When Managers Lose Their Cool

Many times, teams take on the personality of their manager. Sometimes, for good and sometimes, for not so good. The manager not only has to push the right buttons, but he has to portray the right attitude to get the most out of his team. It's a fine line and one that Larry Bowa has been accused of not being able to follow during his tenure as the manager of the Phillies. Even so, maybe Bowa's personality is the kind that can mold a winner.

In a recent game between the Phillies and the Arizona Diamondbacks an incident happened that caught my attention and I was surprised no one seemed to mention it. It was a simple gesture on the part of D'backs manager Bob Brenly, which actually shocked me.

When the Phillies scored four consecutive runs in an inning, Brenly aggressively held up four fingers and showed them to D'backs pitcher Elmer Dessens, making sure he saw it and felt ten times worse about it then he probably already did. Dessens had a look of utter desperation and defeat on his face. Although I was happy their shabby play help the Phillies I honestly felt terrible for their pitcher. It got me to thinking about the issue of a manager's effect on a baseball team's morale. When a manager displays disgust out there in the middle of a game does it impinge upon these guys ability to play? Or do they take it on the chin and feel the manager has the right to reprimand them in any way he sees fit?

The issue of a manager's behavior and how it plays into a team's performance is certainly a major topic of conversation right now in Philadelphia. There are endless discussions about Larry Bowa's style of management and how he handles himself. His abrasive nature is endearing to some Phillies fans who want to see someone battle for the team. But there are others who are also concerned that this quality could affect our Phightins in a truly negative way. If a team feels put off or distressed by their manager is it detrimental to the team's ability to win?

Tommy Lasorda, the famed former manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, was once quoted as saying, "managing is like holding a dove in your hand. Squeeze it too hard and you'll kill it, not hard enough and it flies away." Lasorda also made it clear a mutual respect was incredibly important. When you have incidents like the recent one involving pitcher Randy Wolf in which he took a sarcastic jab at Bowa it is clear there might be a genuine lack of respect between some of the players and their passionate manager. But it's a fact that people genuinely feel Larry Bowa's disposition could actually effect whether they succeed or fail this season. Philadelphia is putting a lot of faith in this as the year the Phillies will finally see a playoff berth for the first time in over a decade. This is serious business folks. The Phillies fans are not willing to take another painful loss in this race and they are looking for someone to blame if it all ends horribly. The bottom line is the role of the manager can not be underestimated.

Jim Fregosi was known for managing his Phillies (1991-1996) with a steady attitude. Third base coach John Vukovich said of Fregosi that his philosophy was to, "always make the players feel comfortable and enjoy playing." No matter what the score the poker faced manager felt he always needed to keep a firm grip on his emotions in front of his players. That was a team that went onto a World Series. Larry Bowa has been consistently taken to task for his openness in showing his disappointment in the dugout. The camera is always catching him shaking his head and pacing maniacally, looking as if he has given up and lost all faith. It does seem at times to be a bit much. But it might also say he expects the best from his team and nothing less. John Kruk said of Bowa that when guys tell him they don't know if they can play for him he tells them simply, "then you don't want to win."

The way in which a manager shapes his team's quality of playing is debatable. Certainly it matters if the players feel abused or disrespected. The most we can ask of our managers is that they commend the players for a job well done and give them a good push when they can't seem to get their game together. That, and please, just don't kill the dove.

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