- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 8, 2001

Larry Bowa might have too much of a grandfather's face to pass for a fairy godmother, but Philadelphia's first-year manager has made a Cinderella team out of the Phillies.

The Phillies entered last night's game against the Baltimore Orioles atop the National League East at 49-36 with a 1 1/2-game lead over the Atlanta Braves. Thanks to Bowa, Philadelphia has become one of baseball's biggest turnaround stories this season; last year, under manager Terry Francona, the Phillies finished tied with the Chicago Cubs for the worst record (65-97) in baseball.

"It's a lot more enjoyable," Phillies outfielder and leadoff hitter Doug Glanville said. "You go to the park and say, 'Hey, we'll win today.' "

What is the magic wand Bowa has used to make this team go from rags to riches? In a word, psychology.

Hired by the club in early November, the former San Diego Padres manager, whose most recent stint was as third base coach for the Seattle Mariners, chose not to tinker too much with the Phillies' roster.

Instead, he worked to instill a new mentality in the young team, one he said had been "underachieving."

"They didn't believe in themselves," Bowa said. "Their attitude was, 'What's gonna go wrong today?' "

While working with his players during spring training, Bowa "just kept telling them that they're a lot better than they've shown… . This was not a 97-loss team. It's a much better team than that."

The constant positive reinforcement has paid off in ways that would make Pavlov smile.

Phillies ace Omar Daal, who was part of a late-July trade that sent All-Star pitcher Curt Schilling to the Arizona Diamondbacks, has gone from 4-19 in 2000 to 9-2 midway through 2001.

"He's been key," Glanville said.

The Philadelphia bullpen has been revamped with the addition of free agents Rheal Cormier and Jose Mesa, and it has done much to boost the overall production of the Phillies' staff of relievers.

Last year, the bullpen had a 21-37 record and managed only 34 saves. Buoyed by Mesa's 23 saves and Cormier's 5-1 record, Philadelphia's relievers have posted a 21-11 record and 27 saves.

"Every guy does their job down there, and they like to be called on," Bowa said of his bullpen. "The more they pitch, the better they are."

Then there is the emergence of rookie shortstop Jimmy Rollins. The 22-year-old leads the team in at-bats (352), hits (98), triples (eight) and stolen bases (27) and has made some spectacular defensive plays for the Phillies.

"He doesn't play like a rookie," Bowa said. "He plays like he's been in the league for a while."

Accordingly, Rollins was selected to the National League All-Star team the only player the Phillies will send to Seattle.

That might say the most about the effect of Bowa and his mind-molding from the dugout: The Phillies are leading their division without a superstar.

"It's a team, and each night there's a different hero," Bowa said. "We don't have eye-popping numbers. Nobody's got 30 home runs, nobody's got 80 ribbies, nobody's got 10 wins. But we just go out and everybody picks one another up, and that's had a lot to do with our success early."

If the contributions keep coming from unexpected sources, then Philadelphia's success could continue in the second half. Including today's game against the Orioles, 19 of the Phillies' next 22 are against teams under .500.

This transformation, though, would not have been possible without Bowa, a spark plug of a skipper who has surprised many in Philadelphia by not being ejected in any games this season.

"I think he's definitely a different personality than Francona," Glanville said. "I wouldn't say better or worse. I just think he's an emotional, heart-on-his-sleeve type. Francona was more laid-back, kind of just let you play. But I think [Bowa's] what we needed because the timing was right."

However, Bowa will not pat himself on the back for helping manufacture the Phillies' turnaround this season.

"I think the players did it," he said with a self-assured grin. "It's not me."

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