Tag Archives: Joe Torre

NL East Division comparison: Managers

Over a two-week period at the end of January, I presented a series of pieces evaluating and ranking each of the team’s in the National League East Division on a position-by-position basis.

Those rankings can be found here:

First base, second base, shortstop, third base, catcher, left field, center field, right field, bench/reserves, starting pitching, bullpen.

Those players will have the most to say about how each team fares on the field, and thus in the standings, during the coming season. But the men who write out the lineup cards and make the decisions about who is playing and pitching at any given time will have a big say as well.

If you go back and take a look at my evaluations on each of the positions and incorporate these managerial rankings, you will get a good idea of where each of the teams in the division stand as we prepare for the start of spring training.

Phillies pitchers and catchers are due to report on Tuesday of next week with their first formal workouts coming on Wednesday. The full squad will be in camp by the following week.

The first Grapefruit League game will take place on February 22 when the Phillies visit the Detroit Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, Florida. The first home game in Clearwater on the 2020 schedule will come the following afternoon when the Phillies host the Pittsburgh Pirates.

NL EAST – 2020 MANAGER RANKINGS

1) Philadelphia Phillies: Joe Girardi

Girardi will be in his first season with the Phillies in the 2020 season. However, he has more actual managerial experience, more of a winning record, and arguably has been under more of a big-league microscope than any skipper in the division. Girardi got his first managerial experience in the NL East when he guided the then-Florida Marlins to a 78-84 mark back in 2006. Though the Fish had a losing record, they also had the lowest payroll in all of baseball. Girardi kept a Marlins team with largely inferior talent in the playoff race until the final weeks. For that performance he was named as the NL Manager of the Year but a dispute with ownership got Girardi fired after that one season. Less than two years later he was hired to take over the highest-profile team in Major League Baseball when he was named as the manager of the New York Yankees to replace Joe Torre. Under Girardi the Yankees would win the 2009 World Series, defeating the Phillies in six games. Over ten seasons in the Bronx, Girardi would guide the Yankees to a 910-710 record and three AL East Division crowns. However, they were never able to again reach the World Series after that 2009 season and did not capture a division title after 2012. When the Yankees were edged out in seven games by what we now know were a cheating Astros team in the 2017 ALCS, Girardi’s contract was not renewed by New York. Girardi will be 55 years of age for the entirety of the 2020 season.

2) Atlanta Braves: Brian Snitker

At age 64, Snitker is the oldest manager in the division. He took over a young Atlanta club going through a rebuilding program similar to the Phillies during the 2016 season. He guided the club to a somewhat surprising first-place finish by 2018, and they repeated as division champions a year ago. However, the Braves have failed to advance in the postseason, losing to Los Angeles in an NLDS in 2018 and Saint Louis a year ago. In last year’s NLDS they led the Cardinals two games to one and held a 4-3 lead into the bottom of the 8th inning in Game Four only to see Saint Louis rally to tie. The Cards then walked it off in the bottom of the 10th, and put the Braves out with a 13-1 romp in the decisive Game Five.

3) Washington Nationals: Dave Martinez

The 55-year-old Martinez is 175-149 over two seasons with the Nationals, his first two seasons as a big-league manager. Of course, his team won the World Series a year ago, and he deserves a ton of credit for keeping them together after a horrendous start. We need to remember that his first team in 2018 went just 82-80 and the club was sitting at 19-31 on May 23 of last season. That gave Martinez an overall 101-111 mark over his first season-plus. From that point onward, the Nationals took off and went an unreal 74-38 (.661) and then moved dramatically through the postseason. The Nats rallied in the bottom of the 8th inning for a 4-3 victory over Milwaukee in the NL Wildcard Game. Then they rallied from down 2-1 in the NLDS to defeat the Los Angeles Dodgers, coming from a 3-0 deficit with another 8th inning rally in the decisive Game Five, which they finally won in 10 innings. And with what we now know regarding the Houston Astros cheating scandal, you have to give Martinez and the Nationals a lot of credit in edging out Houston by 4-3 in the World Series. Again they came from behind, winning the final two games after being down 3-2.

4) Miami Marlins: Don Mattingly

Mattingly was a six-time AL All-Star, nine-time Gold Glove Award winner, three-time Silver Slugger, and the 1985 AL MVP over a 14-year big-league career with the New York Yankees, one that could one day see him enshrined in the Hall of Fame. He is 276-370 over four full seasons from 2016-19 as the skipper in Miami. Prior to that he fashioned a 446-363 mark over five seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers. That gives him an overall 722-733 record in nine seasons, making him the manager with the longest continuous streak of managerial experience. Of course, he had a far better cast of players to work with in LA, finishing in first place each of his final three seasons on the west coast. But each of those clubs failed to advance to the World Series, and Mattingly finally paid with his job for that failure to get to the Fall Classic. He landed on his feet almost immediately in South Florida but has been forced to deal with a change in ownership accompanied by a complete rebuilding program. It would appear that it is going to take at least another couple of years for the Fish to raise their on-field talent level to compete in the division. Whether Mattingly can survive through that period and still be around once they are good enough to win remains to be seen. He turns 59 in late April.

5) New York Mets: Luis Rojas

This will be the first season for Rojas as a big-league manager. He brings the experience of having guided a number of the younger Mets players while a minor league skipper. Rojas has been a coach and manager in the Mets minor league system since 2007, rising through each level of the club’s system. He was the 2013 South Atlantic League Manager of the Year after guiding Savannah to a championship, and later led the High-A St. Lucie club to a first place finish. Rojas gained further managerial experience in the Dominican pro leagues, leading Leones del Escogido to a championship. He managed Double-A Binghamton in 2017-18, then served as the Mets minor league quality control coach in 2019. Just over two weeks ago, Rojas got the Mets job when Carlos Beltran was caught up in the Astros’s sign-stealing scandal. At 38 he will be the youngest manager in the division by far as well as the least experienced.

 

MORE RECENT PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES CONTENT:

Joe Girardi: Right man at right time for Philadelphia Phillies

Girardi receives a three-year contract to become the new Philadelphia Phillies manager.

