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Win or Else!
Stephen Cannella
May 21, 2001
With new manager Larry Bowa laying down the law, the formerly phlegmatic Phillies have gone from grim to grins
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May 21, 2001

Win Or Else!

With new manager Larry Bowa laying down the law, the formerly phlegmatic Phillies have gone from grim to grins

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"Last year," said Rolen, "we probably would've lost that game."

The major difference between this season and last is Bowa, who was hired last November to replace the fired Francona. The front office hoped Bowa, a hero of Philadelphia's hallowed 1980 World Series champions and a coach with the club from 1988 to '96, would bring with him some box-office appeal. (For the first 14 home dates, however, attendance at Veterans Stadium averaged a paltry 18,582, 27th in the majors.) More than that, though, the Phillies' bosses wanted Bowa to light a fire under a bunch of underachievers. Francona ran a mellow ship with a clubhouse so relaxed that it was difficult for the players to shake the inertia of seven straight losing seasons. "It was a little easier for us to get away with things [like mental errors] last year," says Lieberthal.

On the first day of spring training, Bowa announced that he simply would not accept losing and that he expected the players to believe in themselves and play with confidence and aggressiveness. He has stuck to those themes, all but annoying the Phils into playing well with his constant harping and a quick hook for pitchers he deems to be struggling. Bowa has even yanked starters who were pitching with leads in the fifth inning, thus depriving them of chances to be credited with wins.

On April 17 at Wrigley Field he removed Telemaco in favor of reliever Chris Brock with two outs in the fourth inning of a 1-1 game against the Cubs, even though the next batter was pitcher Julian Tavarez. A four-pitch walk and a double surrendered by Telemaco had helped make up Bowa's mind for him. (The Phillies would rally with four runs in the ninth to win 6-3.) Five days later at the Vet, with Mesa dying to preserve a two-run, ninth-inning lead over the Braves, Bowa replaced him with Wayne Gomes. Two runners were on and Mesa had a 2-and-l count on righthanded-hitting Atlanta catcher Javy Lopez when Bowa came out to get him. "It's the first time that ever happened to me," says Mesa. "I hope it's the last." Gomes got the final two outs to give the Phillies a 3-2 win.

It's not only the pitchers who feel Bowa's urgency. Earlier this month he upbraided Lieberthal in the dugout after lefthander Randy Wolf gave up a hit on an 0-and-2 pitch. Bowa was angry that Lieberthal called for an inside fastball instead of trying to get the hitter to chase a breaking pitch away. When Bowa gave the struggling Glanville a few days off from his usual leadoff duty and batted him seventh, then second, he used the occasion to get in Glanville's face about his performance. "I'd be sitting on the bench, and he'd start yelling at me, 'You want to go back to the lead-off spot? Show me you should hit leadoff!' " says Glanville, who at week's end was hitting .360 since returning to the top slot on May 7 and who hammered two homers off of Schilling last Friday. "It wasn't negative. He was trying to pump me up, almost like a football coach."

"Larry's the kind of guy who makes you uncomfortable if you don't play the game right," says Schilling, who was with Philadelphia when Bowa was a coach there. "I think he's made some guys over there realize they have to ante it up a little bit."

The question is whether Bowa can maintain his frenetic intensity for a full season without snapping—and whether his players can stand the constant haranguing. "This is my personality, this is the way I played," says Bowa. "I hate to lose, and it bothers me, but I can handle it. I know I'm intense. I've always been that way."

If anything, Bowa says he's calmer than he was in his first major league managing stint, a season-and-a-half turn with the San Diego Padres that ended with his being fired midway through 1988. In that job, he constantly berated players. The tension boiled over during a team meeting when Bowa chewed out outfielder Stanley Jefferson for not showing up to an early workout; the two nearly came to blows.

"My intensity is just as high, but when I was in San Diego I wanted to do everything—coach the hitters, the pitchers, everything," Bowa says. "I wasn't ready for the job. I have learned to let my coaches coach and not to criticize players in public or in team meetings. If one or two guys need to be talked to, why should I berate the whole team? I'll still talk to them, but I'll do it individually."

"The key is that everything he does is because he wants us to win," says Wolf, who was 3-4 with a 4.66 ERA through Sunday. "We can't take anything he does personally."

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