In her “Confessions of a She-Fan” blog (see link to the right), Jane Heller, author of the fine book of the same title, has a suggestion for the Red Sox’ next manager.
They need someone who’ll not only be able to handle the fishbowl, pressure-cooker atmosphere and demanding media but also keep the players in check – mentoring the rookies and showing a firm hand with the veterans – and providing a spark on the field.
Yes, Larry Bowa fits that bill. I don’t know what sort of contract he has with the Dodgers, but who wouldn’t want to leave that sinking ship?
Larry Bowa? In the Boston pressure-cooker? Oh, Jane, Jane, Jane...
Take it from someone who lives about halfway between New York and Philadelphia, and knows the Phillies and their fans pretty well: He wasn't exactly a model of emotional stability while managing in Philly, and that was a city that knew him and loved him from his playing days. (In fact, that heart-on-sleeve, sometimes liver-on-sleeve, act was one of the things they loved about him at Veterans Stadium.)
They didn't start contending and then winning again until he was fired in favor of Charlie Manuel. The Boston media and the Boston fans would tag-team Bowa, and, as feisty as he is, he'd say something he'd regret. This would be nitroglycerin, and, rather than restarting the heart, it would blow things up.
I don't know who the right manager for the Red Sox is, but it's not Bowa. It should be someone more even-tempered. Like Torre, but not Torre.
Maybe Don Mattingly. He's even-tempered. And the Curse of Donnie Baseball would ensure that the Sox would never win the Pennant as long as he was in uniform!
I posted words to that effect on her page, and she responded, with some sense:
Yes, Uncle Mike, Bowa is volatile. But being even-tempered didn’t exactly work for Francona with the present team and Mattingly would get chewed up and spit out in Boston.
I remember how Bowa whipped Cano into shape as well as helped A-Rod. Sometimes I think that managers succeed or fail because of timing as well as expertise. Torre failed elsewhere but brought championships to the Bronx. You never know.
True, Joaquin Andujar said baseball can be summed up in one word: "Youneverknow."
But I still think Bowa would be all wrong for that situation -- even though I just remembered that the last managing job (the only one) Francona had before the Red Sox was... the Phillies, where he was replaced by Bowa.
When the Mets finally did the right thing and canned GM Omar Minaya and manager Jerry Manuel, I suggested they lure Ron Gardenhire away from the Minnesota Twins.
Like a lot of good managers, Gardenhire was a mediocre player, including for the Mets. He has also coached with the Mets, and understands what New York sportswriters and TV reporters are like. And he's managed a "small-market team" (as if there's any such thing anymore) to the Playoffs 7 times in 10 seasons. Not counting this season, 7 of 9. (He's the Borg manager: Resistance is futile.)
The Mets wouldn't do it. Maybe the Red Sox could. Gardenhire is certainly not as hotheaded as Bowa, and could probably handle the Boston media.
Or maybe they could lure Joe Maddon, and see what he could do with a big payroll. Or with, you know, a payroll.
If the Sox want someone who is currently available, i.e. not currently managing another major league team, and if I'm not busting their chops and I was really interested in them recovering (as you may guess, I'm not)...
How about Phil Garner? He did something no other human being, living or dead, has ever done: He managed the Houston Astros to a Pennant. (That CITGO sign beyond the left-field wall at Fenway Park was copied for Houston's Minute Maid Park.) He is not currently managing or coaching anywhere. He's 62, hardly too old to manage. And his reputation as a player -- he was nicknamed "Scrap Iron" and won a ring as the 2nd baseman of the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates -- shows he wouldn't take any nonsense. Having played with that specific team, loaded with Hispanic talent, shows he can work with the Latins on the Sox.
Is Garner a great choice? Maybe not, but the Sox probably can't find anyone who, for the moment, appears to be a LOT better, and they can sure do worse. Jerry Manuel, for example.