 

The Philadelphia Phillies have named Joe Girardi as the 55th manager in franchise history. Girardi succeeds Gabe Kapler, who was fired last week after guiding the club to a 161-163 record over two seasons.

Girardi turned 55 years of age just 10 days ago. This will be his third managerial job in Major League Baseball. He was the skipper with the then-Florida Marlins in 2004, and then with the New York Yankees for a decade from 2008-17.

It is the Bronx Bombers with whom Girardi has been intimately related and is most associated by baseball fans. The Yankees went 910-710 under his guidance, reaching the postseason a half-dozen times while winning three American League East crowns and the 2009 World Series.

Of course, Philly fans will remember that it was Girardi calling the shots in the Yankees dugout when they dethroned the Phillies in that 2009 Fall Classic, knocking the defending champs out in six games.

As quoted by Todd Zolecki of MLB.com, Girardi is excited for the opportunity to join the organization:

I’m excited for this next chapter of my career. The Phillies have a strong commitment to winning from the owners to the front office to the players to the fans. It’s something that I’ve seen up close for the last 30 years of my baseball career. I played against the great Phillies players of the early ’90s — from Dutch Daulton to John Kruk to Dave Hollins — and I managed against their teams during the incredible run they had from 2008 to 2011. To have my name now associated with this great franchise is something that I couldn’t be happier about.

Girardi is a native of Peoria, Illinois. He became the 5th round choice of the Chicago Cubs back in the 1986 MLB Draft out of Northwestern University. That selection was made by Phillies Wall of Famer Dallas Green, who was the Cubs’ general manager at the time.

A strong defensive catcher, Girardi made over $21 million in a lengthy career in Major League Baseball with four organizations over 15 seasons: Cubs (7), Yankees (4), Colorado Rockies (3), Saint Louis Cardinals (1).

Girardi was a member of the 1989 Cubs team that lost the NLCS to the San Francisco Giants and a 1995 Rockies team that lost in the NLDS to the Braves. He then won three World Series with the Yankees dynasty of the late 1990’s.

Girardi was the man behind the plate for both Dwight Gooden‘s 1996 no-hitter and David Cone‘s 1999 Perfect Game with the Yankees.

The Yankees dropped the first two games of the 1996 World Series to the then-defending champion Atlanta Braves. But then New York rallied back to capture three straight tough games, taking a 3-2 lead in the series.

In a scoreless Game 6,  Girardi ripped a one-out RBI triple off Hall of Famer Greg Maddux, scoring Paul O’Neill to put the Yankees ahead. They would go on to win 3-2, capturing the first of three World Series titles over a four-year period.

After the last of those world championships in the Bronx in 1999, Girardi signed to return to the Cubs as a free agent and became a National League All-Star in the 2000 season. He wrapped up his playing career with a 13-game stint with the Cardinals in 2003.

After retiring, Girardi became a commentator with the YES Network in New York in 2004. He was then hired as Joe Torre‘s bench coach with the Yankees for the 2005 season.

In 2006, Girardi was hired by the Florida Marlins to become the manager of a team that had a winning record in each of the three seasons prior to his arrival, and had defeated the Yankees in the 2003 World Series.

However, the team he inherited was mostly young and inexperienced, with the lowest payroll in Major League Baseball. Despite that, he kept the club in playoff contention until a poor 5-13 finish. Despite winning the NL Manager of the Year Award, he was fired after feuding with controversial owner Jeffrey Loria.

After another one-year stint back with the YES Network in 2007, Girardi was hired to manage the Yankees, succeeding Torre. That kicked off his successful decade in the Bronx.

In his final season with the Yankees, Girardi guided the club all the way to an ultimate Game 7 in the American League Championship Series against the Houston Astros. But the Yanks were shut out on three hits by Charlie Morton, falling a game short of a return to the World Series.

After losing in that ALCS, Girardi’s contract was up. The Yankees had not reached the World Series since 2009, and ownership decided to go in a different direction, hiring Aaron Boone for their job.

Girardi has worked over the last year as a baseball analyst on television, and has been linked to a number of possible managerial openings. He interviewed this off-season for the open jobs with the Cubs and Mets in addition to the Phillies.

Yankees GM Brian Cashman was quoted on the hiring at ESPN: “He’s going to represent their franchise well. He’s been a winner his entire career, so I expect nothing but the same to continue there in Philadelphia. I wish him luck. I’d rather it not be in the American League East. I guess that’s the biggest compliment I could give.

It was well known that the Phillies, led by principle owner John Middleton, were after someone with substantial big-league experience for their job after going the novice rout with Kapler. The other two candidates interviewed were Dusty Baker and Buck Showalter, each of whom has at least 20 years of managerial experience.

Middleton was known to be heavily in Girardi’s corner. As with the landing of superstar outfielder Bryce Harper last off-season, it would not be difficult at all to imagine that it was the owner who put on a final full-court press to bring Girardi to Philly.

While Girardi is open to modern analytics and adept at using them, he is not married to numbers. He will be far more willing than the inexperienced Kapler to trust his instincts and what he sees happening in the locker room and on the field in making decisions.

As Scott Lauber of The Philadelphia Inquirer pointed out “...it will help Girardi to have bench coach Rob Thomson, with whom he worked closely for years in New York. Thomson has relationships with the players and can serve as a conduit to Girardi.”

Girardi is married, and he and his wife Kim have three children. They live in the hamlet of Purchase, New York which is just outside of New York City.

After falling apart down the stretch in each of the last two seasons under Kapler, and with a streak of eight consecutive years out of the playoffs, the Phillies now have a manager who looks as if he could be around awhile. He appears to be a perfect fit.

Joe Girardi looks like the right man at the right time for this Philadelphia Phillies ball club as it begins what should be a second consecutive interesting, and expensive, off-season.

 

More on the Philadelphia Phillies and Major League Baseball:

Philography: Larry Bowa

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Bowa has seen it all with the Phillies over the last half-century as a player, coach, manager, and club advisor

 

From his very first moment in front of Phillies scouts as a teenage ballplayer in California right through the current day, Bowa has been a fiery, emotional, heart-on-his sleeve, hard-working, straight-talking, blue-collar player and coach, the type that Philly fans have always embraced.

