Sunday, August 22, 2004

Beer Nuts and Tea Leaves

The Phillies were just about done snoozing through a loss to the Brewers last night when the offense finally woke up. The Phils hung a 6-spot on Milwaukee in the eighth, rallying from five runs down and winning, 8-6. With the sacks drunk in the eighth, Chase Utley took a 1-2 fastball and hit it hard into the gap, clearing the bases with a triple and giving the Phillies the lead. Utley now has 49 RBI in 208 at-bats; more important, his consistent, compact swing should serve as a model for his teammates, who too often allow themselves to salivate over Citizens Bank Park's short fences and end up overswinging. I'm talking to you, Jimmy Rollins and Pat Burrell.

Meanwhile, the ever-frustrating effort to read between the lines of Ed Wade's comments concerning Larry Bowa's future continues with Jim Salisbury's parsing in today's Inquirer. Salisbury infers from Wade's recent reticence that Bowa will indeed be a part of the off-season house-cleaning. "All Wade will say on the matter is that Bowa is the manager and he's not getting into daily updates on his status," he writes. "That doesn't bode well for Bowa because longtime Wade observers know that he is very capable of giving definitive votes of confidence when he wants to. ... Wade is not nearly as loquacious on the subject of his manager [as he was a year ago], and that is extremely telling."

UPDATE: Murray Chass of the New York Times really takes a stand today: "Consider the state of their pitching," he writes of the Phillies and everyone's search for the party responsible for this mess of a season. Two paragraphs later, he literally writes the phrase "on the other hand,"

the Phillies have played surprisingly poorly for two years despite an influx of talented players. They have underachieved so much under Bowa this season that in the space of six and a half weeks, they lost 25 of 40 games and plummeted from three games ahead in the N.L. East to 10 games behind.

Chass posits, as have many other pundits, that the Phils hesitate to sack Bowa because of his enduring popularity, but I have my doubts. Bowa may remain a fond figure based on his exploits as the feisty little shortstop that could, but are there any fans left who think he's this team's best choice for manager? Those who believe that Bowa as skipper holds some sort of warm spot in all of our hearts just aren't paying attention much.


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