Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Red Sox 13, Phillies 9: The Aftermath

Lots and lots of Philadelphia sportswriters jammed the press box at Veterans Stadium for yesterday's implosion against Boston, and the media criticism of Larry Bowa is approaching critical mass:

* The most interesting Phillies season in 10 years has brought out the best in the Daily News's Bill Conlin, whose stuff has been terrific lately. His column earlier today, another sharp effort, notes that Bowa's dissing of Tyler Houston as "a loser" is a slap in the face to the guy who signed him -- his boss, GM Ed Wade.

* In the "This is News?" category, Bill Lyon of the Inquirer sympathetically describes Bowa's old-school ways and sneeringly dismisses the whiny, me-first, current generation of players before informing us that the gap is insurmountable and should lead to the manager's sacking.

* Paul Hagen, one of four Daily News writers at the game, takes a closer look at the fifth inning, when Bowa burned through three relievers, depleting the bullpen by the time the ninth rolled around. "If Bowa hadn't gone for the kill four innings earlier, he would have had some more options," Hagen writes. "Instead, his hands were tied by then. It could have worked. It didn't."

* Inquirer baseball columnist Jim Salisbury, who got into a shoving match with Jose Mesa a few weeks ago, offers that the Phillies really need their beleaguered closer down the stretch. Uh, really? Only Mesa and the inconsistent Carlos Silva have "closer's stuff," writes Salisbury. If a static, low-90s fastball and a breaking ball that rarely is thrown for a strike count as closer's stuff, the Phils really are in trouble.

* Sam Donnellon of the DN points out that not only is Bowa disliked by his players, he has no sustained record of success on which to hang his hat. So you can't even say they grudgingly respect him because of his past managerial achievements. Cutting guys like Tyler Houston is one thing, writes Donnellon, but if Bowa is the subject of Pat Burrell's pouting and can't win a public vote of confidence from Jim Thome, "this dream of a string of championships is not going to work." Donnellon continues: "Right now, [Bowa] seems to be more of a problem-maker than solver. . . . Larry Bowa has a month left to prove there is method to his madness and not, as it appears now, the other way around."

So, in sum, Larry Bowa can't get out of his own way. He trash-talks about his boss in the press. He has no clue what makes players in 2003 tick. He doesn't know how to work his pitchers properly. He keeps giving the ball to a closer whose best days are at least two years behind him. And the team's two highest-paid players trip over themselves to sell him down the river. Hmm -- it all sounds vaguely familiar. . . .

Meanwhile, Baseball Prospectus's Postseason Odds Report gives the Phillies a 47.3 percent chance of winning the National League wild card; the only other team in double digits is the Marlins, at 31.6 percent. I've no clue how accurate the good folks at Baseball Prospectus are, but I'll be at the Vet tomorrow and Thursday to see for myself what kind of September the Phils are in for.

Anyway, as of 10 p.m., Chase Utley's bases-loaded triple has given the Phillies a 5-3 lead over the Expos in the eighth; Florida, which just swept Montreal in a four-game set to take a one-game wild-card lead, lost to the Pirates, 3-2. So the question is: Who comes in to finish this one? Stay tuned. . . .


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