Out of Left Field: The Flawed Phillies Way

As the Phillies first season in their new home continues to spiral down the drain, there has been much speculation as to the future of General Manager Ed Wade and Manager Larry Bowa. Recently Ed Wade refused to give a vote of confidence to Larry Bowa, but team President Dave Montgomery gave a vote of confidence to Ed Wade, meaning that at least half of the dynamic duo will return in 2005. What I'd like to know is this: What happened to the plan?

The Phillies made much of a philosophy change back in 1998, something called "The Phillies Way." The idea behind The Phillies Way, similar to what used to be called The Dodgers Way, was that the organization had to be uniform in its philosophy at every level. The pitchers with the Rookie League team had to be taught the same principals and techniques as the pitchers with the International League team. It was a developmental philosophy, and an organizational philosophy.

In dissecting the type of manager the Phillies may hire to replace Larry Bowa many people are of the opinion that the team will swing the pendulum away from the "fiery" Bowa, to a more relaxed "laissez-faire" type of personality. After all, these people reason, Bowa was hired because he was the anti-Terry Francona, the laid back, player's buddy of a manager that he replaced. If true, this would be an indication that The Phillies Way is a farce and that the organization truly has no rudder.

The fact that Bowa was hired in the first place was a sign that the organization was only paying lip service to some deeper philosophy. If you have a philosophy that ostensibly defines the correct way to do business, that philosophy should pervade your hiring practices. Bowa shouldn't have been hired because the team needed a manager to take the players in a different direction; a manager should have been hired that could inspire the players to play baseball The Phillies Way.

Another indication that The Phillies Way has been a farce was Joe Kerrigan's inane rule governing the slide-step. When did this become a cornerstone of The Phillies Way? Are they actually teaching this throughout the organization, and if so why? I'm fairly certain that there wasn't a single pitcher in the Phillies' system that was taught the "no slide-step" rule prior to Kerrigan being hired. This begs the question, why did the team allow Joe Kerrigan to change The Phillies Way instead of telling him, "That's not how we do business in this organization."

I'm not suggesting that the organizational philosophy should be so rigid that it can never be changed, only that it shouldn't be changed on a whim, or to mesh with personalities. The fact that the fans have no idea what The Phillies Way means, or what the organization stands for when it comes to personnel and teaching, is troubling. The fact that people within the organization have no idea either is downright unacceptable.

Reading Phillies General Manager Chuck Domino was asked about player development in an interview earlier this year with Nick Colangelo of The Sports Network. This is what he had to say, "I'm told that there is a philosophy. They're calling it "The Phillies Way." It used to be called "The Dodgers Way" and it makes a whole lot of sense." Domino went on to explain, "The Phillies Way is that everybody coaches hitting the same way, from Single-A to Triple-A. Everybody does pitching the same way, and from what I understand it's the roving instructor's job to travel from team to team to make sure all the coaches at each team are all teaching the same techniques."

Chuck Domino has been the Reading GM for 17 seasons, and while I understand player development is not his area of expertise, I would still hope that he would know more about The Phillies Way than "I'm told that there is a philosophy." I would hope that the organizational philosophy would permeate every inch of the organization. That all employees would understand what The Phillies Way means, and that if the Phillies brain trust spent so much time developing The Phillies Way, that they would market that philosophy to their fans. They would hold it up as the crown jewel, as the cornerstone of the franchise, and declare "This is the plan. This is how we will get our organization to the top and sustain excellence."

However, The Phillies Way is shrouded in secrecy. It doesn't permeate every inch of the organization, and instead of guiding personnel hiring decisions, it has been changed to match the personalities of those that were hired. It is, so far, a colossal failure and I suspect, a flawed philosophy. As long as the Phillies continue to float rudderless, content to use The Phillies Way as eyewash instead of developing and then implementing a guiding philosophy, they are also doomed to colossal failure.

DN Curry comes to you Out of Left Field every Thursday at PhillyBaseballNews.com. You can email him at dncurry@comcast.net.

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