His father, Paul Bowa, had been a minor leaguer in the Saint Louis Cardinals system during the 1940’s, and a player-manager in that Cards’ system in both 1946 and 1947. Much as his future son, and in contrast to a grandson who would also reach the big leagues, Nick Johnson, Paul was a speedy, slick-fielding infielder.

In the off-season prior to his father’s debut as a  manager, on December 6th, 1945 in Sacramento, California, Larry was born. By the early 1960’s, the scrawny Bowa was trying out for the team at McClatchy High School in Sacramento. He would never make the team in the entirety of his high school days.

It was very disappointing. The reason they gave me was not because I wasn’t good enough but because I was too small,” Bowa told saccityexpress.com early this month.

 “I used to watch little guys play in the big leagues, and I figured it doesn’t matter how small you are. As long as you play the game right, you have a big heart, and you’re willing to sacrifice, I think anything is possible.

At Sacramento City College, Bowa finally broke through, becoming the starter at shortstop. With a slick glove, soft hands, and a strong arm, Bowa was the prototypical great fielding, light hitting middle infielder. He was expected to be selected in the 1965 MLB Amateur Draft process, but was passed over.

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The Philadelphia Phillies had been the one team to show any real interest. The club sent one of their top scouts, Eddie Bockman, to watch Bowa play in a doubleheader.

Bockman got the first taste of what all of Philadelphia would learn in the coming years when Bowa was thrown out of the first game for arguing with the umpire, and then again tossed out before the 2nd game could even begin.

Still, Bockman had seen and heard enough. He convinced the 19-year old to play for a fall league team in the area. Bowa impressed, and was signed by the Phillies as a free agent on October 12th, 1965.

In his first professional season in 1966, Bowa was fantastic with the Phillies’ A-level team at Spartanburg. He hit .312 with 70 runs scored and 24 steals in 453 plate appearances over 97 games, earning a late-season promotion all the way to AAA San Diego.

Too young for a full shot in AAA, Bowa was sent back in the Phillies system the following year. Over the next three seasons, Bowa rose incrementally back through the minors, again reaching AAA in 1969, this time at Eugene. He hit .287 with 80 runs scored and 48 steals across 608 plate appearances. He also continued the tremendous defense at shortstop that was becoming his hallmark.

It was obvious that Bowa was ready defensively for the big leagues by the late 1960’s. With his offensive game advancing, it was time to promote him to Philadelphia.

The Phillies already had a young shortstop named Don Money who had seen his own first full season of action in the big leagues in 1969. Club management made the decision to move Money and his more classic power bat over to 3rd base, opening up shortstop for the better fielder in Bowa.

In 1970, in the franchise’ final season at Connie Mack Stadium, Bowa opened the year as the Philadelphia Phillies starting shortstop. He would hold that job for a dozen seasons.

In his second career game in the Majors, on April 9th at home against the Chicago Cubs, Bowa sliced a one-out single to left field off Ken Holtzman for his first career big league hit.

Then with the Phillies trailing later in that game by a 3-1 score, Bowa came to bat with a man on first base and nobody out in the bottom of the 7th, and delivered a double for his first extra-base hit. One out later, with the club still trailing 3-2, Deron Johnson cranked a 2-run homer, scoring Bowa with his first career run.

Bowa came in third in the National League Rookie of the Year Award voting following a 1970 season in which he hit .250 with 24 steals. He opened eyes with his defensive play and fiery temperament as well.

When the Phillies opened the brand new Veteran’s Memorial Stadium on April 10th, 1971 against the Montreal Expos, Bowa singled to right off Bill Stoneman for the first hit in the history of the ballpark.

Money would homer in the bottom of the 6th, the first home run in the history of The Vet. Then in the bottom of the 7th, Money’s sacrifice fly scored Bowa with an insurance run in a 4-1 victory behind future Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning, the first-ever win for the team at Veteran’s Stadium.

In 1972, Bowa would win the first of two career Gold Glove Awards, a travesty since he was clearly a better defender during the 1970’s than Cincinnati’s Dave Concepcion, who won five Gold Gloves during the decade.

But the Reds shortstop was a far stronger offensive player, something that appeared to regularly be factored by voters in those days. Bowa would win his 2nd Gold Glove in 1978.

Meanwhile, things began to change around him. The Phillies had begun the decade, and Bowa’s big league career, as a big loser. They dropped 88 games in 1970, which would prove to be their best season of his first four.

But in 1972, the Phillies traded for a future Hall of Fame starting pitcher in Steve Carlton. Meanwhile, more of Bowa’s fellow homegrown prospects began to reach and make their mark in a Phillies uniform.

That group included slugging outfielder Greg Luzinski, catcher Bob Boone, and most especially a powerful 3rd baseman by the name of Mike Schmidt, who debuted in late 1972 and then took over as the starter at the Phillies ‘hot corner’ from Money in 1973.

With that core leading the way, the Phillies became contenders from 1975 onwards. Bowa became an NL All-Star for the first time in 1974 for an improving Phillies club that finished 80-82. His appearance in that Mid-Summer Classic would be the first in a run of five out of six All-Star seasons for Bowa.

In 1976, the Phillies won the first of three straight NL East crowns. The team would win a franchise-record 101 games in both 1977 and 1978. Bowa received National League Most Valuable Player votes every year from 1975-78, and finished 3rd in that NL MVP voting for a ’78 season in which he hit .294 with 31 doubles, 24 steals and won that 2nd Gold Glove.

However, Bowa and his teammates kept falling short in the postseason. Underdogs in 1976 to the Reds, the Phillies were stunned as favorites in both 1977 and 1978, losing to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Championship Series each October.

In 1979, despite the addition of living legend Pete Rose as a free agent, the Phillies finished a disappointing 4th in the NL East. At 33 years old, Bowa hit just .241 with 20 steals, the lowest total he had swiped in six years.

