Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Two More Days | Larry Bowa and Pat Burrell aren't the only ones to check into spring training early for the Phillies. The Inquirer's Todd Zolecki is in Clearwater and files a story reporting that Bowa, predictably, is itching to get going. The Phils' skipper acknowledges to Zolecki that his veteran, talented squad should need less external motivation than the Terry Francona-led sleepwalkers he inherited in 2001. But he still has goals: fewer strikeouts and better bunting by his hitters, fewer stolen bases by the opponents' runners, and better baserunning by his own squad. And in a fascinating aside, Bowa professes not to understand why so many think he'll be behind the eight ball this season:

Many people expect the Phillies to finally snap Atlanta's stranglehold on the National League East, and many of those same people agree the Phillies have as good a chance as anybody to reach the World Series.

That's why Bowa has been tabbed as one of those big-league managers to watch, one of those managers that must win this year.

"I don't know where people get that from," said Bowa, shaking his head. "There's no pressure on me. Not at all. I try to win every game I play. I don't care if I'm playing Reading or Atlanta."

In this case Bowa is either stupid or stubborn. The Phillies' roster is the very best collection of players he's ever been given to manage. More importantly, many, many people who know a lot more about baseball than I do say that that roster is good enough to compete for the pennant. If the team stumbles, Bowa, like it or not, is going to get the lion's share of fingers pointed at him first and foremost. If he's denying this before spring training even starts, what's he going to say in July if the Phils are six games out?


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