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Monday, August 8, 2011

Chatting Around With...Larry Bowa

Larry Bowa will always be known as a Philadelphia Phillie.  Sure, he ended his Major League Baseball career as a member of the New York Mets, playing only 86 games in 1985 before calling it a career.  (Bowa actually played 72 games that year with the Chicago Cubs before going to the Mets and seeing action in only 14 games.)  But for the first 12 years of his career, Bowa was THE PHILLIES SHORTSTOP, a National League All Star in five of those years.  He was the symbol of the Fightin’ Phils – tough, gritty, and never backing down to anyone.  A member of the 1980 World Series Championship team that defeated the Kansas City Royals, he batted .375 during the six game series, Bowa played every game as if it was his last, and put it all out on the field.  Bowa had one thing in mind – WIN - and the Philadelphia fans loved him for it. 

After his playing days were over, Bowa felt he still had something to give the game, and quickly got his first taste of managing with the San Diego Padres, only two years after retiring in 1987.  Bowa brought his fiery playing style to the coaching box, unfortunately, he couldn’t provide the spark for the Padres and after a year and half, Bowa was fired.

In Philadelphia, losing had become a habit.  From 1987 to 2000, the Phillies were anything but “fightin” as the team had suffered 13 losing seasons in 14 years.  In 2000, the Phillies had the worst record in Major League Baseball.  In 2001, Philadelphia Phillies baseball would change, and it started with the appointment of Larry Bowa as manager.  Bowa didn’t approve of complacency and demanded his team give 100% on the field – he would never settle for less.  And the team showed improvement right away.  In 2001, the fight returned to the Phillies, and the team finished within two games of winning the National League East with a record of 86 – 76.  (The Atlanta Braves won the NL East.)  The  Phillies resurgence and Bowa’s managerial style won him the 2001 NL Manager of the Year Award.  But Bowa’s hard edge and demanding style wore on his players, on and off the field, and  in September 2004, right before the end of the season, Larry Bowa was fired as manager of he Philadelphia Phillies.  

I caught up with Coach Bowa, a moniker he seemed very comfortable with at this stage in his life, and got a chance to hear his opinion on some random topics…The results are as follows:

Around The Horn:  What is the key to the Phillies success? 

Larry Bowa: It starts with the pitching.  That is key to any club’s success.  And when you have a staff that goes 3 deep like the Phillies with Halladay, Lee and Hamels – well, it’s going to be tough to beat them.  Then, you add Oswalt (who has been on the DL) and it’s going to be real tough to beat them. 

ATH:  You say it like the Phillies are already in the World Series.  Do you see any team beating the Phillies in the National League? 

Larry Bowa: Not at all.  Unless they (the Phillies) are hit with a rash of injuries to key players.  Look, no team has their pitching depth.  You’ve got Halladay, you’ve got Lee, you’ve got Hamels, Oswalt. And don’t forget, Worley – man, he is pitching well.  Who else has that kind of staff, and that kind of depth.  The Brewers?  The Braves?  No depth. 

ATH: What about last years’ Champions, the San Francisco Giants? 

Larry Bowa: Listen, the Giants should be worried about getting into the playoffs.  They need to watch out for the Diamondbacks.  Although, I don’t think the Diamondbacks have the pitching.  It all starts with pitching. 

ATH: How about in the American League, who do you see? 

Larry Bowa: Who do I see playing the Phillies you mean!  Because we’ve already discussed how I feel about the Phillies and the rest of the National League!  It’s going to be one of two teams…the Red Sox and the Yankees.  It’s going to come down to them playing each other, and the last team standing will play The Phillies.  Both teams’ lineups are stacked.  They each have some dangerous hitters in their lineup.  I don’t see anyone else beating those teams in the American League.  The Red Sox have the better pitching – at least on paper.  And they say Clay Buckholz (currently on the Disabled List with a Lower Back Injury) might be coming back. 

ATH: Where is there more pressure – playing in New York or playing in Philadelphia? 

Larry Bowa: New York, Boston and Philadelphia probably have the most pressure.  I mean the fans are in the game all the time, the media is on you.  Perhaps New York has the edge – and I mean the Yankees because of the amount of their payroll.  I mean, they are always over the Luxury Tax.  Each year, they are paying a baseball’s luxury tax. 

ATH: Okay, how about the other team in New York, the team you loved to beat when you played…The Mets…What would you do if you were managing?

Larry Bowa: The Mets are good young team, but they have to sign Reyes – that is key.  The guy can do so much – hit, run, field.  He brings excitement to the game. They’ve got to sign him.  They have some good players.  I like Murphy, the kid can hit.  They just have to find him a position.  But it is all going to depend on signing Reyes – that will be key.  If I’m managing, that’s what I am telling the Front Office – sign Reyes.

ATH: You were with Torre in New York – how was he as a manager? 

Larry Bowa: Torre is a good man and a real good manager.  I really enjoyed my time with Joe.

ATH:  You also recently coached in Los Angeles with ex-Yankee Don Mattingly?  How is Mattingly as a manager?

Larry Bowa: Donnie is a good guy.  But it’s way too early to tell out there (Los Angeles) with all that is going on, and the team that he has right now.  Give him a few years before you make your judgement. 

ATH: Let’s go back to the Giants and the Phillies.  People are talking about the new rivalry between the two teams.  Anything there?

Larry Bowa:  Both teams are good, and they play each other tough.  Sure the Giants took 2 of 3 recently from the Phillies at Citizen Bank Park.  It was a good series.  The Giants are a good team.  And then, the Phillies go to San Francisco, and take three of the four game series.  In both games the Phillies dominated.  The second game got a little out of hand with the bench clearing brawl in the 7th inning when Victorino was hit by a pitch. 

I think they (the Giants) were throwing at him because they felt the Phillies were running up the score.  There is no need to steal (Rollins) when you’re up 6 to 2 that late in the game.  No need.  They just wanted to show the Phillies that they weren’t going to allow them to run it (the score) up in front of the home crowd.  If it was a rookie who stole the base, well that is one thing…but Rollins is a veteran – he knows better!  Listen, the Phillies – Giant rivalry is getting started.  I heard some folks saying…The Giants have the Phillies number!  Are you serious?  The Giants beat the Phillies last year in the playoffs – it was a good series and the Giants got hot.  Their pitching is good, and their hitting got hot.  But to say they (the Giants) have the Phils number.  Cmon…Like I said before, no one has the pitching the Phillies have right now, and with the team starting to hit, the Phils are going to be real hard to beat.  You give that staff 5 or 4 runs a game, and they’re going to win.  It’s that simple.  And as I said early, the Giants should be worried about winning the National League West before they talk about having the Phillies number.  Cmon!    

I’ll take my Phillies all year long! 

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