Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Rizzo's Kids Are Pretty Good, Eh?

Overheard at Nationals Park tonight...

Nats Fan #1: It just goes to show what you can do with a little payroll. I mean, think what Bowden could do if he had the D'Backs' payroll?

Nats Fan #2: Hmmm... $66 million? That's enough money for two more LoDucas or Dmitris. The D'Backs' two biggest money free agents are... Randy Johnson (5.18 ERA) and Doug Davis (65 IP).

Nats Fan #1: OK, so maybe it's not the payroll. But you're setting unrealistic expectations expecting the Nationals to be able to draft guys as talented as Justin Upton.

Nats Fan #2: Well, actually, it's a heck of a lot easier when you have the #1 pick overall.

Nats Fan #1: OK fine, but you want the team to just go in the tank? I mean, how long did the D'Backs toil before finally getting good?

Nats Fan #2: Not as long as we have.

Nats Fan #1: OK, smart guy, so what's your point?

Nats Fan #2: Have a plan. Commit to rebuilding. Trade your veterans to stockpile youth. Don't spend dumb money on free agents that do nothing but keep you around 75-80 wins as far as the eye can see. Touch bottom, get some top draft picks, and get better/younger/cheaper. Lock up your studs long-term. Don't give up young pitching for anything. Then when the youth gets ripe buy a couple free agents to put you over the top. Although I admit it helps if your GM's draft track record looks more like this than this.

Nats Fan #1: Oh, that's a fine plan, but how often does that work? I mean look at the tops of the standings around baseball and what do you see? It's all big payroll teams loaded with the free agents the Lerners won't pay for.

Nats Fan #2: Fans of the Rays, Brewers, Twins, and Marlins would beg to differ. Not to mention the Mets, Mariners, Blue Jays, Astros, and Dodgers.

Nats Fan #1: But those are small market teams. We're a big market cash cow. We could be good now if only those cheeeeeep Lerners would open the checkbook. I mean, look at this team, and this one, and that one. Those teams didn't wait to spend. They went out and spent what it took to get the best free agents available to win now. And look where it got them!

Nats Fan #2: Maybe it's the hitting coach?


SALres said...

Nationals fan---

I just read your reply to my comment on your last post.

If you think a low OPS this year is hurting Jeter's status as the face of the game, then your an idiot.

Jeter has four world series rings. He's never been the starting shortstop on a team that hasn't made the postseason. You wanna talk stats? In little more than 13 seasons, Jeter has 2,448 hits. He's got the most hits in the bigs since 2000. He's got a .316 career average. A .387 career OBP. An OPS+ of 121.

Who would you suggest? Longoria?

HoosierAUEagle said...

So I'm going to guess fan #2 is you and fan #1 is a straw man, but your point is taken.

Looking at your posts, it seems your biggest beefs are with Jimbo in the early years of his tenure. I wonder if his goals during that time were not rebuilding but rather just making the team as good as possible to get the highest price for MLB and also as an audition for a future job in MLB offices or with a team (which I guess is a success since he is now employed under new ownership). Also, by building a quasi-winner in '05, perhaps he helped build a fan base? Your thoughts on these theories? Clearly, these actions have put us further behind on the plan, but it served other goals.

But since the Livan for Chico deal, your complaints have been more minor (a possible loss of a year of control/cheap Zimmerman, signing Dmitri (who I think is with the team as both player and mentor)).

ckstevenson said...

Dude, you gotta stop going to games with a tape recorder (or you date/married a stenographer).

hoosieraueagle: I'm sure Nationals Fan will have a witty retort, but it's pretty clear from the blog (and the post itself) that he (or she) has more issues with Jim than the so-called "early years". LoDuca being example number 1.

Nationals Fan said...

@Hoosier--Yes that was a made-up conversation. Trying to be both witty and have a point. Eh, maybe I got 50%?

I'm for sure ready to acknowledge that the Nationals have more moved in the direction I would like to see them go in the past 2 years than they did in the first 2. I would give Bowden a F minus minus minus for the first two years and oh maybe a C- for the last 2. My case isn't that he's never done anything good ever.

My case is that while Kasten has forced Bowden into rebuilding, his past track record shows no aptitude for this. A notoriously impatient, hyperactive GM and a terrible drafter, he is the wrong guy for this job.

He looooooves cast-off crappy pitchers like Ryan Drese and [fill in any of the dozens he's plugged in for 16 years].

He also has a reputation as a liar (deserved in my opinion, but even if you think it's not fair, a rep is a rep). There are at least a few GMs out there who won't deal with him period. Even if you believe he's a good GM in every other way, I believe his baggage is hurting us.

Finally, there are tons and tons of talented young execs in MLB. At best, Bowden's maybe the 20th best GM in baseball. I'd say there's a group of bad GMs like Sabean, Bowden, Colletti that are tied for last, but you could make a reasonable argument that he's more like #20. Even if you think that, why settle for the 20th best when you might find the next Josh Byrnes or Theo or Billy Beane or ??? Even his most vocal defenders say he's no better than a bottom third GM, why settle for that?

