Bowa's Misjudgements are Killing Phils

The Month of May has arrived, and the Phillies currently reside in third place, one game under .500. After an off-season that saw the team address it's biggest gap from last year, the bullpen, and acquire arguably the most dominant closer in Baseball, Billy Wagner, there are no excuses for the club's performance after the first month. Following this past week, it is clear that the one obstacle that is making the Phillies road to the top most difficult is manager Larry Bowa.

Saturday night's 6-4 loss was a microcosm of the Phillies woes in 2004. Vicente Padilla struggled mightily right from the get go, and the offense was stagnant as Jim Thome angrily rode the bench through the ninth inning. The game got even worse in the sixth inning. After Padilla had thrown more than ten pitches to pinch-hitter Carlos Baerga, the Diamondback's utility infielder launched a two-run homerun into the right field bleachers, after fouling off roughly eight pitches during his at bat.

Even the most casual baseball fans could easily tell that Padilla had nothing left in the tank, yet the call to the bullpen was not made until the Phillies watched a 3-1 lead transform into a 4-3 deficit. Padilla had already thrown a whopping total of 93 pitches by the time Baerga went yard. Had Bowa noticed his starter was gassed by the middle of the at bat, instead of leaving him on the mound as the game was surrendered, Philadelphia would have had a fighting chance to get out of the sixth inning with a lead, and possibly even hold on for the win.

By leaving Padilla in the game in an attempt to finish the inning, Bowa displayed his character feature that is hampering this team the most: his stubbornness. With the bottom of the order not due up for five hitters the next inning, Roberto Hernandez arguably could have escaped the inning with the lead, and quite possibly remained in the game for the top of the seventh. Considering the fact that Randy Wolf threw seven shut out innings the night before, a tired bullpen cannot be the excuse for leaving Padilla on the mound to give up two homeruns in the sixth inning.

Another disturbing habit of Bowa's is his new found reliance on Wagner. There was no reason for Wagner to pitch the ninth inning of a tied game against the Expos two weeks ago, when it was not a save situation. Neither was Sunday afternoon's tie game a position for Wagner to throw. Bowa overworked Jose Mesa last season, and by mid-August it was apparent that Joe Table was simply worn out. Unfortunately, it is possible that history could repeat itself if Bowa continues to put Billy Wagner into games that are not save situations. Not only does this risk fatigue and the possibility for an arm injury down the road for Wagner, but it puts the club in a position to be without it's best bullpen pitcher later in the game should another reliever falter.

The mistakes and misjudgments being made by Larry Bowa simply cannot happen. With Charlie Manuel in the waiting as the club's minor league hitting instructor, it may soon be time to end the Larry Bowa era and replace him with the man who Jim Thome views as a father figure. Citizens Bank Park is in it's inaugural season, and should the team continue to falter and watch the same issues reoccur without some sort of change from the manager, disaster may soon follow suit. Worse yet, the core of Phillies fans may not continue to come out to watch the Phillies struggle at Citizens Bank Park, should the worse case scenario come to fruition.

Given the right manager, this team is capable of great things. But Larry Bowa just may not be that manager.

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