When 1980 began, the Phillies veterans were on notice from manager Dallas Green that they either had to produce something big, or the core of the team would be broken up and dealt away.

Produce something big they would, but it wouldn’t be easy. The club fought the tough defending World Series champion Pittsburgh Pirates and a young, emerging Montreal Expos team into the final weeks. They shook off the Bucs in early September, but battled those Expos to the final weekend before finally capturing their 4th NL East crown in five years.

The 1980 National League Championship Series against the Houston Astros is considered by many to be the greatest NLCS in history. The Phils won the first game by 3-1 with a late rally, and the next four games all went to extra innings. The Phillies took the final two games in dramatic style on the road in Houston to bring home the franchise’ first National League Pennant in 3o years.

In those 1976-78 NLCS defeats, Bowa had hit just .209 with 5 runs scored in 11 games. But in the 1980 NLCS victory, Bowa finally rose to the occassion, hitting .316 with a .409 on-base percentage.

In the decisive 5th game, 8-7 comeback victory, it was Bowa’s leadoff single to center field with the club trailing 5-2 that started a 5-run rally against future Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan.

In the World Series against Kansas City, Bowa hit .375 with three runs scored. In the 6th and deciding game at The Vet, he doubled with two outs in the bottom of the 6th, then scored on a base hit by Boone to give the Phillies a 4-0 lead. They would hold on against a late Royals’ rally to win 4-1, clinching the first world championship in the 98-season history of the franchise.

Bowa would have a bounce-back year in 1981, hitting .283 as the Phillies won the first half NL East crown of what turned out to be a strike-shortened, split-season format.

But in the frustrating 3-2 loss to the Montreal Expos in a first-ever NLDS, Bowa hit just .176 with three hits in what would prove to be his final five games in a Phillies uniform as a player.

For the 1982 season, Bowa would be reaching 36 years of age. His bat was clearly slowing, and his defense, while still excellent, was a tad below its former Gold Glove status. Bowa was aging, and the Phillies looked to cash in before it was too late.

On January 27th, 1982 the Phillies sent Bowa and a 22-year old third baseman named Ryne Sandberg to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for 29-year old shortstop Ivan DeJesus.

The 1982 Phillies, with DeJesus at short, fell just short. The club finished three games behind the Saint Louis Cardinals in the NL East race. Meanwhile, the Cubs with Bowa finished 19 games out in 5th place, with Bowa hitting for just a .246 average.

In 1983, the Phillies aging ‘Wheeze Kids’ got hot in September, and again won the NL East crown for a sixth time in eight seasons, counting their half of 1981. The Phils then gained a measure of revenge over the Dodgers for the 1977-78 NLCS defeats, taking down Los Angeles to reach the World Series.

They came up short in that Fall Classic, losing in five games to future Hall of Famers Cal Ripken Jr, Eddie MurrayJim Palmer, and the Baltimore Orioles. However, the Cubs again finished in 5th, 19 games out again, with Bowa hitting for just a .267 average.

At that point, it appeared as if the Phillies had won the January 1982 trade. DeJesus had provided the Phillies with two solid seasons at shortstop heading into 1984, when he would still be just 31 years old. The club had continued to win, and was coming off a National League Pennant, while the Cubs lost big.

Meanwhile, Bowa would be turning 38 years of age for the 1984 season. However, something unexpected was also happening. The throw-in of that apparent 1982 shortstop swap, Sandberg, was emerging as a real player.

In 1982, Sandberg finished 6th in the NL Rookie of the Year voting. The Cubs then switched him from 3rd base to 2nd base, and he won a 1983 Gold Glove. It was only the beginning of what would become a Hall of Fame career.

In 1984, Bowa and the Cubs, with Sandberg leading the charge, won the NL East crown. Meanwhile, the Phillies faded to 4th place, 15 1/2 games out. Sandberg became an NL All-Star for the first time, won another Gold Glove, added a Silver Slugger Award, and capped it all by being named the National League Most Valuable Player. So much for winning the trade.

The Cubs would lose a tough NLCS in a full five games to the San Diego Padres and their own emerging future Hall of Famer, Tony Gwynn. In that series, Bowa hit just .200 with three hits and a single run scored.

As the 1985 season got underway, the 39-year old Bowa was pushed to backup status by 22-year old rookie Shawon Dunston. The Cubs finally released Bowa in mid-August after a little more than three years in the Windy City.

Bowa signed exactly one week later with the New York Mets, and would play in his final 14 big league games in a Mets uniform. Included in that stretch was an 0-3 performance on September 24th against the Phillies in what was his final game as a player in front of Philly fans at Veteran’s Stadium.

On October 6th, 1985, Bowa played the entire game at shortstop for the Mets in what would be his final big league game, a 2-1 loss to the Expos. In the bottom of the 3rd inning, Bowa singled to leadoff against Expos pitcher Dan Schatzeder for what would be his final career hit.

Also appearing in that same game for New York, going 0-4 as the leadoff man, was Bowa’s teammate, a 22-year old rookie center fielder by the name of Lenny Dykstra.

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A free agent following the season, Bowa elected to retire. He finished his Major League Baseball career with 2,191 career hits across 16 big league seasons, with a .260 career average, 987 runs scored, and 318 stolen bases.

At the time of his retirement, Bowa’s defensive excellence was reflected in the all-time Major League Baseball record books. His .980 career fielding percentage was the all-time MLB record until broken decades later by Omar Vizquel. His National League fielding percentage and games played records at shortstop would finally be broken by Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith.

On the Phillies all-time franchise leaders lists, Bowa is currently 4th in Games (1,739), 4th in At-Bats (6,815), 6th in Hits (1,798), 14th in Runs (816), 7th in Triples (81), and 6th in Steals (288).

Bowa was always considered a smart baseball man and a leader, and with those traits and his experience, he did not remain unemployed for very long. The San Diego Padres organization hired him as the manager of their AAA Las Vegas Stars affiliates for the 1986 season. He guided the club to an 80-62 record and the Pacific Coast League championship.

Impressed with his performance, and with a number of his young players coming up to the big leagues, the Padres made the move to hire Bowa as their manager of the big league club on October 28th, 1986.

