Friday, June 02, 2006


I am sorry to report that Sport Illustrated is reporting that Ted Lerner will retain Jim Bowden through the 2007 season if he beats his DUI arrest in South Florida. This is the copy from SI: Tom Verducci reports-- "Jim Bowden's future as Nationals G.M. will depend on the disposition of his DUI case in Florida. (He was arrested on April 17 for allegedly running a stop sign.) If he beats the charge this summer, new ownership plans to keep him through 2007. If not, he'll be out of a job."

When Braves Director of Player Personel, Dayton Moore, accepted the Kansas City Royals GM job the other day, you had to figure something like this might be in the works. Moore would only take the Royals job if he knew that he was not going to be considered for the Nats GM job by Stan Kasten. Obviously, Jim can suck up with the best of them.

I am truly shocked by Jimbo may well be the Nats GM. There is no one more the poster boy of MLB's handling of this franchise that has infuriated sooooo many people. Its quite shocking to hear this. REALLY!!


RallyTime Richard said...

The idea of Moore was interesting, but keeping Bowden may not be too devastating. If he was the poster child for MLB's apathetic mismanagement, doing only what he was told, then maybe he could be effective when told what to do by Kasten et al.

At this time, I do not look to any GM to provide direction for our Nats, it is all about Kasten.

SenatorNat said...

Bowden Not a Bow-Wow!!

All this Bowden bashing would be warranted if the owner had been Danny-Boy Snyder and this were a Vinnie Cerrato situation, with an adjunct flunkie for the boss with no track record, whatsoever.

Selig and the powers-that-be appeared to be schizoid in selecting Taveras and Bowden to manage the transistion from Montreal to D.C. in late 2004 - on the one hand, hiring cheap and available labor, who would operated according to unnatural constraints - but, on the other, two tested baseball men, who had accomplished real things in the past, respectively, e.g. World Series Champion Reds to start off the 1990's. So, they were just like Cold Pizza - available and even a bit tasty, if one is hungry (or hung-over) enough.
The risks Bowden took leading up to first season in 2004: hire guys like Castilla, Loizia, and Guillen who were (respectively) 1. good, but old; 2. flunked the Big Apple psyche test, but potentially still good;3. and crazy, but undieniably good. All three were good moves; as was the number one draft pick of Ryan Zimmerman. Getting Guzman and signing him to four-year contract was his White Elephant for sure for 2004 - but those he locked up with contracts (Schneider; Johnson) seemed prudent for the long haul - and letting Castilla and Loizia go unsigned after the season ultimately prudent, in light of where precious resources need to be put.

The big move in the off-season was to trade Brad Wilkerson for a genuine superstar in A. Soriano: taking big risks in that Soriano is not signed beyond 2006 - and there was grave uncertainty that he would even play left field, thus defeating the Bowden plan to have both Vidro and Soriano in the line-up. But he has - and he and his agent must realize the the Nationals have done him an enormous favor, in that he is considered even more valuable than ever! (Bowden exuded confidence that "Soriano has no choice but to play left-field" - taking an arrogant-sounding public management position which may have worked for 2006 - but shot any chance of rapproachment and long-term signing with the Nats.)

Often its important to be lucky - rather than good: virtually all of Bowden's plan for the pitching staff has turned South so far this year. First, Brian Lawrence busted out for the entire year, and perhaps finished for his career. Next, same thing virtually with Pedro Astoscio; then, depite Bowden's pleadings, Mexicans work Ayala too early from his return from surgery in the meaningless USA game at the end of the WBC, and the best set-up man in baseball over the past three years is done for the year.

Retread Ryan Dreese, who was horrendous in 2005, goes out early - and another retread who looks good, but isn't, Zack Day, goes out, too. So - the Nationals, based on this scenario, even had they ownership, a plan, the best GM in the Majors, would be reeling from the loss of their planned Numbers 3-5 starters and a proven reliever work horse in Ayala.
Add the fact that without steroids (speculating here, of course) spirited lefty reliever Joey Eishen, is to become the worst reliever in the NL; and that the only other lefty on the entire staff, Stanton, is nearly 40, and looked done last year.

Couple total absence of pitching, on the face of things, with a bust of promising rookie Ryan Church, demoted to the minors, and the reliance on Brandon Watson follows comparable 2004 reliance on Endy Chavez in Centerfield, as effective lead-off hitter, into the toilet.

Then - lose superlative second starter John Patterson, shades of Jim Palmer redeaux, for a month starting in mid-May, and Jose Guillen doesn't hit a lick from the beginning of the season until he has to be put on 15 day DL at beginning of June.

Add that perhaps due to the WBBC, Schneider is off to a terrible start, even for Schneider, and there is a back-up catcher when he goes on DL in mid-May, who literally gives up 24 bases on 20 steal attempts!!

If one only knew these facts, rather then likening Bowden's chance of staying in his position as GM after the new owner group is finally selected in May to Cold Pizza, it would more accurately be regarded as Banished Hope.

But here is where the team sits as of this writing on Jume 12: the hottest team in baseball!! In the last 27 games, they have won 17, and against tough division rivals like the Phillies and the Braves, included. They are tied for third place with the Braves, and only 2.5 games out of second place. More importantly, perhaps, they are merely seven games out of the Wild Card lead in the loss column to the Reds, who have no pitching.

