Thursday, January 29, 2004

The Lesson of Jack McKeon (and Pat Corrales) | If Larry Bowa thought he was under a microscope last year, he ain't seen nothing yet. The Chicago Tribune's Phil Rogers joins Jerry Crasnick and Tim Kurkjian in predicting, many weeks before any games are to begin, that the Phils' skipper has been given all the tools he needs for the team to succeed -- and that if it doesn't, he might be held accountable. Writing today's "Hot Stove Heater" column on, Rogers observes of Bowa:

Baseball's most combative manager has enjoyed professional immunity under GM Ed Wade. That could end if Bowa winds up having to stem another rebellion in spring training or during the first half of the season. There will be a great deal of focus on Bowa after Wade added Billy Wagner, Tim Worrell and Eric Milton to the pitching staff as the Phillies move into Citizens Bank Park. The National League East seems eminently winnable for some team other than Atlanta, as it did a year ago. But Bowa has not proven himself to be the right man for the job. The addition of Kevin Millwood, Jim Thome and David Bell only led to an increase of six victories from 2000, when the Phillies had a losing record. The 86 wins matched the most ever for a team managed by Bowa, whose lifetime record is 27 games under .500. In his defense, he inherited bad teams in Philadelphia and San Diego. But this team should be very good. If it is not, Bowa will pay the price.

Which is as it should be. As Rogers indicates in his piece, I'm not the only one who thought Bowa should have gotten much more scrutiny than he did for his role in last season's collapse. Rogers uses the Marlins' midseason hiring of Jack McKeon as the peg for his story, and wonders whether it will lead to a renewal of a trend of two decades ago, when more than a few teams -- including the 1983 Phillies -- switched managers after the season had started and went on to find success. In the Phils' case, Paul Owens sacked the in-over-his-head Pat Corrales -- while the team was in first place (!) -- installed himself as manager, and helped lead the Wheeze Kids to the National League pennant.

As a baseball guy, Bowa has been underwhelming, mishandling his pitching staff and unable to motivate the closest thing he has to a protege, light-hitting shortstop Jimmy Rollins. As a motivator, he's been a disaster, mistakenly assuming that he can will his team to burn with the same kind of intensity with which he once played. The problem for Wade is that the Phils aren't likely to stumble so hard out of the gate that a managerial change becomes the obvious solution. As with Owens's firing of Corrales, Wade will probably need to determine whether his team is playing up to its potential, regardless of its place in the National League East standings. Maybe Larry Bowa won't be the only Phillie management type on the hot seat in 2004.


Post a Comment

<< Home