Monday, August 02, 2004

Rent, Don't Buy

Where else but baseball can so many people publicly clamor for someone else to lose his job? No one to my knowledge writes a letter to the editor demanding that management fire the supervisor in a paper mill. Has anyone ever come across a blog calling for the immediate dismissal of the manager of a Rite Aid?

But the number of people openly expressing the desire that this or that baseball manager be fired is legion. And those who speculate when the deed will be done constitute an even greater number. Such hazards come, as they say, with the territory.

This season’s favorite target is the Phillies Larry Bowa, a man who has already been dismissed from one managerial position (San Diego) and whose current tenure was accompanied by assurances that he had, well, mellowed and matured. There are approximately five million people in the greater Philadelphia area who would beg to differ with that assessment and another 25 men occupying a dugout in Citizens Bank Park whose feelings on the subject might be even stronger.

The sad part is that Bowa loves the game. Nevertheless, if he is dismissed from his post it is likely to be the last time he manages a big league ball club. His volatility and old-school approach are incompatible with today’s players. One can be irascible and still manage a major league sports team, but there are limits to how much big league ballplayers will tolerate and by all appearances Larry Bowa crosses that line far too often.

Senior management swings back and forth on which type of on-field manager best suits today’s multi-millionaires in pinstripes. Bowa’s predecessor, the very likeable Terry Francona, is known as a “player’s manager”, someone who is easy-going and likely to relate to his charges as one of the guys. Bowa was brought in precisely because he wasn’t that type of skipper; indeed, he was brought in to whip the Phillies into shape and take no prisoners doing so. Now, the rumored replacement for Bowa is the Francona-like Charlie Manuel, older but also of the easier going persuasion.

As long as the next fellow occupying the hot seat wins, Philadelphia fans won’t demand another public firing. Given the state of the Phils pitching staff, however, I would advise whoever takes the position to rent rather than buy.

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