Phillies Time Machine: 2001

As the 2000 season came to an end, the Phillies had decided that enough was enough. Terry Francona and his player friendly ways of managing were gone and the Phillies conducted a search for their new manager. As the search wound down, the Phillies settled on former Phillie Larry Bowa, who brought with him a no nonsense approach to the game and a pedigree as one of the most popular Phillies of all time.

In 2000, the Phillies went through somewhat of a renaissance. Ace Curt Schilling was traded in mid-season for a package of players that was supposed to form the back bone of a strong Phillies future. The exit of Terry Francona was also part of the plan to change the composition of the team. No longer did the Phillies have a friendly, comfortable manager who spoke in glowing terms of his players no matter what the situation.

Larry Bowa had always been one of the more popular Phillies. His role on the 1980 World Champions was key in bringing a parade down Broad Street. An earlier managerial stint in San Diego wasn't exactly a great success (81-127). Bowa – and the Phillies – believed that the former all-star had grown since his managerial stint with the Padres and that he was more prepared to be a manager than he was when he took over the Padres in 1987.

The team that Bowa inherited showed signs of promise. There were the core players from the Schilling trade – Omar Daal, Travis Lee, Vicente Padilla and Nelson Figueroa – who were supposed to blossom as Phillies. Plus, the team featured young players in Scott Rolen, Mike Lieberthal, Pat Burrell and Bobby Abreu. While the pitching staff didn't have Schilling the workhorse to depend on, they did have young arms that were showing promise and veteran Jose Mesa as the their closer.

After coming off a 65-97 season in 2000, nobody was expecting miracles. The 2001 Phillies were supposed to simply be a young team that was preparing for the future. Instead, the new attitude that Bowa brought to the team supplied a certain amount of raw energy. In late May and early June, the Phillies went 13-2 and moved their season record to 35-18. Baseball fever was starting to overtake Philadelphia fans. While the Phillies would continue to play well, they couldn't maintain the early pace that they had set. Youth started to show and the Phillies stumbled from time to time. The Phillies were under .500 in June and July (23-31) and finished both August and September at .500 (25-25).

An injury to Mike Lieberthal left Johnny Estrada as the primary catcher and made the Phillies even younger than they had hoped to be. The Phillies made deals to get Dennis Cook, Turk Wendell and Jose Santiago in an effort to bolster their bullpen. They also made a move to get Todd Pratt, taking some of the strain off of Estrada. In the end, the youth probably cost the Phillies, but they battled to the final week of the season until they lost two out of three in Atlanta and finished two games out of first.

Along the way, Bobby Abreu became the first Phillie to hit more than 30 homeruns (31) and steal more than 30 bases (36) in a single season. He also finished the year hitting .289 and played well in right field.

Robert Person, Omar Daal and a young Randy Wolf each won double digit games for the Phillies. Closer Jose Mesa saved 42 games, finishing with a 2.34 ERA.

As for the group of young players that the Phillies received in the Curt Schilling trade, the results actually weren't too bad. Travis Lee hit 20 homeruns and drove in 90 runs with a .258 batting average. The young pitchers – Daal, Figueroa and Padilla – finished 20-13 with a 4.28 ERA. Unfortunately, most of the players would soon fizzle and with the exception of Padilla, wouldn't be in Philadelphia for too long.

With the success of the 2001 season, fans looked forward to the young Phillies taking an even bigger jump in 2002. Unfortunately, that didn't happen and the team would go through a rocky season that literally started in spring training with a disgruntled Scott Rolen.

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