Friday, August 22, 2003

Bowa on the Block?

The fallout from the Phillies' jaw-dropping sweep by the Brewers has manager Larry Bowa questioning his players' toughness after yesterday's loss in Milwaukee. Of greater interest is the Daily News's Bill Conlin launching what is, to the best of my knowledge, the first open speculation that Bowa's job might be in jeopardy.

Conlin, whose baseball work this year has been really good stuff, after a few years of mailing it in, notes that the Phillies are making the kind of mistakes that eventually come back to the manager. Additionally, Bowa's handling of his pitchers and his slumping $50 million man, Pat Burrell, has come under quite a bit of scrutiny.

Bowa's hiring was meant to serve as an antidote to the Terry Francona era of player coddling and soft management. To be fair, he's done a nice job over the last few years kicking the young guys in the ass when they need it, and the Phillies, even when their talent wasn't up to the task, hung around in a couple of divisional races. But this is a different team -- older, more veteran, and, perhaps, no longer as receptive to Bowa's brand of intense leadership.

After all, you can get yelled at and abused only so many times before you start to tune out. Especially if you have a guaranteed contract that brings you wealth beyond your wildest dreams.

Players should play, regardless of what they're being paid and whom they're playing for. But Bowa increasingly is looking like the kind of manager who can get the Phillies to the brink of success without pushing them over. Hmmm -- Joe Torre always seems on the verge of a falling out with George Steinbrenner. Think he'd be interested in coming down the Jersey Turnpike for a few years before retiring to his inevitable broadcaster's gig?

(Completely irrelevant aside: How funny is the Seinfeld episode in which Steinbrenner (played by Larry David, filmed from the back) calls himself "Big Stein"?)


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