Friday, January 02, 2004

Around the Web

Writing on's Insider page, Jerry Crasnick posits that Larry Bowa will be under the gun this year. Gee, do you think? Frankly, Bowa got quite a free pass last year. The Phillies scored a fair amount of runs, and the pitching was mostly serviceable, and still the Braves cleaned their clock and the Marlins edged them out for the wild-card slot. While a few of the dailies' columnists poked at the body as the season's missteps gave way to failure, mostly they failed to conduct the sort of rigorous, CSI-style autopsy that would have led them to conclude that the team's cause of death was mismanagement from the dugout.

Indeed, after the signings of Jim Thome and David Bell, and the trade for Kevin Millwood, how could Bowa not have been on the spot last season? The ruinous August road trip and the self-destructive final week of the season had the manager's fingerprints all over them. While eventual world-champion Florida played with verve and delightful recklessness under Jack McKeon, the Phillies were gripping their bats too tight, releasing talented pinch-hitters due to clubhouse mutiny, and sticking with Jose Mesa well past the point when it was obvious he was shot.

The substantial differences this year will be a real closer and an adequate fifth starter, but the kind of wholesale changes that should have put the manager on the spot happened last off-season, not this one. Posting on the Sports Frog, Memphis Bengal agrees with me that Bowa is not the right guy for this team right now.

Elsewhere,'s Ken Mandel likes what the Phils have done, asking (in his way-too-early season preview): "[W]hat's not to like about the 2004 edition of the Phillies, a team that many have predicted will win the competitive NL East, despite the presence of last year's division-winning Braves and World Series champion Marlins?" The Philling Station, while optimistic, is slightly less enthusiastic than Mandel, writing amusingly of the off-season dealings: "[O]utside of the Wagner acquisition, there was nothing thrilling. They had a Kelly Ripa offseason, not a Jessica Alba offseason." Given the choice between Ripa and Alba, though, I'd take Ripa every day of the week and twice on Sunday, which I guess means that I'm totally okay with the moves Ed Wade has made since the World Series ended. Um, did he trade for Kelly Ripa? If so, Shallow Center's South Jersey correspondent and I may need to upgrade our Citizens Bank Park season-ticket package.

Meanwhile, Todd Zolecki chronicles last night's viewing for former general Paul Owens in today's Inquirer. Owens was the most successful GM in Phillies history, spearheading the sole golden age -- 1976 to 1983 -- in team history. Five division titles, two pennants, and a world championship in the course of eight seasons -- not too shabby for the saddest of baseball's sad-sack franchises. Owens was by most accounts the kind of character that seems to populate baseball less and less these days; he will be missed, by both the Phillies and the game. Rest in peace, Pope.


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