When Larry Bowa is asked how to describe this 2022 Phillies team, his answer is one word: inconsistent. Bowa has spent more seasons in a Phillies uniform than anyone else in the world. For 29 years he has experienced ups and downs, successes and failures, as a player, as a manager and as a coach. But this season – which currently has the Phillies 11 games back in the division – is particularly disappointing.
Bowa doesn’t solely blame former manager Joe Girardi for the Phillies’ lackluster first 52 games, and he believes interim manager Rob Thomson will help put the ship back on track. But beyond that, Bowa believes the players could use an honest self-assessment at this point this season.
“Joe can have conversations with anyone,” Bowa said. “I like Joe. I like Joe very much. But Rob is probably a bit more balanced. I think this team needs to know – I’m just speaking now – I think the guys need to look in the mirror and say, ‘You know what, I need to do a better job.’ It’s very easy to come in here and, say, get a new hitting coach, get a new bench coach, get a new pitching coach. The players have to take some responsibility.
“You can say, ‘It’s early days, we’re not worried,’ but it’s not going to make it. You have to be accountable. I think we have players who will take on that role. I’ve listened to a few interviews and the guys aren’t happy with where they are. This is not a question. I don’t think anyone is happy. I am very disappointed. I still think this is a playoff team. Now to sit here and say we’re going to catch the Mets — that’s a tall order. The playoffs? I don’t think it’s such a big task.
“Although we lost a great player [Jean] Segura, that’s no excuse. You have to go out and play, and you have to play consistently. And if we have the mindset, hey, let’s take any series — don’t even look at the rankings. Let’s start winning tonight. row after row. And you won’t win everyone, but if you put yourself in that mindset some good things can happen. You can gain ground in many teams.”
Several players, including Bryce Harper and Nick Castellanos, showed that responsibility on Friday after Girardi’s sacking. Bowa has more trouble with the idea that it’s still early in the season without specifying which players he heard that from.
“I don’t think they’ve lacked accountability, but I keep hearing it’s early days,” Bowa said. “Maybe it’s early in games played, but looking at the calendar it’s not early. It’s not early at all. If you’re in Philadelphia, and I’ve been here a long time, I think the most important thing to do when you’re doing an interview and you haven’t had a good game is to not make excuses. Fans don’t want to hear that.
“What [Alec] I thought Bohm was great. He came out and said, “You know what, that’s the wrong thing. You know what? We don’t play well.’ Don’t try to sugarcoat it here. Because that’s not what the fans want to hear. If you’re honest with those fans and tell them you know what we smelled like tonight, they’ll appreciate it.
“This is a working class city, so it’s important to take that mentality into account when drafting. These fans, these are great fans. can it be hard No question. But if you make an effort every night and don’t lie to them and say, “You know what, I have to make this game,” they will respect you more. I think we need to do more of this. We have to say: ‘We’re not playing well and we have to catch up.’ I think if we do that, we will go in the right direction.”
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Bowa overlapped with Thomson while the two men coached for the New York Yankees in 2006-07. He believes Thomson’s breadth of experience will serve him well this season.
“He’s been here a while,” Bowa said. “He gets along great with the boys. It will be a different role but he is a good communicator. It will be an easy transition for players. I think he likes playing a role for relief pitchers – that’s just me picking at his brain a bit – I just feel like he’s been in New York with all these World Series teams and worked with Joe Torre I think the way he took cues from different managers and different coaches. And I think he’s going to build them into his game plan a little bit, but I think he’s going to let the players play a little bit relaxed and see what happens.
“But the players have to play. No matter who you bring in here, the players have to get better. We can’t keep riding this roller coaster where you have six runs in one game and then one run in another game. This team is made up of racquets, there’s no question about that, and we have good racquets. But we just have to play baseball more consistently.”
When Bowa says “steady baseball,” he’s primarily focusing on two areas: offense and the bullpen.
“I like our starting pitch,” he said. “Our bullpen – the guns are down there. There are good guns. I saw them shut the door one night and the next night they got in a lot of trouble. If we get more consistency from the bats and the bullpen I think we can gain some ground. We can’t worry about where we are in the table. We just have to try to win series. Each series wins two out of three or, if you’re lucky or good enough, sweep them. But when you look at this bigger picture, you’ll be like, “Oh man, we dug a hole.” But there’s still a lot of baseball. I’m not one to say it’s too early because it’s not too early, but there are still a lot of games left.”
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Bowa also thinks it’s important to minimize the small mistakes and thinks the mistakes are more a reflection of the players than Girardi.
“It’s a tough game,” he said. “But you have to minimize the mental mistakes. Does not cover first base. How many times did we do that in spring training? A million times. And then you don’t do it one night, and it costs you. It’s all those little things that add up to big problems. It’s just about the players being more focused, more consistent. I have no doubt that this is a talented team. Are we flawed? Yes. We probably don’t have a long range, but these guys should be doing routine games. I’ve seen them play routine games.
“I don’t think there are players who say, ‘Oh, I’m glad so and so is out.’ I think the players respected Joe. When I was playing and a manager was fired, I took it personally. I said, ‘We let this guy down.’ And I think we have to start with that as a team. We need to post here. John Middleton spent a lot of money to take this team to a new level and it’s up to us. And I think they have the players for it, they really have. You have to do it as a team, not as individuals. And once they do that I think we can kick things off and start an uptrend.”