Thursday, January 18, 2007
Frank, MLB, Jimbo & His Moves-DAMIAN JACKSON?
On that somber day when Frank Robinson took his last curtain call as Manager of the Washington Nationals, you couldn't help feeling sorry for the man. You can criticize his managing all you want (which I have done repeatedly for 2 season now), but you can not take away the man's decency and earned respect. When the 2006 season came to its conclusion, it was assumed that Frank would, somehow, end up with a meaningful position with The Nats this upcoming season. But, as Todd Jacobson, from the Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star first reported last Tuesday, that "Meaningful" job was not forthcoming.
Was Frank "Bitter"?, I asked Todd.
"I called Frank early in the day (Monday, January 8th). He had not heard from them (Stan Kasten or Jim Bowden). 'I have not heard from them all winter', (Robinson said). So I called Stan, asked 'Hey, what’s going on?' Stan told me something would be out by Wednesday. So I called Frank back, (about 90 minutes after Todd's first conversation with Robinson) he said, 'Bowden called me, this afternoon.' So, he had found out (that he would not be back) between the phone calls I made to him."
"He was upset. But, he didn’t come off as "bitter" as in some of the other interviews I read, later. Maybe, things were simmering with him. He found out an hour or two before I talked to him. A couple days later, others talked to him. So over a few days of thinking about it, Frank was thinking 'maybe I should have been told sooner (by The Nationals), maybe I should have not gotten such a raw deal.' I can see where it just builds inside of him." (No kidding, its Frank!!)
For months now, I have read about friction, not only between Frank Robinson and Jim Bowden, but also Frank and Stan Kasten. Was it true?
"Frank feels he was told things by them, that did not come true. Near the end of the season. It never resulted in any arguments, but, trying to come up with the right word here, there was friction. Frank says that Jim (Bowden) told him, 'If I stay, you are going to stay' And, that obviously never happened (Frank remaining with The Nationals)."
"Frank had said (to the Nats Brass), during the middle of the season: 'I want to know about my future.' Frank told me, after he stated that, no one came to talk to him for a few weeks. So, he always thought he was left out of the loop. Also, I think, as early as August, he knew the end result was going to be the way it turned out. He wasn’t going to be the Manager, and he probably was not going to be with the organization."
Well before Stan Kasten came on as Team President, and 3 years before Jim Bowden was announced as the Interim Washington Nationals GM, Frank Robinson was on the job, along with Caretaker Team President, Tony Tavares. Hired by MLB to look over the moribund franchise, in Montreal, while baseball determined what it would do with the Expos.
"I think bringing in Frank, and someone like Tony, kept the ship afloat as much as they could. What they were given was just a horrible situation. I think they did a good job of trying to keep the team competitive. They competed in the Wild Card Race (in Montreal in 2003). And, if you look at their record, 81 wins their first season in Washington, was more than you could expect. They were, again in the Wild Card race, in first place most of the first 3 months of the season. That’s really impressive with such a little budget."
"Certainly, some of the trades they did when they thought they were going to be contracted (in Montreal), hurt the franchise, badly. But, they did a good job of keeping things at the AVERAGE LEVEL."
Its well known how Tony Tavares, on his own, came to Washington in late 2004, and started to rebuild the Nationals, alone, from an office on lower K Street, in Georgetown, piece by piece.
"They had nothing to work with, living in trailers (the hired staff by MLB) when they got to RFK. It was tough position. They all did a good job, Frank included, you have to give both of them credit."
In his role as Interim General Manager and now, Vice-President-General Manager of The Washington Nationals, Jim Bowden has been, for many fans, the gist of all their anger, when it comes to some of the teams trades and manuevers with personel over the past two seasons. As I mentioned last week to Stan Kasten, I find Bowden to be very creative. Mr. Kasten says, since he came on board with The Lerners, you can not fault any of Bowden's moves since July, 2006. I tend to agree. But, that doesn't get him off the hook for his manuevers under MLB Ownership.
