Philadelphia — Larry Bowa isn't surprised the Philadelphia Phillies are in contention for a playoff spot. He's stunned by the way they are responding to it.
"As a manager, it's hard for me to fathom no excitement in a pennant race," Bowa said Wednesday. "But it's their personality. There are some out there who have won before and you can hear them chirping. But most of them have never won.
"When you never had to do it, this is just another game. We have to get across this is not just another game. If you don't approach it that way, there's trouble."
After beating Montreal 4-1 Saturday to move into a tie for first place in the NL East with Atlanta, the Phillies lost three straight while the Braves won three in a row. They've played sloppily, made mental miscues, committed baserunning blunders and had nine errors in the three losses. The floundering Phillies are 5-15 since Aug. 16 and 37-49 since June 1, when they had an eight-game lead over the Braves.
"I can understand being down when you are 20 games out by Sept. 1, but it's hard for me to relate when you are in a pennant race," Bowa said. "I can't tell the difference in the clubhouse now or April 1 and there should be a difference.
"There has to be a passion when the umpire says 'Play Ball' in September. This is what you play for from Little League to Babe Ruth to riding buses in the minor leagues to spring training. To let it go by the wayside, you've got problems."
Bowa didn't single out players but said there are three with potential to be strong leaders. Otherwise, Philadelphia's roster is filled with low-key personalities.
Right fielder Bobby Abreu and third baseman Scott Rolen, the two best hitters, are uncomfortable with leadership roles. Left fielder Pat Burrell is just in his second season and first baseman Travis Lee has been inconsistent all year.
Shortstop Jimmy Rollins, the most fiery player, has leadership qualities, but is just a rookie. Catcher Todd Pratt, the most outspoken guy, isn't a regular starter and has only been with the Phillies for about a month.
"I don't think you can change personalities at this age," Bowa said. "You need the right mix. Players bring out a lot in players. If players get on each other to motivate each other, it's a bigger impact than if the manager or coaches do it."
When Bowa played on the Phillies' 1980 World Series championship team, there was no shortage of leaders. Bowa recalls an instance in which he failed to move a runner over from second base with nobody out.
"Pete Rose came up to me and said, 'What are you doing? You have to get that runner over.' I started to say that I tried and he said, 'You try in Triple-A. You get the job done up here,'" Bowa said.