Wednesday, April 14, 2004

(No) Panic Room | Rained on, miserable, and locked in the basement of the N.L. East, our own Soggy Bottom Boys, the Phillies, are finding themselves having to deal with the expectations game just a week into the season.

The team spent yesterday's off-day reiterating that the time for panic is far, far away, and, well, what did you expect them to say? But with expectations as high as they've been in two decades, the entire country is noticing the lackluster start -- witness that the AP's don't-panic story was Yahoo! Sports' top item late yesterday afternoon.

The Larry Bowa speculation, which began at a low hum as early as spring training, is now the subject of open conversation. Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci yesterday predicted significant player and management changes should the underachieving continue, noting, "There ... is understandable reservation about whether Bowa is the kind of manager to calmly hold a team together and steer it through a rough start." The voices around the Phillies blogosphere are less dispassionate. Phillies Fan's Bill Liming has begun a game-by-game review of Bowa's hits and misses, the Citizens Report stridently dislikes the manger's lineup tinkering, baseball titled a recent post "Larry Bowa Suicide Watch," and I'm Not an Athlete is just plain livid:

The only positive thing that I can possibly see coming out of this dreadful start is Larry Bowa getting fired, although I'm not sure that's going to happen anytime soon. Under normal circumstances, I don't think a 1-6 start justifies firing a manager -- in fact, I usually think it's stupid when the first scapegoat for a team's bad start becomes the manager. Of course, when the guy should have been canned months ago and he happens to be the manager of your favorite team, it's different.

Ditto the Philling Station:

Yes, it is early. But count me among the people calling for Bowa's head. Are there other people? I don't know because I am also on strike from reading about this crap. I hope there are others.

Oh, yes, there are others, though judging from the mostly positive reaction during introductions at Citizens Bank Park Monday, Bowa still enjoys support among the non-blogging fan base. He should have been canned during the offseason, but now that the year is underway, I think Bowa deserves a bit more time to see whether he can pull this group together ... but not too much more.

Speaking of CBP, the Daily News's Marcus Hayes ignores the players' "It's still early!" exclamations and instead takes a look at how different the ball travels, in the air and on the ground, than it did at Veterans Stadium. And Verducci, in his piece from yesterday, confesses to being less than overwhelmed by the park. Oh, it's nice and quite an upgrade from the Vet, he writes, but after a while all these new facilities begin to look the same:

CBP is just another new Camry in the driveway: likeable enough and loaded with the latest features, but impossible to distinguish from any another new Accord, Tempo, Malibu, Galant or any other family sedan in driveways up and down the block. The out-of-town scoreboard embedded in the outfield wall? The terraced bullpens? The exposed brick? It looks too familiar by now.

Gee, who says sportswriters have lost touch with the average fan? Uh, Tom? I've got news: It's only familiar if you make your living watching baseball games in person all over the country. Verducci's patronizing attitude is a mean-spirited and unnecessary punch in the gut to those of us who were appropriately wowed by what we saw Monday. We have plenty of precipitation this week without needing Sports Illustrated to rain on our parade.


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