Bowa would not find success in his first shot as a big league skipper in San Diego. The Padres went just 65-97 in his lone full season of 1987. When the club began 1988 began with a 16-30 record, Bowa was fired.

Again, he was not out of the game for long. In August of that same season, the Phillies hired Bowa to be their 3rd base coach, a role that he would hold for eight years through 1996.

In 1993, as the Phillies won the franchise’ 5th NL Pennant and advanced to the World Series against the Toronto Blue Jays, Bowa and longtime friend and former Phillies teammate John Vukovich became the first two men to reach the Fall Classic with the organization as both players and coaches.

After the 1996 season, Jim Fregosi was let go as the Phillies manager, and Bowa interviewed for the position. Though a fan favorite for the job, the team instead chose to go with one of the game’s leading young minor league managers, Terry Francona.

Bowa left for the Anaheim Angels, taking their 3rd base coach position, which he held for three years. He then moved north to coach 3rd base for the Seattle Mariners in the 2000 season.

With Francona fired following that 2000 season, the Phillies managerial position was again open. This time Bowa got the job, officially hired to manage the team on November 1st, 2000.

Bowa was taking on a huge challenge. The Phillies had won just 65 games in the 1999 season, finishing tied with the Cubs for the worst record in baseball. They had losing records in the previous seven seasons, and in 13 of the previous 14 years.

In Bowa’s first season of 2001, he guided the club to an 86-76 mark, finishing in 2nd place in an NL East battle with the Atlanta Braves by just two games. Bowa was particularly influential in helping introduce the team’s talented new shortstop, Jimmy Rollins, to the world of Major League Baseball.

The Phillies under Bowa appeared to be a rising team, but the 2002 club finished a frustrating 80-82 in what would be their last losing campaign for a decade. In 2003, the Phillies rebounded to win 86 games as the club said goodbye to Veteran’s Stadium, which Bowa had christened with his single 33 years earlier. Then in 2004, in the first season at Citizens Bank Park, the Phils won 85 games.

But despite being in the playoff hunt during three of his four seasons at the helm, the Phillies under Bowa just didn’t seem to be able to get over the hump and actually capture a division crown. He was fired with two games remaining in that 2004 season, finishing with a record of 337-308 as the Phillies skipper.

The following season, Bowa spent the full year out of uniform for the first time since he was five years old. He was not totally out of the game, however. He spent that 2005 season as an analyst on the “Baseball Tonight” TV program with the ESPN network.

I CONSIDER MYSELF A BASEBALL LIFER” ~ BOWA

Longtime friend Joe Torre then hired Bowa to be his 3rd base coach with the New York Yankees for the 2006 and 2007 seasons. When Torre left the Yanks to become skipper of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Bowa followed him as the 3rd base coach in LA, and was coaching 3rd for both of the Dodgers teams that were eliminated in the NLCS by the Phillies in 2008 and 2009.

When Torre retired after the 2010 season, it was back to the TV studios for Bowa. This time he worked with the new MLB Network, where Bowa would serve as an analyst for three seasons.

During those same seasons, Bowa also got reacquainted with the Phillies organization, working as a post-game analyst for some of the club’s local broadcasts with the WPHL station.

When Torre was named as the manager of Team USA for the 2013 World Baseball Classic, Bowa again returned to uniform as his bench coach. That stint led directly to Bowa being named to that same bench coach role with the Phillies in 2014 alongside his former Cubs teammate Sandberg.

Loyalty is one of the traits that has made Bowa most appreciated by men like Torre and Sandberg. When Sandberg came under fire early in the 2015 season for an apparent laid back personality, Bowa came to his defense in an interview with CSNPhilly.com insider Jim Salisbury:

This guy competes. I was with him. I played next to him. When he made a good play, when he hit a home run, his personality was the same. He doesn’t get too up; he doesn’t get too down. He’s very patient and he better be patient with what we’re doing right now and he is. That’s all I’m saying.”

“If people think he has to throw a Gatorade to show he cares … trust me, he cares. He cares as much as any human being that’s putting on that uniform…There might be some guys who want to win as much as him, but nobody more than him.

In the last couple of months, Bowa was a leading contender to become the manager of the Miami Marlins. Despite receiving two interviews, he was passed over for that job in favor of Don Mattingly, and is slated to once again be the bench coach for skipper Pete Mackanin in the 2016 season.

This past season was Bowa’s 50th season in professional baseball, and he has lost none of his passion for the game after that half-century. He turned 70 years of age just last week. Back in spring training in March of 2015, Bowa was interviewed by Philly.com’s Bob Brookover, and spoke about why he keeps on doing it.

I still have a lot of fun doing it,” Bowa said. “You can talk trash. Spring training is probably the hardest time because I’m there at 5:30 in the morning . . . and then once the games start I probably don’t get home until 6:30 or 7 at night. I’m in bed by 9.” He later hinted at when he might actually walk away from the game: “I consider myself a baseball lifer,” Bowa said. “Just like Don Zimmer.

Bowa has indeed been a baseball lifer, and the vast majority of that life has been in a Phillies uniform. His first season came in the team’s last at Connie Mack Stadium. He had the first hit in Veteran’s Stadium history. He was the shortstop for the first Phillies team to win a World Series. Manager of last team at The Vet, and then of the first team at Citizens Bank Park.

In 1991, almost a quarter of a century ago now, Bowa was selected to the Philadelphia Phillies Wall of Fame. Few men have deserved that honor more. Back in 1965 when a Phillies scout was watching that teenage Bowa get thrown out of both games of a doubleheader, no one – no one – could have ever seen any of it coming.

21st Century Dynasty: Why Not Phillies?

The night of October 26th, 2000 was a beautiful, cool but comfortable one in New York City. In the pre-9/11 world of the Big Apple, this would be a far from typical Autumn evening.

The 5th game of the 2000 World Series, the last official Fall Classic of the 20th century, was being held that night at Shea Stadium. What made it all the more special was that it was the first ‘Subway Series’ since 1956.

