PHILADELPHIA -- Larry Bowa's fiery personality was a perfect fit as a player on Philadelphia's 1980 championship team. It was too much for the Phillies he managed, though, and it was one reason he was fired Saturday, a day before the end of yet another disappointing season.
"There were times over the last four years where there were players who haven't been able to adjust to his style," general manager Ed Wade said.Getty ImagesLarry Bowa's volatile tenure in Philadelphia ends, despite leading the Phils to consecutive winning seasons for the first time in 21 years.
The Phillies failed to reach the playoffs for the 11th straight season after coming in as favorites to win the NL East. They were 85-75 when Bowa was dismissed before a game against Florida.
When Wade arrived at the ballpark, he received a call from Bowa, who wanted to discuss his status amid speculation that the manager would be fired at the end of the season.
"He said he's been getting inundated with questions about his job status and wanted to know sooner rather than later," Wade said.
Wade chose sooner, dumping Bowa with a year left on his contract.
"I guess it was coming, but there's never a right time," closer Billy Wagner said. "It was just a pleasure to play for Bo and I enjoyed it. I hate to see it come to this."
Added left fielder Pat Burrell: "It's a tough situation. You spend a lot of time with him. I was here when he got here."
Bench coach Gary Varsho managed the Phillies in their 4-3 loss to Florida on Saturday night. He also will manage Sunday. The fate of the rest of the coaching staff will be determined this week, and the search for a manager will be expedited.
"Ed determined it and made the decision, but it's one I support," team president Dave Montgomery said. "Ed came and told me his decision, but in no way am I going to wash my hands of this decision."
Bowa showered and left without taking questions, though he left a statement thanking the Phillies for the opportunity to manage and wished them luck.
Earlier in the day, Bowa met with the media after reports said he would be fired at the end of the season and that pitching coach Joe Kerrigan would resign.
"I'm not talking about it," Bowa said then. "You guys have all speculated. You all have your unidentified sources. You probably know more than I do, which is pretty good."
Asked about his future, Kerrigan said, "I won't have anything to say until after the season."
Bowa led the Phillies to consecutive winning seasons for the first time in 21 years, but it wasn't enough.
A popular figure in Philadelphia, he helped the Phillies win their only World Series championship as a shortstop on the 1980 team. But Bowa wasn't well-liked by his players.
His fiery personality and win-at-all-costs mentality clashed with a few of the laid-back players, who also didn't appreciate some of the manager's facial expressions in the dugout when things went wrong.
Bowa toned his act down during the pennant race last season, but the Phillies collapsed down the stretch, losing six in a row with eight games left to waste a half-game lead over eventual World Series champion Florida in the NL wild-card race.
He didn't have any publicized run-ins with players this season, but management decided to make the much-anticipated change.
Bowa did have a shouting match with a beat writer before the game.
The Phillies went 19-8 in September, but it was too late to make a big move in the standings.
The high-strung Bowa, who has had confrontations with several players during his four seasons -- most notably ex-Phillies Scott Rolen and Tyler Houston -- has been much more subdued in recent months.
"I absolutely think Larry tried hard to change and he did change," Wade said.
Perhaps not enough.
Wade declined to give Bowa an endorsement in late August, and Bowa said he learned to live with speculation about his job status before calling Philadelphia "the only city in baseball that the manager gets fired for three or four-game losing streaks."
The Phillies were expected to contend for a title this season with a $93 million payroll and a new All-Star closer, a revamped bullpen and a promising starting rotation.
Injuries and inconsistency, though, spoiled the first season in their new ballpark. Bowa said the season would have been different if three-fifths of the starting rotation and key relievers had not missed chunks of the season with injuries.
"Take a look at what we did. We did a good job with what we had," Bowa said. "Do I want to win the division? Yup. But when you have a hand that's dealt that way, you do the best you can."
Overall, pitchers Kevin Millwood, Randy Wolf and Vicente Padilla -- three former All-Stars -- missed about 35 starts. Ryan Madson was sidelined more than a month and Billy Wagner was out almost 11 weeks, spanning two stints on the disabled list.
Wade -- who refused to use the injuries as an excuse -- didn't make any significant trades during the season, signing journeyman starter Paul Abbott and acquiring starter Cory Lidle and relievers Todd Jones and Felix Rodriguez. The four pitched poorly in key games when the Phillies were still in the race.
Bowa succeeded Terry Francona as manager before the 2001 season. Bowa was 337-308 with the Phillies. He had an 81-127 record in 1½ seasons with San Diego in 1987-88.
Bowa was the NL manager of the year in his first season in Philadelphia, leading the Phillies to 86 wins and a second-place finish, just two games behind Atlanta.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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