Todd noted: I think [Bowden] is a smart guy and he knows how to use the media to his benefit. Jim has a love him or hate him relationship around baseball. I have no problem with the (Alfonso) Soriano deal. It turned out great (I am agreeing here). The (Cristian) Guzman Deal (4 years--$16 Million for a player that played horrible baseball in 2005 and was injured all of 2006); he was trying to make a splash. Bring someone in that had a good track record, in Minnesota, maybe inflated, because of the carpet (Astroturf playing surface) and infield hits. But, I wouldn’t fault him too much, because you have to take a shot. There are other moves he made, that haven’t worked out (are far worse)."
Which brings me always to, Fan Favorite, Jamey Carroll and the Bowden dumping him. Also, I didn't like, at the time, The Nationals sending off Tomo Ohka to Milwaukee (for Junior Spivey), just because he showed up Frank Robinson on the mound. We could have done better, in trading Ohka, I felt.
Todd has a slighty different take: "I totally agree with you on the Jamey Carroll trade. With Tomo, he didn’t want to be here. So, its tough to keep a guy in a place where he doesn’t get along with the manager. He and Frank just butted heads and there was friction. Not good for anyone."
"With Jamey Carroll, Bowden just gave him away for nothing, and he admits it was a bad move. Jim didn’t realize until after Jamey was gone, what kind of effect he had on the clubhouse; what kind of effect he had on the bench; and, how valuable he was. That was a lesson learned. If Bowden had to do it over again, he certainly would not have done that one."
As Todd noted, this past summer, after Jamey pounded the Nats in his return to RFK Stadium with the Colorado Rockies, Jim Bowden openly admitted, regretting, selling off Carroll.
"Another move that is overlooked--the Nationals basically gave away Darrell Rasner (young pitching prospect claimed by The New York Yankees) for Matt LeCroy. They put Rasner on waivers, to sign Matt LeCroy last year. So, when you look back at how that all turned out. LeCroy didn’t last a year. Rasner was making starts for The Yankees while the Nationals were struggling for starters (in 2006). That was a move that did not work out. The Nationals liked Rasner, it was just a poorly conceived roster move. Matt LeCroy is an American League Player. He doesn’t have an arm. He can’t really catch anymore. I think even he would admit it was a weird role for him to be in here. He likes catching, but clearly he wasn’t the greatest catcher." (Just yesterday, but after this interview was conducted, Matt LeCroy re-signed with The Minnesota Twins on a Minor League Contract).
As I have stated before, even asked Mr. Kasten--Jim Bowden's penchant for all things Cincinnati has always bothered me and I couldn't resist asking Todd the same question, whether this was good for Our Nationals.
"I never actually asked him that question in quite that way", Todd responded. "But, it makes sense (what Bowden's done). A lot of the guys he scouted there, he liked there, he would covet over here. He spent a lot of time scouting Felipe Lopez and working out the trade for him. Clearly he likes him. Different guys have different preferences for players. He drafted Austin Kearns, he loved him then, so Austin has not done anything to dissuade Jim (from trading for him) now."
But what about the rumored Chad Cordero for Wily Mo Pena (former Red) deal to the Red Sox? That's a non-starter with me.
"They haven’t traded for Wily Mo, yet. If they do trade Cordero for Wily Mo, that WOULD complete the Cincinnati connection. There would also be a lot of people upset at that (TRADE)."
How about "The Chief", have you had the opportunity to talk with him about the possibility of being traded. I love Cordero. How is he taking it?
“He wants to be in Washington. So, it’s a difficult thing for him. But, he is almost accepting it, almost expecting to be traded. He’s a stand up guy. He always good with me. I know, if he blows a save, he is going to be standing there, in front of his locker--Itching to go, but he will wait for you, instead of bolting out of there. He’s been great to talk to for the past two years." (He's really down home and approachable, isn't he, SBF talking). Its kind of neat seeing a regular type of guy that you would see on the streets, some guy you might see in the mall, out there performing, as well as he does."
