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as seen on phillyBurbs.com

Told you so

Phillies manager Larry Bowa looks on during the ninth inning against the Florida Marlins Thursday. The Marlins beat the Phillies, 10-1. (AP Photo)
Fire Larry Bowa? You heard it here first.

They can't hit, can't pitch, can barely field and the clubhouse resembles a tomb even when they're winning a game.

And suddenly, if you listen to the Philadelphia media, all of the Phillies' problems are Larry Bowa's fault.

Not quite.

Loyal readers will remember that I was the first to call for Bowa to be sent to the showers way back in April, when it was clear that his team's dismal spring training record wasn't a fluke. (In an online poll, you overwhelming disagreed with me, saying that if he survived the month he'd make it the entire year.)

The pigeons have simply come home to roost now, as the club begins its 10th annual nose dive following the All-Star break. As of this morning the fightin' Phils are 5 games behind Atlanta and falling fast.

An "Ashburn Alley" sign in the Bucks County Courier Times newsroom says it all. Some sportswriter augmented it to read, "Crash-and-burn Alley."

Unlike the rest of the media, I don't think Bowa is a bad manager (despite getting the worst rating last year from Major League players, who said he was the skipper they'd least like to play for.).

Far from it. I watched Bowa coach the hell out of a team of nobodies his first year here. For that he received the National League Manager of the Year award in 2001.

There's just something highly dysfunctional about the collection of promising prospects, pitching prima donnas and hangers-on that he and GM Ed Wade have assembled over the last two years.

This motley collection of millionaires seems to have forgotten they're getting paid to play a kid's game in a brand new ballpark.

Like many fans, I can't quite put my finger on it. There's just something missing about this club's personality when it takes the field. They show no joy when things are going good, refuse to rally around each other when games go sour and in general act as nine individuals, rather than a team.

You see it in the few shaving cream pies thrust into players' faces. The way starting pitchers struggle to get past the fifth inning without imploding. Hell, Bowa doesn't even blow up at the umps any more. 

Not even the phenomenal play of the club's lone true All-Star, Jim Thome, has been enough to stem the tide.

Give me a bunch of rowdy working-class drunks, like the '93 Phils, any time over this collection of high-priced stiffs.

Lest we forget, the symptoms were clearly evident last year when Bowa sent Pat Burrell's blonde buddy, Tyler Houston, packing before erupting on his failing players. They then called a secret team meeting before promptly going belly up.

Houston's out of the game now and writes a baseball column for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. I sent him an e-mail last week seeking his thoughts on the Phillies and Bowa one year later. He didn't reply, but devoted his entire column on Sunday to it.

At the time, Houston told the Los Angeles Daily News, "Everyone feels the same way about (Bowa). He doesn't give a crap about anybody in there. He doesn't give a crap about his players. Bowa only cares about himself. You see it in the negativity and disrespect that he has for his players, the way he speaks to his players.

"He's the first one to slam you, embarrass you, throw stuff in the dugout, throw his hands up in the air."

Bowa responded by calling Houston, a "divisive clubhouse influence" and "a loser."

I'd even take angry Bowa again over the laudenam-dosed looking Larry, who sat quietly in the dugout last week with his arms folded, gray-whiskered chin nearly on his chest unable to watch his once-first-place team self-destruct on a road trip from hell.

Take it to the Bank: heads will roll after this season and more dynamite than was used to implode the Vet will blow this club up. 

In the mean time, somebody wake me up when the Phillies are mathematically eliminated so I can go to the new ballpark for the first time and watch them play good ball.

Dave Ralis' Pave The Grass column appears on Mondays. You can send him an e-mail at  or call him at 215-269-5051. To read his previous columns, click here.

Aug. 2, 2004