Friday, September 10, 2004

Good Cop Bad Cop

Break up the Phillies!

Actually, that wouldn’t be such a bad idea. Their too-little, too-late doubleheader sweep of the Braves on Wednesday and another victory on Thursday must feel good right about now but it won’t change the task at hand.

At this point foremost among these is handicapping the new manager. Speculation, some of it ludicrous , has already begun. During the next few months we should be treated to a host of rumors regarding the identity of the Phillies skipper-be-named-later. The consensus seems to be the team needs a good cop this time around, the bad cop (aka Larry Bowa) having muffed his chance. Defenders of Larry, a small group growing smaller by the day, point out he took a moribund bunch and had them playing over .500 for his four years at the helm. I thought the goal was to reach the playoffs not aspire to mediocrity.

There is no secret formula to being a successful manager. Some great players, Ted Williams comes to mind, made lousy managers. On the other hand, career minor leaguers like Earl Weaver came out of nowhere and were eventually elected to the Hall of Fame. Of course it helped that Weaver had Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, Jim Palmer and Boog Powell to help him get there and that he surrounded himself with great pitching coaches, especially George Bamberger and Ray Miller. (Lefty Mike Cuellar once said of Weaver, “All Earl knows about pitching is that he couldn’t hit it.”) Jim Leyland, Sparky Anderson and Tony LaRussa, all great managers, have one thing in common: far more success behind the bench than on it.

The divide today in selecting a manager depends less on his success or failure as a player and more on his demeanor and the perception of him as either “soft” or “hard”. In Philadelphia, recent history has seen players’ manager Terry Francona (now in Boston) dismissed for being too soft only to be replaced by Bowa, who might be adequately described as his polar opposite. Inevitably, a manager who is chummy with his players will be succeeded by one who maintains a distance. And once the tough guy wears out his welcome the peanut gallery will call for moderation and understanding.

I assume what this means for the Phillies is they are due a softer, gentler type next. Thankfully, that should rule out the return of Dallas Green.

No comments: