes also taken from Salisbury and Zolecki as well as Marcus Hayes in the Daily News, all this morning:
- Roberto Hernandez: "He's got his opinion," referring to Bowa...asked if he's embarrassed. "Everybody who wears this uniform wants to beat these guys, wants to win this game, and wants to win this division."
- Randy Wolf: "I can't say what it's like in other places. This is the only place I know, but it's always been tough after losses."
- Billy Wagner: "What we need is just for people in the organization to be more positive. The players are positive."
In-game managerial moves can sometimes be difficult to evaluate. It is difficult for outsiders to know what relievers are tired and which ones aren't, one can guess by looking at recent pitch counts, but they don't tell all of the story. A pinch-hitter's batting average against an opposing pitcher can sometimes be misleading as well to outsiders, causing them to scratch their heads as to why the pinch hitter was or wasn't used at a certain juncture in the game. So there can possibly be logical explanations for plays that are called and substitutions that are, or aren't made. But, one doesn't need to be a fly on the wall, or a mind reader, or Deepak Chopra or Bob Rotella to see that Bowa is having a negative effect on his team's psyche. And to make matters worse, he doesn't even have the slightest idea he is being detrimental, "I try to make it comfortable for them out there. They've been very comfortable. That clubhouse has been as loose as it's ever going to be. I haven't screamed or hollered or nothing, all year." He is making it impossible not to notice the Tom Smykowski comparisons.
One member of the Phillies management team that does get it is Ed Wade. When asked if he thought the team had to make a deal in order to make the playoffs he responded, "No, I don't. To say that would be to minimize the ability of the guys on this team..." That's not to say Wade wouldn't like to make a deal. At this moment, Wade and the other senior members of the Phillies player personnel staff are in an undisclosed bunker location/situation room in Clearwater negotiating with their counterparts around baseball to get an additional spare part. Whether his team truly needs a genuine centerfielder or some additional bullpen support in order to best help the team is open to conjecture. But, Wade probably feels that any trade, big or small would be an added confidence boost to the Phillies.
"I think it could give the team a lift," said Kevin Millwood. Let's hope so.