(SBF noting, again--Of course no lead is too safe for The Chief!) [Both of us laughing]. “He does make it interesting, chuckled Todd.
As decent as Chad Cordero seems to be, what about the many other players that have passed through Washington. I wanted to know if there were any jerks. Of course, if you have followed this blog this past season, there was no player more disliked by me than, Damian Jackson. At first, I did not like his lackadasical play, then, as I wrote--Jackson cussed out some fans behind the 3rd base dugout one night--setting off a firestorm in the crowd. Later, Stan Kasten would get his first recognition of Section 320 when I yelled out this comment to him, concerning Jackson. Finally, I rejoiced when Damian Jackson was finally given his unconditional release. Apparently, I was not the only one seeing a less than professional attitude.
"There really are not a lot of jerks, on the teams I have covered, here. Damian Jackson, though, was a tough guy to talk to. He was very moody and was gone by the end of the season. I don’t know if I would call him a jerk. He was very BI-Polar, off and on. You never knew how he was going to react."
Of course, over the first two seasons of Nationals Baseball, one player has shown up at just about every team/fan event. That person, the always smiling, having a great time-- Jose Guillen. Guillen, The Ringleader for all the Cheering and Chants that became Section 320, was a very popular player with Nationals Fans. Cheerful, as could possibly be, then downright menacing on the field, and in the dugout with teammates, if he was upset. Todd also, saw, first hand, both sides of Number 6.
"Jose Guillen was the same way (as Jackson, Bi-Polar), but he wasn’t a jerk. (NO one could smile like Jose Guillen with kids in front of him--SBF commenting.) "Yes." said Todd. "I used to go to a lot of minor league baseball games. I remember seeing him in 1996. He was in the Carolina League. I don’t know why I always remember this. But, he grabbed a kid out of the stands. This little kid. He brought him into the dugout before the game. Walking around with the kid. Gave him a ball. It just stuck out to me that he was just so nice. So, I remember following his career, and he ends up in DC. I get to know him. He does have that thing about him. The infectous smile, that great love of the game. Then, that other part of his game, where he just loses it for a little bit. He’s very stubborn, he could have probably avoided some injuries by just taking a day off. He can be tough to talk to some days. He’s very evasive at times. Then, other days he’ll sit down and talk with you for a half hour. He is quite the character."
How about the other Jose--Vidro. Never was the player in Washington as he was in Montreal. Deep down, did Jose Vidro want to stay here (instead of being traded to Seattle in December) with the only franchise he had ever played for?
"I think he was pretty happy to get out of here, to be honest with you. He had prepared himself to be traded. And then, when it didn’t happen, he saw the writing on the wall. He didn’t want to be on the bench. I think he sees the trade to Seattle as a way of extending his career. I don’t know how well he’s going to do there. He’s got to get some of his power back. [The Mariners] don’t want a DH, who just hits singles, and doesn’t drive in a lot of runs."
(SBF says, he was like a statue in the field. He has no mobility.} "Its kind of sad. I use to go spring training when I was in college. In '97 & '98, I saw him play in spring training. He was just a fabulous player, all around. I don’t think anybody in DC got to see how good he was. Frank (Robinson) talked about that a lot. No one saw the real Vidro, which is real shame. He was great hitter, and a good fielder. An all around All-Star. Unforunately, no one saw him back then, when he was an All Star, playing in Montreal. No one cared about them (The Expos). It really is a shame."
In Part 3, Todd and I will discuss The Lerner Ownership Group, Stan Kasten, The Plan, and begin to look into the upcoming season outlook. On, Friday, Todd will go, indepth, at what the Nationals actually will have on the field in 2007. And, we will finish off, the last post on this interview, with The Lightning Round. Questions I asked Todd, that need to be answered, but don't really fit anywhere else in the previous posts.