Bowa Postmortem Ad Naseum
A Hollow Celebration
Initially, when I heard on ESPN via XM Radio the news about Larry Bowa and the Phillies officially parting company on Saturday, I was elated. I called my brother. Then, I decided I was going to have a minor celebration. I stopped and bought a cigar. I stopped and bought a Philly-style cheesesteak (in the South, you have to add "style" because it isn't really a genuine Philly cheesesteak, though the large influx of Yankees such as myself to the Old Dominion has certainly helped the cause). When I got home, I took the cigar, the cheesesteak, a glass of Kentucky distilled spirits, and our laptop out to the deck to watch the next to last game of the season on MLB.tv in the cool autumn evening.
Ironically though, just like the Phillies season never gained any momentum, neither did my own little impromptu celebration . Maybe it was the fact that the cheesesteak was a bit chewy. Maybe it was the fact that I was saddled with the Marlins broadcast feed on MLB.tv, or maybe it was the fact that I have no idea what to look for in a cigar. But I think what really retarded my festivities was the fact that it finally sank in what the firing of Bowa represented. It means another lost opportunity, another instance where the Phillies couldn't get the job done. It wasn't supposed to happen this way. When Bowa was hired several years ago, I thought it was a good move. Finally, I thought, the Phillies are serious about winning. And what is really disappointing is that the team has been serious about winning now for three or four years, and they are seemingly no closer to reaching the World Series than they were before they got serious.
Living outside of the Philadelphia area, it is difficult for me to get my finger on the pulse of Joe Phan. So when I read statements from Jayson Stark (referring to the Phillies collapse during August resulting in a 1-9 homestand) such as this...
Larry Bowa was such a popular guy in a town that can't forget the only World Series its team ever won, the GM (Ed Wade) and the team president (David Montgomery) couldn't bring themselves to pull that particular trigger. Not yet....I have to believe he doesn't have his finger on the pulse of Joe Phan either, secluded from the world in an ivory tower in Bristol, CT. Look at the results compared to the payroll, there is no way someone can look at that team and realize Bowa isn't a big part of the problem, after all:
What matters is that Bowa's intensity never translated into motivation for the players. There was a disconnect there from the beginning. Really, it's the difference between intensity with a snarl and intensity with a scowl. Bowa's was and is the latter.If I can see that when I watch a game on MLB.tv and read it between the lines on Philly.com day in day out, surely the good people in Phillies Land can see that too. But apparently not, because according to reports, there were instances of the sell-out crowds this weekend at Citizens Bank Park chanting, "We Want Bowa" and "Fire Wade". Are they drinking the Bowa-flavored Kool-Aid (probably colored flaming red) so much that they truly believe that the bad luck of injuries cost the manager his job? Have they stopped to consider that the 2004 Phillies were in trouble long before the injuries began to mount? Did the Astros and Braves let injuries stop them from making the playoffs? I think it is also worth considering that it is possible that Kerrigan and Bowa somehow contributed to the injuries through improper use of the pitching staff or conditioning of the entire team (admittedly, impossible to prove).
The disconnect showed itself in one of the few constants during Bowa's tenure. Players took turns going into profound, inexplicable slumps. You can't blame Bowa for Pat Burrell's funks, or Marlon Byrd's or Mike Lieberthal's or Brett Myers' - but you start to wonder when it keeps happening.
Maybe there is something wrong with the environment. Maybe the atmosphere isn't what it should be. All of these players have demonstrated they have the physical ability. Slumps like these are mental blocks. They happen. But they shouldn't happen over and over to different players on the same team. ( Phil Sheridan, Phila. Inq., 10/3/2004 )
I can understand the phans preferring to see Ed Wade fired as well (though for now, I disagree), but to want Bowa's job to be preserved means that the phans are more concerned with having a manager that supposedly reflects the city's personality than with having a winning team. Tom Durso at Shallow Center often describes the Phillies as an organization that can't get out of its own way - I'm beginning to wonder if the fan base isn't in a similar state of mind/denial.
To read the opinions of a phan who seems to take views 180 degrees from mine, check out Perpetual Off Night here and here.
Many names have been dropped by pundits for the 2005 Phillies manager - Davey Johnson, Jimy Williams, Cito Gaston, Jim Fregosi, Charlie Manuel, Grady Little, Ken Macha - and to my knowledge, none have been quoted expressing an interest in managing the Phillies next year. But I think it is safe to say that whoever becomes the manager, he will have a personality opposite of Larry Bowa. Despite Ed Wade's insistence that this will not necessarily be the case, expect someone calm, cool, and collected with a history of winning.