Sunday, February 15, 2004

Four More Days | Pitchers and catchers report to Clearwater on Thursday, and the Inquirer gives fans a peek at what to expect out of spring training with a full page of storylines. Todd Zolecki's overview doesn't seem to be posted on the Inquirer's Web site, but you're not missing much. It's a lot of same-old, same old, with the most salient observation being that the Phillies are the only team in the division to increase its talent level; not only did the other clubs not stand pat, but they lost quite a few good players. Interestingly absent from Zolecki's musings was any mention of on-the-spot manager Larry Bowa, but Jim Salisbury, in his preview of the national baseball scene, has this to say:

Pressure, pressure. No two managers have more pressure on them to win -- and win now -- than the Phillies' Larry Bowa and the man he succeeded, new Red Sox skipper Terry Francona. Both will be asked about the topic a gazillion times this spring.

Hey, you can throw Joe Torre's name on the list, too. There's always pressure managing the Yankees and working for George Steinbrenner. Adding A-Rod will only increase the intensity.

As for Bowa, he's entering his fourth season with a team that has patched big holes with big talent (Jim Thome and Wagner). Anything short of the playoffs will be a failure, and Bowa can't be feeling all that cozy with Charlie Manuel and Bob Boone already collecting Phillies paychecks.

At least Bowa only has to make the playoffs. Anything less than a World Series title will be a failure for Francona's loaded Red Sox. And have we mentioned that Nomar Garciaparra and Manny Ramirez might be in bad moods after off-season trade talk?

As the season draws closer, I'm sure the Bowa angle will get played up more and more. Until then, I will wait in sweet anticipation for baseballs to start popping into mitts. Four days now. . . .


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