Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Jim Bowden's Side Comments

After yesterday's formal Press Conference introducing Josh Willingham and Scott Olsen to the Washington Media, Our General Manager Jim Bowden chatted with a handful of reporters on the side. Here is that transcript including some updated information about Willingham's Medical Issues and that of the traded Jake Smolinski.

Question: Willingham had an injury and Smolinski has some issues. Obviously The Marlins targeted him (Smolinski) in discussions with you, even despite the injury.

“Yes, he (Smolinski) had a complete tear of the ACL and an MCL as well. He had both. This deal was completed last Wednesday pending medical, so there were issues on both clubs. We had issues with Josh’s back that needed due diligence. There are issues with Smolinski that needed due diligence, so both clubs took their time. You know, a trade is different than Free Agency. A trade is all about risk. It’s about financial risk. It’s about health risk. It’s a chance to get to the Big Leagues risk. There’s a lot of risk that both clubs have to weigh in this transaction. That’s why it took a while to come to conclusion. But they (The Marlins) got three good players from us. We got two good players from them. It was a good baseball trade, I think, for both organizations.”

You talked about how Willingham was looked at by Dr. (Wiemi) Douoguih and Dr. (James) Andrews. What was the main concern with his back? Is this a chronic issue?

“He’s got a lumbar disk at L5 and we just wanted to make sure we did our homework to understand best case scenario, worst case scenario—what if it had to be operated on—how long would he be out? What are the chances of him not being operated on? What are the chances of him playing a full season? What are the chances of him missing a half-year? What are all the risks involved. So we took our time. Dr. Douoguih did a tremendous job looking at all the MRI’s. We consulted with Dr. Andrews and we conducted with Dr. Watkins. They (The Marlins) did the same thing with Smolinski. At the end of the day, there is always risk.”

“Dr. Douoguih is here and available if you have any questions for him.”

You said Willingham has a herniated disk?

“I will let Dr. Douoguih answer. I am not a doctor. I am just a GM.” (Chuckling)

Dr. Douoguih steps in to answer the question.

Dr. Douoguih: “Willingham has a herniated disk that he’s had for the last couple of years. He’s had MRI’s when it started a couple of years back and had repeat MRI’s and it really hasn’t changed in size. He had a flare up in May (’08). He was evaluated by this country’s best Sports Orthopedic Medicine Spine Surgeon and the consensus was that he’d be alright and he showed that the last three and one-half months of the season. He really performed and had no problems. So, we are confident that he is going to be a contributor. Is there a risk? Sure, there is a risk and he might miss some time, but we got him on a strong core program. He really hasn’t had any problems since the last episode.”

Back to Jim Bowden on Scott Olsen

“The Marlins are the team that had the team with the depth in starting pitching and they had a lot of arbitration eligible players—that’s where the match was—it just happened to be in our division.”

What do you like the most about Scott, the innings pitched, the durability, what?

“I like his competitiveness. He wants to win. He wants his teammates to play the game the right way. He wants them to hustle. He wants to win when he is out there. He’s got three plus pitches. He knows how to pitch and he’s just learning. He’s 24 years old and he’s already pitched 190 and 200 innings (in a season). So, he and John Lannan, Ross Detwiler, we have three good lefties in our rotation for a long time to build upon. He’s got great potential and we did a lot of homework on his makeup. We talked to a lot of teammates—not just from this year, but also from the last couple of years--because we really wanted to understand everything. And after talking to all of them, we feel we got a real good person who’s a great competitor and extremely tough.”

Just curious—what did Aaron Boone (former teammate of Scott Olsen) tell you about him?

“Aaron loves him and his competitiveness, says he’s a winner.”

How much did Willingham make an impression on you in games he played against you guys? His numbers are pretty good.

“I like guys that grind At-Bats. Guys like Nick Johnson; you know, he was sixth among all right-handed hitters in baseball in pitches seen—4.1. That’s grinding you an At-Bat. He’ll hit the tough pitch against the tough pitcher. And he will work you; he will go the other way. You keep going away and you come in, he will look for that and hit that one too. So, I like the way he approaches his At-Bats. I think that you can never get enough hitters that approach the game like he does.”

If Nick (Johnson) is healthy and with Elijah showing some of that last year, his OPS was really good at times. That really begins to transform the lineup from that aspect. Guys that can get on base giving the team more opportunities.

“It’s important. It’s really important to have hitters in your lineup that work the count—that work pitchers—that walk and know when to take a pitch in a count—to wait for a pitch you can handle. And the young one’s grow when they watch that. It was great to watch The Dodgers this year because they were a .500 team before trading for Manny (Ramirez). Then all of a sudden they are in the post-season. And it wasn’t just what Manny did, which was sensational, but all of a sudden you saw what (Andre) Ethier did, you saw what James Loney did—their At-Bats changed because they are all watching Manny. The way Manny was taking BP. The way Manny was taking pitches. All of a sudden they got better because they grew up. And so the more time you have hitters in the lineup who know how to produce the right way—the rest of your players end up getting a lot better. They develop faster.”

Where does the acquisition of Willingham do to your outfield with Milledge, Dukes and Kearns already here?

“I guess it means we have a lot of competition. Competition is always good, it makes players better.”


asnowballschance said...

The more and more I read about the trade results, the more and more I anticipate seeing Olsen and Willigham perform. I, and I'm sure a lot of Nats fans, see an outfield of Willigham, Milledge, Dukes (as of right now), though I hope Milledge becomes more of a leader out there.

SenatorNat said...

From my point of view, the following is the best line-up the Nationals can field in 2009, presuming Johnson can start the season out of a body cast:

1. Milledge CF (Mets)
2. Guzman SS (Twins)
3. Zimmerman 3B (Nats)
4. Johnson 1B (Yankees)
5. Dukes RF (Rays)
6. Willingham LF(Marlins)
7. Flores C (Mets)
8. Hernandez 2B (Mets)

Likely Manny and Jim have this line-up in mind, however, for opener:

1. Hernandez 2B
2. Guzman SS
3. Zimmerman 3B
4. Johnson or new player 1B
5. Willingham LF
6. Dukes RF
7. Milledge CF
8. Flores C

My suggested line-up utilizes Milledge better; and puts Dukes ahead of Willingham. Either way, it is a stronger line-up, on paper, than last year - again, HEALTH MATTERS!

Big question mark remains first-base. Willingham will have to play there should Johnson not be healthy, and no acquisition. Belliard again will be pressed into duty at first, in all probability, too, in this case.

Pitching staff: Lannan; Redding; Olsen; Ballister; Zimmermann likely to be starting five, probably in that order.

Shoot for .500 in '09. That is a long-shot, actually. Draft Strasburg. Hope Ditweller really develops. Must get one really big bat for 2010 to make the move and stay on schedule for The Plan.

Attendance should hover around 2 million if the Nats can play around .500 and be interesting. They were NOT interesting in 2008.

Trust in The Plan. All good.

Wil Nieves said...

Is Jim Bowden suggesting here that Willingham will be to the Nats what Manny was to the Dodgers? Is he delusional?

Anonymous said...

Here's a pet peeve I have with Jim Bowden - He always says we "control" the player. It grates on me the same way it does at work when a manager says "my people" or worse, "my resources".

I know what he means, but it sounds arrogant and looks arrogant in print. I wish he would say, "we control the rights to the player" instead.

I really think this is more than splitting hairs and I wish someone in the Nationals' ownership or management chain would speak to Bowden about this usage.