Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Save Larry? | Bill Conlin files an intriguing column in today's Daily News that pins the Phillies' offensive underachievement not on Larry Bowa but on Ed Wade. The Phils are what they are, Conlin implies, and to expect Bowa to have much of an effect on that is foolish:

The Fire Bowa groundswell emanating in morning drive-time from 610 on your AM dial is totally misguided. This team's inability to do most of the little things required by a major league lineup has absolutely nothing to do with the manager's flinty personality. It has everything to do with what you get by blending all those strikeouts, an overall lack of speed and the absence of a top-of-the-lineup presence that understands that OBP does not stand for optional batting practice. ...

You might have noticed in the early going, Citizens Bank Park is an upholstered bandbox. The Money Pit will make Denver's Coors Field seem like Yellowstone Park when the weather gets hot and the prevailing south winds start gusting.

So, ban the bunt for everybody but pitchers. J-Roll wants to jump out of his shoes? Good, but he better hit 15 bombs and a ton of doubles. The most encouraging thing I've seen lately is [Marlon] Byrd hitting long balls on early-count hacks. It's easy to forget he was the team's best hitter the second half of his rookie season.

The Phillies have the lowest ERA in the National League, and are all of a game over .500. That's because they are 14th out of 16 NL teams in runs scored. If the Phils scored even an average number of runs, a friend of mine pointed out today, they'd win a hundred games. By far the most damning of Conlin's accumulation of evidence is the leaden anchor represented by the top of the lineup. It's hard to score runs without guys on base, and right now there aren't a lot of crooked numbers in the Phillies' line scores. As much as I dislike Bowa's style and find it counterproductive, I'm not sure Conlin isn't right. Will hiring a player's manager entice Jimmy Rollins to start slapping the ball the other way on the ground instead of trying to pull everything into the stratosphere?


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