Is There A Leader In The House?

There has been talk this week about former Phillies first baseman John Kruk's visit to Philadelphia and his "secret" meeting with Phillies President Dave Montgomery, a meeting that Krukker requested. The Phillies favorite was apparently looking to get some things off of his chest about the current club, something he does from time to time with his old boss Montgomery; Kruk being someone that has fallen into an indefinable category with the Phillies, a fan/consultant, if you will.

John Kruk cares deeply about the Phillies organization calling them "family", according to the Philadelphia Daily News and has previously stated his opinions about the Phillies and what could be done to fix whatever the current problem is that the team is facing. One of the things the Daily News reports that he said was that they needed to add some more aggressive players to the lineup. There was whispering of Kruk discussing possible candidacy for the manager's position if current Phillies skipper Larry Bowa is fired at the end of this season, but Kruk waved that notion away. No, he was just here to let Montgomery know that he thinks that the Phillies need to seek some more fiery personalities for the club in the off-season. Players who can lead and rally the troops if their morale – or their OBP - is low.

John Kruk of course knows all about what leadership in a clubhouse means in terms of a team's performance and strength. Former Phillies catcher Darren Daulton's ferocious toughness in the clubhouse is legendary in Philadelphia and he was known as the captain of the Phillies team that would go to the World Series in 1993. Much of that success is attributed to Daulton's ability to reach his teammates when they were playing poorly and his desire to push them harder than they ever had been before. On occasion he would corner fellow players and tell them in no uncertain terms what they were doing to hurt themselves and the team. Dave Hollins and pitcher Curt Schilling were both subjected to Daulton's verbal assaults that were nothing more and nothing less than his expression for the love of baseball and the desire to see the Phillies play to the absolute best of their abilities. You will hear few people deny the importance Daulton's leadership played in what resulted in the Phillies success that year.

So of course, the question is whether or not this Phillies team has anyone remotely like that and frankly, if these Phillies would even respond to that kind of approach. And if he played today I am not sure some of these guys would be receptive to Darren Daulton grabbing hold of one of them as they come through the clubhouse door and telling them he is embarrassed by the way they played, as he did with Curt Schilling. Or literally saying he couldn't stop thinking of wanting to fight one of them the night before because of their bad performance, as was the case with Dave Hollins, a formidable man in his own right.

Those Phillies were picked to finish last as they had the year before and with guts, fire and great leadership they meticulously worked themselves into that World Series; this Phillies club was picked to be in the playoffs and possibly make it to a World Series. Guts and fire aside, is leadership a key missing ingredient here? Are Jim Thome and the respect he garners for his upstanding positive approach all that some of the players on this team need? Is having a veteran from the 1993 winning season, reserve catcher Todd Pratt, helping or is he not the type to give guys a talking to? I know it's highly debated but when Larry Bowa was brought on as manager to replace Terry Francona the reason for it was that Francona was considered too soft and Bowa's approach was considered the antidote. Now, people feel that approach is also wrong and that if Bowa goes, the current Phillies club will succeed by way of another new manager. But what good does it do a team if they are struggling and nobody is saying anything? I cannot imagine the solution for this Phillies team being that they need less aggressive voices in the clubhouse.

I have watched the way these Phillies approach the game and wondered who had the unofficial role of leader on this club. As I have scanned my mind writing this there aren't many I can think of who seem to have the fiery quality needed to really push this team. In a way they all seem self motivated, which can be good, unless you are not motivating yourself very well. But it's also been said over and over again this year that the Phillies felt so overwhelmed by the expectations that perhaps they were trying too hard. Did they need a voice who would be a strong confidence booster? Or were they feeling like suffering fools under the already aggressive nature of Bowa?

I will say that of all of the Phillies on this club, the ones that stand out as being the toughest mentally and having the kind of intense energy and concentration that could make them strong leaders are Billy Wagner and David Bell. While David Bell's quiet intensity is a bit different than the more outspoken Wagner, the mixture of the two together seems like a winning combination that can provide a strong backbone for a team. But the problem with that of course, has been that Billy Wagner was fighting his own private battle just to get healthy. If you notice however, when Wags had the ear of the press he had plenty to say about management and recently, included a certain umpire in his tirade. He is vocal and his presence can only inspire other teammates to work harder when watching him.

David Bell is a different sort but his focus and drive are what makes him the player he is. Focus is something the Phillies seemed to have struggled with much of the time and it affected their patience at the plate. Not so of David Bell. He has said that while he hasn't been a vocal person in the clubhouse before he has learned to do more of that this season.

Leadership is obviously only one component in the big baseball picture but it is an asset to a struggling team. It's possible that a stronger leader could have mentored and guided pitcher Brett Myers and helped him calm his wild ways. And when the atmosphere got gloomy and players were feeling depleted, the strong, loud voice of another player, not the manager, would have been helpful. I'm not saying the players on this team don't have any fire, they simply need a little more. The Krukker's suggestion of adding more aggressive players could really be a great turnaround for the Phillies next season.

Either that or we could bring Darren Daulton back. A girl can dream can't she?

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