Larry Bowa: The Fightin Man is the Scapegoat Again

Pointing fingers is easy. Finding the correct way to point them isn't always easy and is sometimes not a concern for some. Larry Bowa hasn't been the main problem facing the Phillies drive to the post-season and running him out of town won't solve what's ailing the Phillies.

Warrior (Webster's) n. A man engaged or experienced in warfare; a person engaged in some struggle or conflict; A FIGHTING MAN.

If a manager of a baseball team, could predict any and all problems his team will encounter in the season ahead before it begins imagine the advantage he would have. But being that this is reality no manager can possibly know which key members of his team will become injured and whether they will all play up to their ability. There will even be superstars who will fall very short of all their past successes. If we as fans are caught off guard by these obstacles imagine how a manager must feel. This is the situation Larry Bowa finds himself in and it cannot be any easier for him than it is for the fans to watch. The projection made for the Phillies this year was so extraordinary ("Now is the time" meant nothing less than the World Series) that there was bound to be some disappointment simply because this is reality and that is baseball. It is, to paraphrase many pundits, a game of failure. People will fail in utterly shocking ways and everyone will scramble to place the blame. Not shocking is that most of the blame for the Phillies problems is predictably being put on Phillies skipper.

As the first-half of the season ends, the Phillies record is 45-39 and they are battling daily for their current top spot in the National League East. In the first-half of this highly anticipated season the Phillies have faced some major surprises in their lineup. They have had to deal with injuries to Billy Wagner, Vicente Padilla, Randy Wolf, Roberto Hernandez and Ricky Ledee and the club has suffered in the face of these setbacks as any team would. But aside from the injuries there have been spectacular failures on the part of people we had little doubt in such as "ace" starting pitcher Kevin Millwood and last season's very reliable center fielder Marlon Byrd. Of course someone is to blame, right? Well who else but Larry Bowa should be blamed folks? He is the scapegoat right now in this sticky situation and no one made that clearer than Sam Donnellon in his scathing piece in the Daily News last week.

The picture on the back page of the Daily News was not from the Phillies previous night's 10-5 win against the Montreal Expos but of Larry Bowa's face with the oh so clever headline "Time to Gowa, Bowa". Donnellon wrote that the Phillies should "forget getting an ace" (You sure about that Donnellon?), and forget the trade deadline (I'm sorry, and that would help us how?). Instead, Donnellon insisted, the team should focus on doing what he considers to be the most important thing that would suddenly change all things wrong with this team. "Lose the manager of all this inconsistency," he writes.

Is that all the Phillies have to do? Wow, really, that is incredible. With one swift kick of Larry Bowa's back side, sending him to the unemployment line we wouldn't have had to endure any of the troubles we have faced in this first-half of the season. Does that mean no injuries? Or is Donnellon saying that somehow injuries to two of our starting pitchers have played no part in our struggle? So, I guess if Larry Bowa were fired Wolfy's tendinitis would not have happened! Apparently the magic potion for the Phillies to do better has been under their nose all along. As far as I know tendinitis is a medical condition and Larry Bowa, for all his gusto, can't control that happening. Then you have Vicente Padilla's injury that has seen him miss considerable time. So, you have two of your very dependable starting pitchers out of the rotation, which led to the added pressure on the bullpen more. In fact, it even led to giving relief pitcher Ryan Madson his first major league start in which he self destructed in the first inning. Bowa put in someone he thought might be able to handle it because he didn't have any options; Ryan Madson had been pitching out of the bullpen all season and cannot be criticized for what happened; he did his best. But in the face of all of the injuries Bowa used what he had to work with.

I could at least respect Donnellon's argument if he mentioned the injuries but he doesn't, not once, and that is totally unacceptable in a review of the season. In trying to make some earth shattering statement he simply sinks himself with half the story making his point moot. He skims over Kevin Millwood's problems and barely mentions Brett Myers dismal record. In mentioning these two let us also remember what they did last year. Larry Bowa is still the same man as last year so why was their performance so much better then? What exactly is Donnellon's point here? And for that matter, where is the story really? He mentions Kevin Millwood's pitching woes as not being isolated but this season can only be viewed as isolated when you have so many injuries that inevitably will effect a team's ability to perform. Making mention of the year Larry Bowa was named Manager of the Year is foolish. Now is now and then is then; the problems that have occurred this year are very specific. When your starting pitchers are all finding themselves on the DL, how in God's name is that not a huge part of the reason a team is struggling?

As far as Millwood and Myers go it is possible that pitching coach Joe Kerrigan is having a hard time reaching these guys when trying to work with them. Did Donnellon hear Millwood say he has watched video of himself and does not know what he is doing wrong and that he actually wishes someone could tell him? He is a professional and if he is having a hard time he is just too darn good at his job to not be able to, at some point, get an idea of where he needs to make some adjustments. Bowa does not need to hold these guys' hands and I am certain they don't want him to.

Everyone is accountable, not just Larry Bowa.

It‘s difficult for me to criticize a team I love so much, but even more difficult because, let's face it, none of us can truly understand what these guys are going through. It is easy to make calls from the couch and boo a play from your seat at Citizen's Bank Park when you are not actually the one in there day in and day out trying your hardest to win ball games. Donnellon is no different. He cannot sit in front of his television watching the game just like us and then go to his computer and make one bold statement about what needs to be done to make the team a winner. That is simply impossible.

What it comes down to is that Larry Bowa is emotional and aggressive and people can look at that as a negative and it can create controversy. But let me ask you this: Have you ever seen him at the end of a game when the Phillies get a big win? No one is happier or shows more excitement than that man. He has been known since his days at Sacramento College for being totally and completely ruled by his emotions and his love for the game; specifically for winning. And during Friday night's bogus call of a foul ball as a three-run homerun by the third base umpire, Larry Bowa fought for his pitcher and his team. When he was finally ejected and the passionate manager left the field, the entire crowd at Citizen's Bank Park was cheering for him. Did you hear them Donnellon? They were chanting "Larry, Larry, Larry".

The big picture is so much more complex than Donnellon painted. And the big picture certainly is not what made the back cover of the Daily News.

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