Friday, August 06, 2004

Mortgages and Epitaphs

The Philadelphia Phillies brass have taken a lot of heat for their “failure” to land another starting pitcher and centerfielder prior to the trading deadline. Much of the criticism has focused on their unwillingness to trade prospects for someone who can help the big club now. Unaccustomed as I am to the following stance, I applaud them for their wisdom in refusing to mortgage the future of the club.

No starting pitcher short of a Randy Johnson was likely to help them and even he is not immune to a team that doesn’t provide much run support. These Phils don’t hit in the clutch very often and the prospect of a frustrated Johnson was not pleasant to contemplate. Likewise, no centerfielder short of Willie Mays was going to help the Phils when too many of the balls hit in that direction seem to land on the far side of the wall.

Trading highly-regarded pitching prospects such as Gavin Floyd or Cole Hamels would have come back to haunt them. More to the point, pitching remains the Phillies biggest weakness; why, then, give up two very highly rated prospects to acquire a middling hurler other than Johnson who might stay two months?

* * * * *

Much of the debate over Larry Bowa’s status has focused on the manager’s volatile personality. A recent article in the Philadelphia Inquirer by Jim Salisbury admonished readers not to forget the players’ responsibility for the Phillies disappointing season to date. We should be grateful to Mr. Salisbury for pointing out the obvious. Less obvious to those of us without access to the locker room itself is the sneaking suspicion that confidence and psyche play a role in player performance and on that front there can be little doubt Bowa and some of his coaches undermine both in several members of the team. Just take a look at Pat Burrell. When he began to struggle last season Bowa would bench him occasionally, complain publicly that unnamed players were “killing us” and generally create an atmosphere of palpable displeasure. Burrell responded by sinking deeper into his funk culminating with a well-publicized and deliberate snub of the manager following a rare home run.

Nothing seems to have improved on the atmospheric front this season.

Bowa was once quoted as saying “If there’s something you want to do, I mean really bad, you can do it if you sacrifice. I may be kicked in the face, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to quit.”

That might just be his baseball epitaph.

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