PHILADELPHIA — The good people of Philadelphia cheered Padre Manager Larry Bowa Friday night, but maybe that is because he brought with him a team the Phillies could beat.
The 22,907 fans at Veterans Stadium thought the last-place Phillies were bad, but that is before a real last-place team--the 8-29 Padres--showed up.
During Friday's 7-4 loss, Padre starting pitcher Ed Whitson couldn't "feel" the baseball, and one of the Padres' relievers, Craig Lefferts, couldn't clearly "see" his catcher's signs. Touching and seeing are basic senses, but in most senses, the Padres aren't a basic ballclub.
As usual, one big inning by the other team did them in. Heading into the fifth, Whitson (4-5) was working on a no-hitter, and the Padres were leading, 2-1. But Whitson says he was pretty lucky to be ahead. Usually, he has his right forearm rubbed down between starts, which he says is a great help to circulation. But he forgot to get a rubdown before Friday's game, and he swears he couldn't feel the ball in his fingertips--not a good sign for a pitcher.
"The only pitch I could kind of feel was my slider," Whitson said. "When you can't feel your fastball, you're in trouble. Lucky I made it as far as I did. They (the Phillies) finally figured out what was going on, and they started laying off my fastball and sitting on my slider."
Even Phillie pitcher Shane Rawley sat on it. After Lance Parrish began the fifth with a double, Rawley singled sharply to left, Parrish holding at third. Next, Milt Thompson tripled when Padre left fielder Randy Ready overran a line drive.
Jeff Stone singled, Mike Schmidt doubled and Goose Gossage walked in from the bullpen.
When Bowa handed Gossage the baseball and walked back to the dugout, the Phillie fans--who were pouring beer on members of the Padre bullpen--cheered as one. Bowa is a former shortstop who played 12 seasons here and he says that they love him. But he admitted that, maybe, they simply love his pathetic team.
Anyway, Gossage's first pitch, with two men on, was smacked to right field for an RBI double. You get the picture.
So the Phillies scored five runs that fifth inning and led, 6-2. Eventually, Bowa brought in Lefferts--and was cheered again--but Lefferts has a little problem of his own.
In the sixth, the Phillies loaded the bases for second baseman Juan Samuel, and Lefferts began staring at catcher Benito Santiago for the sign. Santiago was flashing a pattern of signs so that Thompson, at second base, couldn't see what pitch was coming. But Lefferts has trouble with his night vision and became confused. In the meantime, Samuel was wagging his bat in front of Santiago's signs, and Lefferts really had no idea what Santiago wanted him to throw.
He decided to throw a fastball.
Santiago was expecting a screwball.
Naturally, the ball sailed right over Santiago's glove, and the Phillies' Steve Jeltz scored from third.
Lefferts has what's called a "lazy right eye." His vision is about 20-20 out of his left eye, but is 20-40 out of his right eye. Lefferts prefers to stay away from the glasses and makes adjustments with Santiago.
In other words, he needs Santiago to simplify his signs.
"I'm going as slow as I can," Santiago said.
Lefferts said: "My eyes have probably regressed a tad. But it's not a thing to make a big deal out of."
Santiago, a rookie, is a little perturbed, though. Friday, he had a passed ball in the first inning which allowed a run to score third and then came Lefferts' wild pitch. Also, he threw two balls into center field as runners tried stealing second.
Bowa has decided to rest him the next two games.
"Right now, I don't know what to say about this team," Santiago said. "We have a good team, but all that happens is mistakes. He (Lefferts) crossed me up. We make one mistake like that every game, and it costs us two or three runs every game."
So, this was how Bowa spent his homecoming: seething. Bowa was supposed to do an interview (regarding the livelier baseball) early Friday morning with Bryant Gumbel on NBC's "Today" show. The driver of a limo that picked him up and was supposed to take him to a local studio got lost on the way. Bowa could have directed the limo's driver where to go, but he had fallen asleep in the back seat.
Finally, Bowa woke up. But when the driver dropped him off at the studio, the show was over.
"I can't believe we got lost," Bowa said. "I was tired, and I shut my eyes, and the next thing I'm out near the airport (instead of downtown)."