Different Personalities On A Similar Path

The end justifies the means. How often have we heard that and how many debates has that one statement encouraged? For the Phillies, "the end" is the World Series. Larry Bowa believes in using his style – "the means" – to get his team where everybody hopes they will be. Sometimes, "the means" is determined by the team and the personalities that make up that team. With that in mind, where would the Phillies be if Larry Bowa hadn't come back to Philadelphia to take over the Phillies?

When Terry Francona replaced Jim Fregosi after the 1996 season, the Phillies stressed that Francona was the right man to handle the Phillies team. Francona was definitely a player's manager. He was the first to stick up for his players. Allowing a beat writer to see his frustration or anger with a player wasn't in Francona's game plan, let alone putting his feelings into words.

No matter how you feel about Terry Francona, the truth is that the Phillies were right in 1996. The fire and ice routine of Larry Bowa or Dallas Green would have completely killed the teams that Francona managed. We're not talking about being an in-game strategist, we're talking about personalities. With players like Bobby Abreu, Scott Rolen and Curt Schilling, Bowa – or a manager with his style and personality – would have been a mistake. Schilling would have never worked with a manager of that type. His personality is too strong. Sure, Jim Fregosi was somewhat "Bowa-esque" at times, but he also had something that Bowa doesn't; The ability to know when to speak and when to bite his tongue. Fregosi let players like Darren Daulton handle Schilling, which worked with him since it was coming from his peers.

If the Phillies fall short of the postseason, all eyes and fingers will go directly in Larry Bowa's direction. Like it or not, anytime that the Phillies go into even a minor skid, Bowa's personality will be the issue that fans and media types will go to. Not all players can play for Larry Bowa and that's not to say that's Bowa's fault. Always remember, that part of Bowa's managerial mentoring came from Dallas Green. There were players who didn't exactly perform well for Green or for the likes of Fregosi or a long list of other major league managers who exhibited the same types of personalities.

While the question of Bowa's personality is an issue in Philadelphia, fans in Boston are asking the same of Terry Francona. Can his relaxed sort of approach keep that team together and focused. Don't be surprised if Terry Francona is exactly the right kind of manager for the Red Sox. With the bruised ego of Nomar Garciaparra and Manny Ramirez, a guy like Francona will embrace them. In interviews, Francona has already talked about both players with glowing respect. "(Alex) Rodriguez is a great player, but so are these guys (Garciaparra and Ramirez). I'm looking forward to watching both of them all season and I don't wish for a second that we would have been able to move either of them", said Francona in one interview. Francona will go a long way toward healing relations with both players.

The truth is that both Larry Bowa and Terry Francona have traveled similar paths and are facing similar tasks. Bowa failed in his first attempt as a major league manager and has admitted so. Francona also admitted that he made mistakes in his tenure with the Phillies that he won't repeat in Boston. Had Bowa not been a product of the Phillies organization, his hiring would have likely been met with much the same skepticism that Francona has faced from some factions in Boston. As for the future, both have good teams that are likely to be in contention all season. There are question marks behind both and in Bowa's case, there are already whispers of a managerial change if the team stumbles out of the gates. To put that on Bowa is unfair, but it goes with the territory of a major league manager. Want pressure? How about Francona having to take over a team that some believe should have been in the World Series and would have been if not for a bad move by Grady Little, Francona's predecessor. You have to love the irony in the fact that Little's departure was brought about largely by letting his star pitcher – Pedro Martinez – decide whether he should be lifted or not. That same charge was leveled at Francona when he sometimes deferred to Schilling as to whether or not it was time for a wave to the bullpen.

If Hollywood script writers play any part in the world of baseball, they will have the Phillies and Red Sox match up in the World Series. Curt Schilling pitching in the Fall Classic against the Phillies would be a site to behold. The real plot though would be the Larry Bowa vs. Terry Francona scenario. Francona says that he holds no ill will toward the Phillies, but let's face it, beating them in the World Series would have to give Francona a sense of redemption. Beating the Phillies managed by the guy who replaced him would make it even better. The crowning glory of the series would be the personality matchups. Somewhat of a professional wrestling sort of good versus bad matchup.

For my money, it seems that Francona's personality generally works better. There's an old saying in coaching that if you keep screaming, the players will tune you out. The best managers are the ones that, like Dusty Baker, push the volume up a notch or two at opportune times to get their players attention. Baker may be the quintessential manager because of his ability to command respect at all times from his players, but does it in a way that isn't threatening to the egos of many of today's stars.

Time will tell on the fates of both Bowa and Francona. They're divergent styles, but both have the teams with the players necessary to go a long way toward a World Series. Both should be successful with the teams that they have, meaning that both will face scrutiny. If either stumbles, rest assured that their personality will be called in to question. Still, if we're lucky, that perfect Hollywood scripted World Series matchup between the Phillies and Red Sox is looming on the distant horizon. There's a lot of time between now and then to watch it all unfold. For Francona, plenty of time to gain his player's trust and respect. For Bowa, plenty of time to command his player's trust and respect. If ever the two meet, what a classic that will be.

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