Dodgers need to bring back Larry Bowa
This should be a no-brainer, right? As easy as hitting a Charlie Haeger fastball. Simple, logical … and far from a done deal?
Don Mattingly, rookie manager, needs a veteran presence as his bench coach. Mattingly said Monday he wants it to be someone with previous managerial experience.
Larry Bowa has managed both the Padres and Phillies. Figures he’s done all he can as a third base coach and would like to become the bench coach. Mattingly would like him to become that guy too.
Only so far, it hasn’t happened. So far, you should be nervous that it might not.
Understand, Mattingly is not being given free rein to select his own coaching staff. It’s a meeting-of-the-minds thing.
"We won't have anybody that he's not comfortable with or anybody that I'm not comfortable with," said General Manager Ned Colletti.
This is not an unusual arrangement, though I suspect not the preferred one by managers. Particularly young managers who will be keenly critiqued. Let them succeed or fail on their own, with their own staff.
But here, Mattingly essentially has to get approval for his coaches.
So why wouldn’t the Dodgers want Bowa back? One concern is, because he’s hurt Matt Kemp’s feelings. Or is it his silly agent, Dave Stewart? Or that he asks too much of the kids. You know, like playing hard.
"Baseball’s a funny game," Bowa said. "You get a reputation of being too tough, and a lot of general managers don’t want that, a real tough guy. I’m not tough, I’m fair. I’m real honest."
Earlier this season, Bowa said Kemp was an amazing talent who had yet to learn to play hard all the time. It was absolutely correct. Kemp even agreed. And yet, an uproar ensued.
"I didn’t get on anybody," Bowa said. "I said, 'Matt, you’ve got to play this game the right way.' Then he said in the paper, 'Larry’s right. I don’t run hard all the time.' I mean, if that makes you lose your job, maybe it’s time to move on somewhere. When I say something about a player, I’m trying to make him better."
Bob Schaefer spent the last three years as Joe Torre’s bench coach and said he won’t return. Schaefer, remember, confronted Kemp in the dugout over his continual failure to back up second base but never publicly criticized the outfielder.
Mariano Duncan, the Dodgers’ first base coach, is not expected back. Duncan said he’s been given permission to talk to other clubs, which is code for you won’t be retained. Duncan said if he can’t find another major league job, the Dodgers might have something in their minor-league system for him.
Rick Honeycutt could return as pitching coach and Jeff Pentland as hitting instructor. Tim Wallach, if he isn’t hired to manage in the majors, could become the hitting coach.
That still leaves room for a veteran, honest coach who respects the game. Who gives straight answers. Who has been through the wars.
"If they want me back, I’d be glad to come back," Bowa said. "Because I sort of consider this unfinished business. Even though we won the division, to me the ultimate thing is a ring."
I was talking to ex-Dodger Jay Johnstone a couple of weeks ago about the team, when without prompting, he suddenly said:
"You give me nine Larry Bowas and I’ll win the World Series every year."
Mattingly needs Bowa back. And so do the kids, even if they don’t realize it.
-- Steve Dilbeck