When Larry Bowa is asked how to describe this 2022 Phillies team, he responds with one word: inconsistent. Bowa has spent more seasons in a Phillies uniform than anyone on earth. He’s witnessed 29 years of ups and downs, success and failure, 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 place all of the blame for the Phillies’ lackluster first 52 games on former manager Joe Girardi alone, and he does think that interim manager Rob Thomson will help right the ship. But beyond that, Bowa feels the players could use an honest self-assessment at this point in this season.
“Joe can carry conversations with anyone,” Bowa said. “I like Joe. I like Joe a lot. But Rob is probably a little more even-keeled. I think this team needs to know — this is just me speaking now — I think guys have got to look in the mirror and say, ‘You know what, I’ve got 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 got to have some accountability.
“You can say, ‘It’s early, we’re not worried about it,’ but that’s not going to get it done. You need to be accountable. I think we have players that will accept that role. I’ve listened to some interviews, and guys aren’t happy with where they’re at. There’s no question about that. I don’t think anybody’s happy. I’m very disappointed. I still think this is a playoff team. Now, for me to sit here and say that we’re going to catch the Mets — that’s a big task. The playoffs? I don’t think that’s that big of a task.
“Even though we lost a big player in [Jean] Segura, that’s not an excuse. You’ve got to go out and play, and you’ve got to play consistently. And if we have the mindset that, hey, let’s take every series — don’t even look at the standings. Let’s start winning tonight. Take series after series. And you’re not going to win every one, but if you get in that mindset, some good things can happen. You can make up some ground on a lot of teams.”
Multiple players, including Bryce Harper and Nick Castellanos, showed that accountability Friday in the wake of Girardi’s firing. Bowa takes more issue with the notion that it’s still early in the season, without specifying which players he had heard this from.
“I don’t think they’ve lacked accountability, but I keep hearing that it’s early,” Bowa said. “Maybe in games played, it’s early, but if you look at the calendar, it’s not early. It’s not early at all. When you’re in Philadelphia, and I’ve been here a long time, I think the big thing you have to do when you do an interview and you’ve not had a good game is to not make excuses. Fans do not want to hear that.
“What [Alec] Bohm did, to me, was great. He came out and said, ‘You know what, that’s the wrong thing. You know what? We’re not playing good.’ Try not to sugar coat it here. Because the fans don’t want to hear that. If you’re honest with these fans and you tell them you know what we stunk tonight, they will appreciate that.
“This is a blue-collar city, and that’s why it’s important when we draft, you have to take into consideration that mentality. These fans, they’re great fans. Can it be hard? No question. But if you give them effort every night and you don’t lie to them and you say, ‘You know what, I’ve got to make that play,’ they’re going to respect you more. I think we need to do more of that. We need to say, ‘We’re not playing well and we need to pick it up.’ I think if we do that, we’ll be headed in the right direction.”
Bowa overlapped with Thomson while the two men were coaching for the New York Yankees from 2006-07. He thinks Thomson’s breadth of experience will serve him well this season.
“He’s been around for a while,” Bowa said. “He’s great with the guys. It’s going to be a different role, but he’s a good communicator. It’ll be an easy transition for the players. I think he likes to have a role for relief pitchers — this is just me picking his brain a little bit — I just feel that where he’s been in New York with all of those World Series teams, working with Joe Torre, I think along the way he’s picked up pointers from different managers and different coaches. And I think he’s going to put them into his game plan a little bit, but I think he’s going to have the players play a little relaxed and see what happens.
“But the players have got 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 hitters, there’s no question about that, and we have good hitters. But we’re just going to have to play more consistent baseball.”
When Bowa says “consistent baseball,” he mostly is focused on two areas: the offense and the bullpen.
“I like our starting pitching,” he said. “Our bullpen — the arms are down there. There are good arms. I’ve seen them shut the door one night, and then the next night they run into a lot of trouble. If we can get more consistency from the hitters and the bullpen, I think we can make up some ground. We can’t worry about where we are in the standings. We’ve just got to try to win series. Every series win two out of three, or, if you’re lucky enough, or good enough, sweep them. But if you look at this big picture, you’re going to say, ‘Oh man, we’ve 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’s still a lot of games left.”
Bowa also feels it is important to minimize the little mistakes, and feels the mistakes have been more a reflection of the players than Girardi.
“This is a hard game to play,” he said. “But you’ve got to minimize the mental mistakes. Not covering 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 these little things that add up to big problems. It’s just a matter of players concentrating more, being more consistent. There is no doubt in my mind, this is a talented team. Are we flawed? Yes. We probably don’t have great range, but these guys should make routine plays. I’ve seen them make routine plays.
“I don’t think there’s players that say, ‘Oh I’m glad so and so is out.’ I think players respected Joe. When I played and a manager got fired, I took it personally. I said ‘We let this guy down.’ And I think we’ve got to start doing that as a team. We’ve got to post up here. John Middleton has spent a lot of money to take this team to another level, and it’s up to us. And I think they have the players to do this, they really do. They have to do it as a team, not as individuals. And once they do that I think we can get things going, and start heading in an upward trend.”