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The Bowa-ry Boy
2004-04-21 23:36
by Mike Carminati

Quick boys, routine number 37

—The estimable Terence Aloysius 'Slip' Mahoney, as various Bowery Boys cavort and generally devour the scenery and somehow the effete Sach escapes injury by yet another hilarious means.

My misspent youth was split between watching heaping gobs of pointless TV and watching heaping gobs of baseball. I witnessed Little Rascals led by fiery, little Spanky "Don't drink the milk, it's spoiled" McFarland, Bowery Boys led by fiery, little Thesaurus-misquoting Slip, Stooges led by fiery, little, bowl-coiffed Moe "C'mere, knucklehead" Howard, and the Fightin' Phillies led by fiery, little Larry Bowa (or at least that's how he remembers it). It was all very entertaining.

Now that I've been mellowed by age, my tastes have turned to less frenetic yet more deeply disturbing forms of entertainment like the Sopranos, Bush press conferences, and the post-Schmidt Phillies. And yet there is one constant, Larry Bowa. Bowa is still little, at least vertically, and he's still fiery. Constancy is Bowa's trademark. His moves on and off the field demonstrate that. I guess I just find it a bit less entertaining than I did when I was a kid.

So it comes as no surprise that the embattled Bowa would avenge his perceived slights in the press after the Phils had finally enjoyed some degree of success, a four-game win streak. Last night Bowa laced into the Philadelphia media before the Phils went ahead and broke the streak against their kryptonite, the Florida Marlins.

"Two or three of you [writers] are doing everything in your power but sticking a [bleeping] knife in my back. I don't give a [bleep]. How's that?"

The funny thing is that the worst indictment of Bowa's management style is Bowa himself. It's not just that he invective that he spews on players and reporters alike. It's the open admission that he has no idea what he's doing. In Slip-ese, let us expectorate post chaste.

Bowa began his tantrum by confronting the "two or three of you", reporters Dennis Deitch and Paul Hagen, who had criticized his removal of Randy Wolf Sunday after only 86 pitches and the insertion of closer Billy Wagner for the fourth consecutive day. It is described brilliantly in the article:

With sheets of statistical evidence in his hands, Bowa started off the gathering by announcing that Phillies relievers pitched fewer innings in 2003 than most major league teams and have been among the most under-worked this season. He also mentioned that he wants to keep his starters' pitch counts down early this season because the entire rotation, especially Wolf, faded during last September's failed playoff chase.

Look, limiting the number of pitches that his starters throw is a good thing. The top four starters all had over 115 innings by the All-Star break last year and then experienced a severe dropoff in the second half. At least Bowa is trying to learn from his mistakes, but he clearly does not understand how to correct the problem. Everything that I have read (and Will Carroll is really the expert here) indicates that there is no difference between pulling Wolf after 86 pitches and pulling him after 100-110. Whatever damage has been done. It's far worse to overwork a closer by pitching him consecutive days.

When Deitch backed up his position by invoking Terry Adams' 2003 season-ending injury after four consecutive appearances Bowa responded:

"You can break down every team if you want. Do you know how many times guys [warm] up [in the bullpen]? I [bleeping] do. I keep a chart of it. That's why [Tim] Worrell wasn't used the other day because he threw 30 [bleeping] pitches [on Friday]. I'm telling you, before you [bleeping] rip, ask somebody. There's a reason why we do things. Billy Wagner came up to me [Sunday] and said, 'I have an inning for you.' "

Was that Grady Little or Larry Bowa? Every pitcher will tell you he has an inning left in the tank. It's the manager's job to determine if that fits the team's plan for how pitchers should be used. But clearly Bowa has no plan. He reacts based on the perceived failures of the past but never learns. Witness his brag that he knows Worrell three 30 pitches in the pen on Friday. Well, why is that a good thing? Worrell should be languishing in the pen wasting pitches that could be used in a game because Bowa does not know when to go him. He gets a pitcher up repeatedly "just in case".

That Bowa isn't learning is clear after his comments concerning pulling Wolf "who was leading, 4-3, after six innings and hadn't allowed a run since the first inning, because the move was part of a double switch that inserted Doug Glanville into the game."

"Glanville won the game," Bowa said. "That was a great [bleeping] move by me, wasn't it?"

That he inserted Glanville was a mistake to begin with because a) Wolf should have been given another inning and b) Glanville is the 25th man on the roster and should not be the go-to guy in that situation. Rheal Cormier came in to give up the tying run. That Glanville won the game with a walk-off home run was dumb luck given that he had eleven in almost 700 at-bats over the last two years. The Phils version of Neifi Perez or Rafael Belliard, Glanville has collected 11 at-bats, more than any other bench player on the roster. And frankly, as the sixth outfielder, Glanville shouldn't even have a spot on the roster.

Finally, the man Glanville replaced was erstwhile leadoff hitter Marlon Byrd who showed signs of coming out of his slump after being moved down in the order. Then Bowa stuck him back in leadoff on Saturday. Byrd went 0-for-4, was moved back to seventh Sunday, pulled in favor of Glanville, and then did not play Monday. This is a player who is young and showed himself to be fragile last year. Bowa is yanking him up and down like a yo-yo.

Bowa is truly his own worst enemy. After some modicum success, the prudent play would have been to lay low and ride out the winning wave. But Bowa has to try a gambit the second he has the upper hand. And he gives the appearance of a manager who would myopically overlook the importance of the series with the Marlins to slake his pride. This is a man almost daring people to take potshots at him, to find fault in how he's doing his job. Unfortunately for him, the next person to do that may be his boss, Ed Wade, especially if the Phils lose another series to their new arch rivals, the Marlins.

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