Monday, October 13, 2008

The Impact of Larry Bowa

With the Dodgers' 7-2 victory over Philadelphia last night everyone was talking about one thing: the Dodgers showing some moxie. The Dodgers were not going to go down meekly, evidenced by a number of players on the team. Manny Ramirez had to be restrained by teammates as he scowled and tried to go after an unnamed Phillie. Hiroki Kuroda pitched normally to two batters before uncorking a ball "that got away," sailing right toward Shane Victorino's head. Russell Martin backed up his pitcher, saying that it wasn't at his head, but over his head.

And of course, the media ate it up. Jayson Stark at ESPN was so excited that this Game 3 made it "A SERIES," that his column kept descending into all caps.'s Jon Heyman recounted how Manny and the Dodgers are fighting back into the NLCS. Bill Plaschke, in a column that the prescient guys over at MSTI called the night before (nice call, guys!), used his expansive column inches to write another vertically-spaced column about Kuroda's message, which needed no translation. And Jon "Boutros-Boutros" Weisman posted an appeal for peace.

But somewhat lost amidst the primary antagonists in the melee-that-wasn't was the presence of Larry Bowa, the Dodgers' fiery third base coach. Stark mentioned him in his piece, but portrayed Bowa as quite the diplomat:

He wasn't the only one making the highlight reels, however. Dodgers coach Larry Bowa, the former Phillie, and Phillies coach, Davey Lopes, the former Dodger, had quite the lovefest going themselves.

"Davey just said, 'You guys should have taken care of it [Friday]', and he's right," Bowa said. "He's 100 percent right. … He said, 'Let's play baseball.' And I said, 'Let's play baseball.' And that's right. I respect Davey. Davey was a great player."

These relatively calm and reasonable comments meshed with the interview Bowa gave ESPN radio late last week, when Bowa mentioned he liked the lifestyle out here and appreciated the more mellow pace of west coast baseball. But I'm not buying it, not after Game 3.

No, Bowa's effect on the team is crystal clear. Whereas in prior years, the Dodgers' third base coach was known more for his uncanny ability to get runners thrown out at home, rather than his bland personality, Bowa brings a fire and passion that no doubt fueled the Dodgers' emotions (and, fewer guys are getting thrown out at home). Appealing to the team to take the intensity up a notch was especially important now, in the playoffs, with a starting lineup that has evolved all season to end up comprised of more youngsters than veterans. I'm guessing that Bowa took stock of the kids on the squad, and told his team that they needed to play hard-nosed baseball, and fight back rather than back down.

Now, I'm just speculating here, but if this was indeed Bowa's teachings, the gameplan was executed well; messages were sent without punches being thrown, players getting hurt, or Dodgers becoming ejected from either this or future games. The Dodgers showed backbone and won the first of two (three?) "must-win" games, obtaining some momentum where none existed prior. The over-capacity crowd loved it, the media loved it, and Dodgers fans loved it.

So thank you, Larry Bowa, for injecting some life back into this series, and for giving Dodgers fans some hope. Your name may not have been the one mentioned in the headlines by Plaschke or Stark or Heyman, but this one had your fingerprints all over it.

And your brass knuckle prints, for that matter.