And, over the course of the next few weeks, the Nats should get better at key positions, as Guillen gets back to form in Rightfield; Patterson takes the ball in the second spot in an amazingly ample and strong rotation; Zimmerman gets more and more comfortable in all aspects of being a solid Major Leaguer; and Schneider rounds into mid-season form.

At this rate: Who Dat Gonna Beat the Nats? in the NL: answer is NY Mets and St. Louis Cardinals. No other team is demonstrably better in the NL. The Nationals have received profound good fortune normally the stuff of kids' movies only: thus far, every rookie pitcher has exceeded all expectations in the Majors. The rotation of experienced Major Leaguers Hernandez; Patterson: Armas, Jr.; and Ortiz (cite Bowden for the latter two, despite all his regular plans for the rotation going awry) has been in groove for a solid month of starts - add lefty rookie O'Connor with 9-10 decent outings in the majors, thus far, and a potential John Patterson II in Shawn Hill in two outings to this complement, and we could become the Oakland Athletics of several years ago!!
The bull-pen is solid enough, with Cordero true to form - scaring everyone in the process, but succeeding now 10 games in a row - and newcomer rookie left-hander Billy Bray is Cool Hand Luke. (Just add eggs!)

How in the world has this happened? For one thing, the nucleus of this team has actually been together for a few years, and are accustomed to Frank Robinson's unusually taciturn managerial style. The newest member of that nucleus, Jose Guillen, is perhaps the most loyal of all. This translates to newcomers like Soriano getting the word that there is a nucleus that plays hard, despite all the odds stacked against the crew (because of them?), and this type of team core of integrity and hard word cannot be purchased. The bottom line is that Frank Robinson has the back of all his "real players" completely, witness the tears for LeCroy - sent a heartfelt message to new guys, confirming what the old guys had told them...

This means that if this team, in its current form, were to remain healthy, it already has the requisite "Band of Brothers" mentality in the clubhouse which is growing with success.

Guys like Damian Jackson who cannot put down a bunt, or react appropriately to fan's admonitions when they opening dog it in the field, are not acting in stride with the Schneider-Johnson-Zimmerman-Guillen core, along with the work ethic of superstar Alfonso Soriano. And Robinson quickly let's him know it - and Jackson has no one to pout to on the team... The rookies, Zimmerman; O'Connor; Bray and Harris (and Vento when he's on the ML roster) are very mature guys who seem to work in earnest and are respectful of the veterans.
So - does the current line-up stand to suffer from last year's suddenly depleted roster - which would entitle fans to demand that Florida require Bowden to appear personally to defend his DWI pro se, and then have Federal agents secret him to Guantanimo Bay/ Probably not: pitching seems well-stocked and Astocio and one of the other veterans may be back to form and available, too.
Injury to Schneider would be a disaster and reveal very poor planning, as Fick cannot play every day adequately, certainly..Johnson, Vidro, Zimmerman, and-or Soriano going down doesn't cripple the team in exactly the same way, but would reveal how thin the roster is behind first-string. Outfield with Bryd starting in center and Guillen is right is strong enough fielding to permit Soriano to learn and get better sitationally in left. The shortstop position seems to be an actual improvement over last year, with Bowden again due to receive some credit for lining up Royce Clayton as a reserve.
Overall, the bench is much better than last year's, albeit Jamey Carroll was a solid utility guy, but Brendon Harris may become his clone; and Ward and Fick, Jackson and Marlon Anderson have all contributed. I would dispense with LeCroy, as he and Fick are clones, anyway - better to have another outfielder on the roster, like Vento.

So - now we come to the fun part: Kasten and Bowden ("go along to get along") are probably hell-bent on staying with Plan A - meaning trade those whose star has or is poised to decline: this would mean to unload (first) L.Hernandez; Guillen; and Vidro for whatever the market would bear at the trade deadline of July 31 - presuming one or all three would garner something meaningful...Consider serious offers for Soriano, holding out for something very valuable, recognizing by that time, should the team continue to win, that he may be a keystone. In other words, by then, it may be "politically" imperative that the Nationals go after him to generate 2007 season ticket sales, and build that base needed for future "at least 3 million fans every year" franchise, on which all long-range planning is founded.

The point is that looking at the constraints and inherent conflicts of interest under which the team has operated until now - and acknowledging the reputed mindset of the new owner group, and the MO of its new baseball man, Stan Kasten, the issue of who acts as General Manager is largely a moot one.

Davy Johnson is there to help Kasten evaluate the relative worth of anticipated trade offers through 2006; and to be able, if needed, to manage the "new team" in 2007, to boot. (In this respect, he is somewhat the Pepper Rodgers of the team, recallying that Redskins owner brought Rodgers in to help advise him and Vinnie - and there was actual talk of this ancient former UCLA head coach of taking over the team when they fired Norv Turner!!)

So Bowden has not been a dog as a General Manager - he has acted like part River Boat Gambler, and part house man and has fared O.K. - first a .500 team on the field in 2005 - and now, another group which seems to want to make June ins own. The bigger question is whether the new owners believe that he can resist his gambling instincts, and perform like a company man, to do the tough thing and issue the pink slips on their behalf.

We may learn by July 31 that Bowden is not quite the lap-dog they are counting on him to be, with his bite being a public refusal to sell for selling's sake, alone. Fans should probably withhold judgment on Bowden until then...