Why The Phillies Had To Cut Larry Bowa Loose

It seemed completely inevitable that Larry Bowa would be making an exit as the manager of the Philadelphia Phillies. Still, when the official word came, it took some by surprise, not just because of the timing of the dismissal, but simply because nobody figured on Larry Bowa failing as the manager of the Phillies. It was a match made in heaven and had all the makings of a classic storyline. Now, it's just another in a long trend of changes that the Phillies seem to make every few seasons.

A conquering hero coming back to lead his old ballclub to the promised land. It's the stuff that movies are made of. Larry Bowa left his mark on the city of Philadelphia during a distinguished career as a player, including being a member of the 1980 World Champion Phillies. To bring him back as manager required that the team make up with their prodigal son who seemingly turned his back on the organization some years before. It also required a leap of faith, since Bowa had not exactly distinguished himself as a manager in his first shot with the Padres.

Bowa's return seemed to promise new and exciting times ahead for the Phillies. Instead, it turned out badly. Very badly. It's never good to have to fire a manager – that means something went horribly wrong – and it's especially tough when that manager is a fan favorite. Even now, most fans place the blame on the players and/or general manager Ed Wade rather than laying it anywhere near the shoulders of Larry Bowa. Perhaps, they're not wrong. Actually, there is enough blame to go around and around and around.

If Bowa failed in his tenure with the Phillies, it was early on. He failed to realize that things were different. Being firey is one thing. Directing that fire toward your players generally doesn't work in this day and age. Again, that's not to say that Bowa was wrong or that he deserved to go. That is simply to say how things are in this day and age. Bowa was the victim of being the anti-Francona; an answer to the cute and cuddly ways that existed when Terry Francona ran the club. The problem was though that Bowa went too far in that mode.

Player after player had issues with Bowa as manager. The list is long and well known. Would Scott Rolen still be here if Bowa had not been hired? Possibly. Did free agents, knowing of Bowa's personality, refuse to sign with the Phillies? The rumor mill says "yes" although that can be taken for what it's worth. Believe me, the papers didn't print half of what was happening in the clubhouse. With Bowa's exit, the players are being professional and courteous. There is no celebration over the exit of Bowa. Perhaps, they realize that they did this. That their egos, their style of play, their lack of accepting responsibility for all that went wrong had a big part in their manager's demise.

So, the bottom line on why Bowa had to go? Simple. He had become a distraction and had lost his players. The Phillies could not come into next season with the issue of their manager hanging over their heads. The first back-to-back losses would have brought out the naysayers and the "Bowa watch" would have begun in earnest. The players simply were not willing to play for Bowa and had no interest in helping support his tenure. Although Bowa had changed his approach, their memories were long and clear and they weren't going to let Bowa off the hook easily. There is no shame in Bowa's tenure in Philadelphia. He leaves with a 337-308 record and took this year's club, riddled with injuries as it was, and pushed them above the .500 mark. Some thought he deserved another shot, but it just wasn't going to happen.

Maybe, Bowa's best demonstration of his new found understanding of how things work in this day and age of baseball came on his exit. No fire. No torching of the organization, the front office or the players. A simple "I wish this organization well in the future" statement and off he goes. Perhaps, in the days, weeks and months to come, we'll get something more scathing to report on, but then again, maybe not. It could be that Bowa learned from this situation and is already preparing for his next job. Don't be surprised if Bowa does in fact land another manager's spot. It's more likely that he'll be back to being a bench coach or third base coach, but it's not out of the question that he'll be calling the shots again elsewhere. If he is, he'll talk about his personality and how he is outspoken and how he is passionate – again, not bad traits if the players can handle them – and he'll speak of how he has toned down his approach. How he realizes that you can't be Dallas Green in this day and age. Instead, he'll look to put himself somewhere between the Larry Bowa that came to the Phillies prior to the 2001 season and the manager that he replaced in Terry Francona. The fire, the passion can remain, but they need to be directed elsewhere. Talking about players "killing us" won't cut it and Larry Bowa knows that now.

A change was needed. A change was made.

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