Nationals Fan said...

@ck--Yeah the LoDuca signing was objectionable from the start, but I really try not to rest my argument on cherry-picking the deals that didn't work out. You can always cherry-pick the deals that did work out and play that game all day.

It's more the overall patterns that I see--draft results, 7 consecutive losing seasons, getting worse not better, etc. etc.

BTW I'm also trying to move more towards a general Nationals blog and less just whipping JimBo, which has a limited attention span.

I do get the most hits and comments on the posts that hammer JimBo the hardest though, for whatever that's worht.

HoosierAUEagle said...

Nats Fan-
I guess what has impressed me most about Bowden is his ability to seemingly get something for nothing. The deals to rent out Mike Stanton come to mind. So I'm not sure it is fair to say he has done nothing good.

As it comes to firing him, clearly the ownership knew of his track record so he's not going to be fired for anything he did before that (barring some secret emerging). And so far after the change in ownership, I don't think his performance has been bad enough to warrent firing. Sure there was the LoDuca signing (which I think smart people can disagree on whether Flores is/was better served by more time in the minors), but you have to balance those with the Milidge and Dukes aquisitions. Perhaps you don't renew his contract (though I imagine a blog entitlted "Do Not Renew Jim Bowden's Contract" would be terribly interesting).

I just don't think you can blame the team's current strugles on Bowden. The whole team (spare Guz and some of the pitchers) is underachiving, and it that case the blame I think falls more on coaching.

By the way, I just wanted to also say I find your blog very well reasoned and well thought out and while I may not agree with your conclusion, it makes for an interesting read.

Nationals Fan said...

@hoosier--I appreciate your kind words, and this is what I'm hoping for, that even people who disagree with my conclusion will come here and at least think it's interesting, and we can chat.
To respond to some of your points--we surely must assume the ownership group "knew his record" when they kept him on, but I don't think that means that his whole track record before then is irrelevant. More to the point, I think that it was basically a rookie mistake by the new owners--they opted for the safe, at-best mediocre option when they should have just gone out and gotten their own, better guy. As my GM hero Ron Wolf (different sport, but it applies) always said, the only thing worse than making a mistake is not correcting it immediately (paraphrase). He was talking about players, but same goes for GMs, overpriced seats behind home plate, or anything else. So what I envision is that they would say, "you know JimBo, you did your best, and you did some good things, but this just isn't getting better fast enough, and we're ready to move on." That could happen.

Where I most disagree with you is in your statement that our current struggles aren't Bowden's fault. They absolutely are. Rome wasn't built in a day, and the Nationals weren't run into ground in a day. When the Expos got here, we were a mostly devastated franchise, but we did have *some* assets and opportunities. What we had, Bowden largely squandered (2 high picks in the 2005 draft, trading Wilky for a 1-year rental of Soriano instead of prospects, not trading Cordero, not trading Nick, waiting too long to trade Vidro and Livo, Juan Rivera for a 2-year rental of the same hitter in Jose Guillen and throwing in Maicer Izturis to boot, giving up B. Harris, Bill Bray, and Daryl Thompson for Flop and Kearns, Scott Downs, Armando Galarraga, etc., etc...)

Would we be a WS contender right now if Bowden had adopted a rebuilding strategy from the get-go and executed it well? Almost surely not. It's possible (I blogged on this last month), but he would have needed to draft exceptionally well, almost miraculously well. But we surely would be farther along the rebuilding road than we are now.

I think the owners and a lot of other people looked at Bowden and said, "hey, this guy had a tough situation but he made lemons out of lemonade. 2005 was great fun, and he got one of the most exciting players in the game for very little. Kearns and Lopez are key building block of a winning team. Good job! Now let's focus on the youth and we'll get better fast."

But now it should be clear to them that this is a wrong eval of his first 2 years here. He mortgaged the future to get us over 70 wins in 2006 and a last-place 81-win team in 2005 and in the process locked us into our current fate. 2005 was almost totally the result of Omar's legacy (Bowden added Guzzy, Castilla, a HORRIBLE bench). Loaiza probably gave us 2 more wins and Guillen didn't give us much if anything more than we'd have gotten from Juan Rivera and more Church.

And then I think it's crazy crazy looniness to blame Manny. You said "coaches," so maybe you're thinking Lenny. I don't think Lenny adds anything, but to blame him seems like blaming the waiters for the Titanic. Other people say injuries, and there is some true bad luck there, but who decided that we should be counting on injuries waiting to happen like Hill, Johnson, Meat, PLod... In fact, we've actually been really lucky that we haven't had more breakdowns in the bullpen (when you look at usage) and Guzman's been one of the most injury prone guys in baseball (aside from Nick, Hill, Church) the last few years, so count us lucky there.

Anyway, sorry for the long-winded post. That's my whole lunch break. It's ok we disagree. Good chat.