The visiting New York Yankees took a 3 games to 1 lead into that 5th game over the host New York Mets. The game would feature a matchup between a pair of classic lefties: Andy Pettitte for the Yanks, and Al Leiter for the Mets. The two neighbors battled into the 9th inning tied at 2-2, the Mets looking to stay alive, the Yanks looking to win the series.

With two outs in the top of the 9th, the Yankees pushed across a pair of runs against the always-tough Leiter, taking a 4-2 lead. With two outs in the bottom of the 9th, in a matchup between a pair of likely future Hall of Famers, closer Mariano Rivera got Mets catcher Mike Piazza to fly out to the deepest part of the ballpark as the tying run.

The Yanks mobbed one another around the mound, celebrating the 3rd World Series title in succession for future Hall of Fame manager Joe Torre’s club. There was really no more fitting way to end the century, as this third straight crown made it 26 World Series titles for the Bronx Bombers during the 20th century, 17 more than the next-highest club had won.

During that 20th century, a parade of superstars had succeeded one another across the legendary sod and under the rooftop frieze of old Yankee Stadium. The names are a veritable roster of baseball royalty: Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Yogi, Mickey, Whitey, Reggie, Goose, Thurman, Mariano, Boggs, Donny Baseball, Jeter. Too many more to name them all.

But how did it happen? Why the Yankees? Why so many titles? Sure, it’s New York. But there were, for more than half the century, other good teams right there in the same city. The Yanks didn’t win their first crown until 1923. By that time, the Boston Red Sox franchise already owned 5 World Series titles. The Philadelphia Athletics and New York Giants had 3 each.

So how did the Yankees become the ‘Team of the Century‘, and more importantly for this discussion, why can’t the Philadelphia Phillies become the ‘Team of the Century‘ for this, the 21st? The short answer is, they can. There is no reason that the Phillies, already with a good start, can’t set that as a legitimate goal, and there is no reason for them to not work as hard as possible to attain that goal.

The combination of good business and personnel moves is what drove the Yankees to the top, and then returned them to the top three different times in the 20th century. It first started with a business arrangement among the Yankees, Red Sox, and Chicago White Sox just before the 1920’s began which directly led to the Yanks acquisition of Ruth, by far the greatest player in the game’s first half-century, from Boston in 1920.

Key trade took ‘The Babe’ from Sox hurler to Yanks masher

With The Bambino on board, Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert undertook the next big step, the building and opening of Yankee Stadium in 1923. That first season in their new 58,000 seat, triple-deck palace saw the Yanks finally overcome their cross-river rivals, the New York Giants, to win their first World Series title.

These early “Murderer’s Row” Yankee teams featured not only Ruth in rightfield, but also 5 other future Hall of Famers in 1st baseman Lou Gehrig, 2nd baseman Tony Lazzeri, centerfielder Earle Combs, pitchers Waite Hoyt and Herb Pennock, and a parade of strong supporting characters. These players would make up the core of the first Yankee dynasty.

The dynasty would build again over the next two generations of stars led respectively by Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle. Over the 40 seasons between 1923 and 1962, the Yankees would win half of the World Series crowns contested. Ten of those would be won after World War II ended, in the 15 year stretch between 1947-1962 dominated by Joe D and The Mick.

After a deep lull in the post-Mantle years, the Yankees came back strong under the ownership of George Steinbrenner in the mid-1970’s. He took advantage of the new free agency era to add stars like Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter, and Goose Gossage to homegrown stars such as Thurman Munson and Ron Guidry, and the Yankees tacked on 2 more World Series crowns in 1977 and 1978.

After another slip in the mid-late 1980’s, the Yanks again emerged with a new dynasty at the end of the 1990’s led by players like Bernie Williams, Paul O’Neill, and the homegrown “Core Four” of Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera. They would close out the century with 4 World Series wins in the final 5 years, raising the total to 26 for the franchise.

The two key factors in all of this winning by the 20th century New York Yankees were the ability and willingness of dedicated and competitive ownership to spend money, and the ability to evaluate and cultivate championship-caliber talent. In the first decade of the 21st century, the Philadelphia Phillies exhibited both of these traits masterfully.

The club ownership undertook a pivotal move from crumbling, artificial turf, multi-purpose Veteran’s Stadium to a new baseball-only, grass field, glistening open-air ballpark. Citizens Bank Park opened in 2004, and it was and is a beautiful, downright fun place to enjoy a baseball game.

In anticipation of their new home, the team began to spend money on talent acquisition, bringing in stars such as slugger Jim Thome and closer Billy Wagner. They hit it big in developing their own talent as well, with a homegrown core of shortstop Jimmy Rollins, leftfielder Pat Burrell, 2nd baseman Chase Utley, 1st baseman Ryan Howard, catcher Carlos Ruiz, and pitchers Cole Hamels, Ryan Madson, and Brett Myers among others.

First basemen Jim Thome (L), Ryan Howard (R) powered Phils in 00’s

The Phillies would begin the century by recording a winning record in all but one season of the entire first decade. They would win 5 straight National League East Division crowns from 2007-2011. And to cap it all off, they won the 2008 World Series, and returned for a 2nd straight appearance in the Fall Classic in 2009. In that ’09 series, they were kept from back-to-back crowns by none other than those Yankees themselves, who finally earned their own first title of the 21st century.

Both the Saint Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox have each won a pair of World Series in the years between 2001-2013, but the Phillies have been unable to follow-up that 2008 crown with another. Despite the 5 straight division crowns, their post-season finishes proved to be steadily declining disappointments.

That loss in the World Series in 2009 was followed by a loss in the 2010 National League Championship Series to the Giants. This was followed by a loss in the 2011 NL Division Series to the Saint Louis Cardinals, after having set a franchise record with a 102-win regular season. All of the clubs they lost to: the Yankees, Giants, and Cardinals, would end up winning the World Series in those years.

Management tried to keep contending by supplementing the homegrown core of Hamels, Howard, Utley, Rollins, and Ruiz by bringing in a succession of strong veterans. Pitchers Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, Roy Halladay, and Jonathan Papelbon. Hitters like Raul Ibanez and Hunter Pence. But none of it ultimately worked to win another title.

