Phillies go by Manuel

BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 12:20 PM ET

Twice last week we heard Florida Marlins manager Jack McKeon and a New York Mets veteran say the same thing: "The team in our division that really scares me is the Philadelphia Phillies."

It was as if they were reading from a script for one of the public service announcements taped during spring training.

Okay, the Phillies added right-hander Jon Lieber.

And ...

Kenny Lofton, Jose Offerman and Terry Adams?

The big addition in Clearwater, Fla., this spring -- and cause for concern with the Atlanta Braves, the Mets and the Marlins -- is in the manager's office.

Larry Bowa, fidgety as a two-year-old thoroughbred being pushed into the starting gate for the first time, has been replaced by the laid-back Charlie Manuel.

It has always been this way in baseball ... the new manager's No. 1 trait is almost always the opposite of the former manager's.

Easy-going guy replaces hard-edged skipper, or strict disciplinarian takes over from players' manager. Either way can work.

Some easy-going guys who took over from a tight-fisted, cheek-clenched, hard-butts:

* Bob Lemon replacing Billy Martin, who was wired tighter than the CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., with the New York Yankees. The Yanks caught the Boston Red Sox, to win a one-game playoff and the 1978 World Series.

* Dick Williams, not on speaking terms with Steve Rogers, was fired in 1981 and Gentleman Jim Fanning, who often had his hand around a player's shoulder explaining things, took the Montreal Expos to post-season play.

* Cito Gaston, with his "let-'em play style" taking over for the uptight Jimy Williams, whose Blue Jays started the 1989 season with a 12-24 record and ended up winning the American League east.

* Or tough guy Dallas Green, who took over the Phillies late in 1979 and won the 1980 World Series.

"Charlie is no pushover. He's an older folksy-type guy," said Green, now a special adviser to GM Ed Wade. "I wouldn't mistake that for being easy-going. I'm sure if you got out of line, he would grab you by your jersey and pin your ears back.

"Bowa was a great baseball man, but he was intense to the point of paranoia."

There is a Phillies story told often, of when the starter would throw the first pitch of the game for a ball and Bowa would yell at pitching coach Joe Kerrigan: "Don't we have ANYONE here who can throw a strike?"

The Phillies looked relaxed at yesterday's workout at Carpenter Field. A year ago Bowa had a furrowed brow. The veins in his neck were taut.

"Bowa's problem was that he could deal the ball game as well as anyone, but he wouldn't confront players when he had to," Green said. "I don't know whether he thought it was was a sign of weakness."

Manuel is reunited with his former first baseman Jim Thome from their days with the Cleveland Indians.

HOPING FOR SPARK

"We're hoping that with the change, we can explode, let people know what we have here," Thome said. "The Marlins are a lot better, adding a big bat like Carlos Delgado behind those jack rabbits atop the order."

Former Yanks manager Casey Stengel used to say the most impact a good manager could have on team's record was five games.

Montreal's Bill Virdon agreed, but added "and one who has lost his team can cost you 30 games."


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