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Bowa fired as Phillies manager

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Larry Bowa was fired as manager of the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday, a day before the end of yet another disappointing year.

The Phillies failed to reach the playoffs for the 11th straight season after coming in as favorites to win the NL East. They were 85-75 when Bowa was dismissed before the night's game against Florida.

``When I got to the ballpark this afternoon, I got a call from Larry Bowa asking me to come see him,'' general manager Ed Wade said at a news conference. ``He said he's been getting inundated with questions about his job status and wanted to know sooner or later.''

``After a lengthy discussion, I decided the fairest thing to do was make a move at this time,'' he said.

Bench coach Gary Varsho will manage the last two games for the Phillies.

Earlier in the day, Bowa met with the media while speculation swirled that he would be fired at the end of the season and that pitching coach Joe Kerrigan would resign.

``I'm not talking about it,'' Bowa said then. ``You guys have all speculated. You all have your unidentified sources. You probably know more than I do, which is pretty good.''

Bowa led the Phillies to consecutive winning seasons for the first time in 21 years, but it wasn't enough.

A popular figure in Philadelphia who helped the Phillies win their only World Series championship as a shortstop on the 1980 team, Bowa wasn't well-liked among his players.

Bowa's fiery personality and win-at-all-cost mentality clashed with a few of the laid-back players, who also didn't appreciate some of the manager's facial expressions in the dugout when things went wrong.

Bowa toned his act down during the pennant race last season, but the Phillies collapsed down the stretch, losing six in a row with eight games left to waste a half-game lead over eventual World Series champion Florida in the NL wild-card race.

He didn't have any publicized run-ins with players this season, but management decided to make the much-anticipated change.

Kerrigan was overheard during Bowa's pregame meeting yelling at a writer for the team's Web site. Asked about his future, Kerrigan said, ``I won't have anything to say until after the season.''

Wade declined to give Bowa an endorsement in late August, saying the coaching staff would be evaluated after the season.

The Phillies went 19-8 in September, but it was too late to make a dent in the standings.

The notoriously high-strung Bowa, who has had confrontations with several players during his four seasons _ most notably ex-Phils Scott Rolen and Tyler Houston _ has been much more subdued in recent months.

Bowa said he learned to live with speculation about his job performance and status before calling Philadelphia ``the only city in baseball that the manager gets fired for three or four-game losing streaks.''

The Phillies were expected to contend for a title this season with a $93 million payroll and a new All-Star closer, a revamped bullpen and a promising starting rotation.

Injuries and inconsistency, though, spoiled the first season in their new ballpark. Bowa said after Friday's win over the Marlins that the results would have been different if three-fifths of the starting rotation and key relievers had not missed chunks of the season with injuries.

``Take a look a what we did. We did a good job with what we had,'' Bowa said. ``Do I want to win the division? Yup. But when you have a hand that's dealt that way, you do the best you can.''

Bowa succeeded Terry Francona as manager before the 2001 season. Entering Saturday, Bowa was 337-308 with the Phillies. He had an 81-127 record in 1 1/2 seasons with San Diego in 1987-88.
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