Phils’ 2011 rotation “Four Aces”: Halladay, Oswalt, Lee, Hamels

Over the last 3 seasons, that homegrown core has grown older, has at times been injured, and has become less effective. That is only natural, and it is something that frankly should have been anticipated. Nothing lasts forever, least of all athletic ability to compete at the very highest professional levels as one ages.

As of today, the Philadelphia Phillies will spend a 3rd consecutive season out of the MLB playoffs. It will be the first time since the late-90’s that the team has suffered through 3 consecutive non-winning seasons. The minor league system is ranked as no better than middle-of-the-pack by most outside evaluators, near that bottom by many.

They major league club appears tied to a number of contractual and sentimental situations that will likely hamstring some necessary moves for at least another year or two. In short, the Phillies have fallen in their efforts to become the ‘Team of the Century‘ – but they can get up. There are still key pieces in place to make this happen.

First, they have the base of a record from which to begin such a claim. Most other MLB teams do not have such an early 21st century history from which to build their own claim to the “century” mantle yet.

Second, they have the ballpark and the fans. They have lit a spark in a generation of fans with that first decade of excellence in Citizens Bank Park. But the crowds have steadily dwindled as the competitiveness of the on-field product has lessened, drawn back only by occassional giveaways and gimmicks.

Third, the team has a new, lucrative financial TV arrangement in place with Comcast. This will bring in a steady stream of dollars to the coffers for the forseeable future, something that the team must use to it’s advantage in putting a consistent winner on the field.

Winning will result in more people in the stands, and even more money in the coffers. It is an inevitable cycle in a sports-crazed town that wants to be in love with it’s ball team during the warm weather summer months.

The talent has taken a hit, and the ability of current management to right the ship quickly is perhaps the biggest question mark right now. General Manager Ruben Amaro inherited a winning situation built mostly by his two immediate predecessors: Ed Wade and Hall of Famer Pat Gillick. Amaro has tried to recapture or extand that magic, both at the major and minor league levels, but has thus far failed.

GM Ruben Amaro now tasked with finding right mix for next Phillies title

The burden right now is squarely on Amaro’s shoulders to make the right decisions to make the quick turnaround happen. He has not shown that ability as of yet. If he doesn’t soon, it should be his head that rolls as a result. If he doesn’t, and a change is not made, then it will be squarely on ownership for not making the correct decision on behalf of the team.

The Phillies have the money. They have shown in the last 5-6 years following the 2008 World Series victory that they have a willingness to spend it. Now they must have the other piece: proper talent evaluation and acquisition. With the right decisions made in the next year or two in that regard, the team could quickly return to winning, and a 2nd dynasty could rise to push forward this ‘Team of the Century‘ goal as the 21st century marches onward.

Captain Clutch Ending an Era

For any true baseball fan, yesterday’s public announcement that New York Yankees shortstop and team captain Derek Jeter was retiring as a professional player is truly the end of an era.

For myself specifically, it is yet another reminder that I am getting older too. And it also marks a fantasy baseball loss to me, one that I will comment on more in a moment. But first let’s take a look at Jeter’s real world playing career, and a glance into his highly publicized personal life.

Derek Jeter broke into the big leagues on May 29th, 1995. To put this into a personal context, I was just 33 years old, and it was more than four months before my wife and I were married – we just celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary this past fall. He was only 19 years old then. A day later he recorded his first two career hits for the Yankees. The team was the most storied franchise in baseball history, but it had fallen on hard times.

It may be hard for some to remember, but at the time of Jeter’s arrival in a Yankees uniform the franchise had not won an AL East title or American League pennant in 15 years, and at that point it was 18 years since their last World Series crown. From 1987-92, the Yanks finished no higher than 4th place in their division, the last four of those with losing records.

TheYanks began to emerge from those dark days with a 2nd place finish in the 1993 season, and in 1994 were solid contenders when the devastating lockout hit all of Major League Baseball, ending the season prematurely. Having re-emerged as a contender, the usually big spending Yankees were uncharacteristically infused for the 1995 season with talented, homegrown talent in the form of what has become famously known as the “Core Four” players.

That core was made up of Jeter, catcher Jorge Posada, starting pitcher Andy Pettitte, and relief pitcher Mariano Rivera. The four had all played together throughout their minor league careers, and all broke into the big leagues together in that 1995 season. Together they would lift the Yankees franchise back to the top of the game, starring together on baseball’s biggest stage for the next 17 seasons.

In that very first season together, Jeter helped lead the Yankees back to the playoffs, with a 2nd place finish in the AL East and a Wildcard playoff berth. In those playoffs, they would lose in dramatic fashion to the Seattle Mariners, a team featuring baseball’s top two young superstars in Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez, the latter of whom would ultimately become a major part of Jeter’s career.

The following 1996 season was Jeter’s first full MLB season. Expected to be a strong fielding shortstop who tossed in a few hits now and then, he quickly showed that he was so much more. He hit .314, knocked in 78 runs, scored 104 runs, and was named the American League Rookie of the Year. Not only that, but he led the Yankees to the AL East title, AL pennant, and their first World Series crown in 28 years.

After finishing in 2nd place in 1997 and losing a heart-breaking 3-2 playoff series to the Cleveland Indians, Jeter and the Yankees would go on an unprecedented modern day roll. They would win 9 straight AL East titles from 1998-2006, and 3 straight World Series from 1998-2000. They reached the Series again following the attacks of 9/11 in 2001, losing one of the greatest World Series in history to the Arizona Diamondbacks in 7 games.

Thanks to a game-winning walkoff homerun in Game #4 of that 2001 World Series, Jeter earned one of his two nicknames as “Mr. November“, based on the fact that the game, which began on Halloween night, had moved past midnight, and thus he hit the dramatic homerun in the first-ever MLB game being formally played in the month of November. It was also an homage to the “Mr. October” nickname of former Yankees legend Reggie Jackson.

