MLB analyst Larry Bowa recently took some time to break down the Phillies for Metro. The former shortstop and manager detailed what’s wrong with the team, sounded off about Jonathan Papelbon’s incendiary remarks and revealed if there is hope for the team circa 2014.
Metro: How much fun was it coming back for alumni weekend?
Bowa: It was great. I never moved away. I’m still in the area. I love it there. But regarding the reunion, it was fun. Nobody expected anything from that ’93 team. Dutch [Darren Daulton] looked great over that weekend when he came back. He’s going through some tough times. the fans showed their appreciation. Those are special events and the Phillies do a great job putting that together.
Metro: What wrong with the Phillies?
Bowa: Underachievement and injuries. Losing Ryan Howard is a huge bat. Losing [Roy] Halladay in the rotation is bad. [Cole] Hamels having a rough season hasn’t helped. Looking past injuries, the style of play is not good. They make a lot of mistakes. They don’t play according to the scoreboard. You’re down by five runs, you go one base at a time. You have to work the pitcher. Fundamentally, they have not been a good baseball team.
Metro:The team’s inability to score from third with less than two outs has killed them, right?
Bowa: Agreed. When the infield is back, hit it in the middle of the field and get the run home and they haven’t been able to do that. Maybe it’s a selfish thing. You can’t accept losing. It doesn’t seem like there is a sense of urgency. I don’t care if you’re 20 games out. You have to hustle. I’m not saying it for everyone on that team. I just don’t see it from that 25-man roster. Look at Al Kaline and Ernie Banks, they never got to the playoffs. They played hard every game. That’s your job.
Metro: Is it time for a change with the manager and coaching staff?
Bowa: Baseball is a funny game. It’s the same manager that won a World Series and all those games. When do players look in the mirror and take responsibility? The lack of fundamentals is a lack of concentration. When teams go bad it’s the pitching coach’s fault when the pitchers don’t pitch well. Don Mattingly was reportedly going to be fired if his team didn’t turn it around. The Dodgers did turn it around for his sake. Managers get fired. It’s a fickle game. The Phillies need their core players to play better. Chase Utley looks like he’s 100 percent again. He’s swinging the bat fairly well. Chase, Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard have to play better next season. If Howard doesn’t come back (as a force), they have Domonic Brown as a power hitter, but you need more than that. And that bullpen needs to be rebuilt.
Metro: The Phillies really need Howard to come back. He was a historic run producer.
Bowa: He certainly was. He’s a huge bat in your lineup. When the Philles are down four runs now, the game is pretty well set. This guy can bring you right back with one swing of the bat. When I coached for the Dodgers, he would hit those three run homers and kill you. He has to find a way to come back. He’s got to come in to the best shape of his life when he comes back. You live and die with power hitters. We did when I played with the Phillies with Mike Schmidt and Greg Luzinski. They went through two weeks when they couldn’t buy a hit but when they were in a groove, they carried you for weeks.
Metro: What do you think of the Utley extension?
Bowa: He’s shown that the knees are not an issue. He’s swung the bat exceptionally well. Utley as good as he is, he is not going to help you playing 100 games. You need him out there 130 games at least. He’ll be productive if he can play 130. It’s a risk but he can give you so much with the bat. He has great baseball instincts, which you can’t teach.
Metro: What has made Dom Brown an All-Star?
Bowa: I think he’s made some great adjustments. Last year he had no chance to hit balls up and in with velocity, but that changed this season. I see a big time upside for him. He’s playing better outfield. He still has a way to go but he’s out there early every day. I see him working on it. I like him a lot.
Metro: Which is the real Ben Revere? The version we saw in April or June?
Bowa: I think you saw the real Revere the last month. He switched leagues and that’s really tough. I like Ben Revere.
Metro: How could the Phillies’ bullpen get worse after a miserable 2012?
Bowa: Nothing went right out there. The thing is when you don’t have guys you can rely on in the seventh and eighth inning, you’re going to lose a lot of games. They have to fix it.
Metro: It’s astonishing that not one of those kids came through in that bullpen.
Bowa: It really is. They have good arms. I don’t know if it’s instruction or their lack of ability to concentrate. I’m not sure it’s the big stage that bothers them. When you start out the season in April, you would expect to see some improvement in kids like that. I haven’t seen any improvement.
Metro: If you had to bet on one of the kiddie corp of relievers to break out, would it be Jake Diekman?
Bowa: Absolutely. This guy has a tremendous arm. It should be very uncomfortable for a left-handed hitter go up there with his stuff and funky delivery. But, unfortunately, you see him and it’s ball one, ball two. He’s got the tools, but can he get to that next level?
Metro: What do you make of Jonathan Papelbon’s negative commentary?
Bowa: First off, Papelbon looks real short (with velocity). He’s still relatively young. I think he can get it back on the mound. But it was terrible when he popped off about how this is not what he came he for. You don’t say that to the media. You can say that to a teammate. You don’t say that to the press. Nobody comes to a team to lose. He better start to get people out inconsistently. He’s been hit with a lot of boos.
Metro: And what about your old charge Jimmy Rollins and the selfish remarks he made?
Bowa: I didn’t like what Jimmy said. Jimmy is my favorite player. I feel like I’m his dad. I managed him. He said, ‘I’d like to break records.’ That’s very selfish. He’s a very good player. If the Cardinals came to the Phillies and asked for Rollins … it would shock me if he didn’t want to go to a team going to the playoffs.
Metro: After being around Jimmy, I have the feeling that he would veto any deal to leave Philly.
Bowa: If I’m a player and I’m out of it, I’m gone if I can get to a contender. The team records pale compared to a World Series chance. If you’re in it to get more at-bats than Richie Ashburn, then that’s just wrong. The ultimate is the chance to win the whole thing.
Metro: Is it just one of those seasons for Hamels?
Bowa: I think so. I thought he came out of the gate slow. He’s pitched well recently. Maybe early on after having a great spring training, the cold hurt him since he couldn’t locate fastballs in April. His season has been like Cliff Lee’s 2012. I like what I see over the last few weeks.
Metro: What’s the Phillies future look like?
Bowa: I think they can come back. The first thing they have to do is fix the bullpen. [Antonio] Bastardo didn’t help them being suspended. You fix that. You have some great starting pitching. Add some power and they certainly could be back next year. There is hope.