During the playoffs earlier in that 2001 post-season, Jeter perfectly highlighted his other “Captain Clutch” nickname, bestowed upon him because of the numerous clutch hits and defensive plays which he had a penchant for delivering. Jeter helped beat the upstart Oakland A’s with a heads-up defensive masterpiece that has become known in baseball lore simply as “The Flip“, a play that you have to see and would need a genuine understanding of the game to fully appreciate.

In 2003, the Yankees returned to the World Series as favorites, but were stunned by a young, talented Florida Marlins team. But they continued to win throughout the first decade of the new century as Jeter was joined the following season of 2004 by Rodriguez, one of baseball’s top shortstops himself who moved over to 3rd base in deference to the presence of the Yankee captain.

Jeter and ARod would play next to each other on the left side of the Yankees infield for much of the 10 seasons between 2004-2013, and the two became close, personal friends as well. Jeter was almost exactly one year older, and so the pair were a couple of highly paid, highly publicized superstars playing together in the Big Apple during the entirety of their 30’s.

The two would reach the pinnacle of their playing careers together in 2009 when they would lead the Yankees past the defending World Champion Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series. That 2009 season was one of six in which the pair would lead the Yankees to a 1st place finish in the AL East. It all began to fall apart with the growing revelations of Rodriguez’ use of PED’s, but that is a story for another day.

From 1996-2012, Derek Jeter has not only been a constant as the starting shortstop on the field for the New York Yankees, he has been a leader as well, serving as the team captain since the 2003 season. During that period, the team has won a dozen AL East titles, 7 American League pennants, and 5 World Series championships.

During the bulk of that period, Jeter has mostly been the picture of reliable health. He appeared in at least 148 of the Yankees 162 regular season games during 15 of the 17 seasons between 1996-2012. But he didn’t just “appear”, he excelled. Jeter has proven over time that he is in the conversation for the title of “Best Shortstop of All-Time” in Major League Baseball.

In addition to his Rookie of the Year Award, Derek Jeter has been an All-Star 13x, has finished in the top 10 of MVP voting 7x, and has 5 Gold Gloves. He has a career .312 batting average and .381 on-base percentage over almost 12,000 plate appearances. Never known as a true power hitter or speed demon, he nonetheless has accumulated 256 homeruns and 348 steals, showing that he can beat you with his bat and his legs as well as his glove.

In 2000, Jeter was the Most Valuable Player of the MLB All-Star Game and was that year’s World Series Most Valuable Player. He has won 5 Hank Aaron Awards and 2 Silver Sluggers as the best hitting shortstop, and a Roberto Clemente Award for his contributions off the field to the community.

For the franchise of legends such as Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, Jackson and more, Derek Jeter has become the all-time leader in hits, games played, stolen bases, and at-bats while playing in an era of specialty pitching, with much longer travel requirements and closer public scrutiny on the massive public stage that is New York in the age of mass media.

On that public stage, Jeter’s personal life has been magnified. A young, single, attractive star during his 20’s in the 1990’s and his 30’s in the 2000’s, Jeter has been linked romantically with a number of high profile young ladies. It was just reported that he recently broke up with magazine covergirl and Sports Illustrated model Hannah Davis. In 1997 and 1998 he dated superstar singer Mariah Carey, something she has publicly acknowledged.

At various times he had relationships with Miss Universe 2000 and Bollywood star Laura Dutta, Latino singer Joy Enriquez, TV actress Jordana Brewster, TV host (and now Mrs. Nick Lachey) Vanessa Minnillo, Victoria’s Secret model Adriana Lima, fitness model Vida Guerra, and Hollywood actresses Jessica Biel, Jessica Alba, and Minka Kelly. He has appeared on “Seinfeld“, as host of “Saturday Night Live“, and in a couple of motion picture bit parts.

My link with him in the fantasy baseball world began when he was a young player. In the summer of 1998 during his 3rd full season, I became involved with the beginning of a “keeper-style” league that is now about to begin it’s 17th season. At that time, 10 of us drafted from among every player in baseball, and I selected Jeter with my 2nd round choice, the 13th overall pick in that draft. He would be my starting shortstop for the next 5 seasons, leading my Philadelphia Athletics team to it’s first title in 2002.

After dealing Jeter away, I reaquired him for the 2004 season, and then again as a throw-in in a trade prior to last season. He has been a big part of the success of my own fantasy baseball history, and now for 2014 will appropriately go out in our Whitey Fantasy Baseball League with the franchise that for which he began.

The 2014 season will hopefully prove to be a much more fitting farewell for this great player than was his devastating 2013 season. During the 2012 playoffs, Jeter suffered a severe ankle injury. He was able to appear in only parts of 17 games last year as the injury proved much more difficult to heal than was anticipated.

He also watched as his old buddy ARod went through the PED revelations and his own injury troubles, and as the other members of that “Core Four” all made the decision to retire themselves. Posada, perhaps Jeter’s best friend and for whom Jeter stood as Best Man, retired after the 2011 season. Both Pettitte and Rivera retired following last season, Mariano memorably crying on the Yankee Stadium mound when Jeter and Pettitte took him out of his final game.

In addition to these losses and challenges, there have been a number of others. Their longtime manager, Joe Torre, left the Yankees following the 2007 season. Longtime owner George Steinbrenner died during the summer of 2010, as did iconic Yankee Stadium announcer Bob Sheppard. His recorded voice still announces each Jeter at-bat. Derek’s final such at-bat at the stadium will be the final time Sheppard’s voice is heard there after more than a half century.

Derek Jeter is a New York Yankees icon, and a no-doubt first ballot Hall of Famer when he is eligible. We should see his enshrinement at a ceremony in the summer of 2020. He will move into the next phase of his life, possibly in some other role within the game as a broadcaster or coach. Almost certainly we will see him settle down and establish a family of his own.

All reports at this early stage of preparations for the coming 2014 season are positive as far as his health. Let’s hope that he gets to enjoy one last hurrah on the big stage of the big leagues in the Big Apple. If he does, we will all get to enjoy one last year with the man who I personally consider the greatest shortstop to ever play the game, one of the greatest that I’ve ever seen. It’s the end of an era, and let’s all hope it ends as gloriously as Derek Jeter’s legend deserves.