So the Nationals begin another day with Jim Bowden's butt occupying the GM chair. Truth be told, he's been so totally undermined that it's hard to imagine what part of the GM's job he could do right now. Let's assume for the moment that the Nationals might be interested in flipping a player--oh, I don't know, maybe a corner outfielder. If I'm one of the GMs who was still taking Jim's calls as of a month ago, I certainly wouldn't now. What's the point? He clearly isn't operating with anything remotely resembling the support of ownership. There are a hundred issues large and small like this, leaving the whole organization in limbo.
Tonight ESPN reported that Mike Rizzo is in the DR working on replacing Jose Rijo as the team's director of Dominican operations and actually met with (interviewed?) Fernando Ravelo, general manager for the Dominican Winter League Tigres de Licey. Who bottom-lines that decision now? Stan? Rizzo? Certainly not Jim, right? If it was up to him, Jose Rijo would still be in charge down there. Does the decision get cleared with LaCava first, assuming he's really standing in the on-deck circle? When Ravelo was asked if he'd been offered the job, he answered "maybe." Perhaps that's a coy non-answer to a reporter, but perhaps it's an honest answer. I mean, who's job is it to offer him now?
This is such an untenable, inexplicable mess that I'm starting to come around to a conclusion I'd resisted: this delay is about money. Craig Calcaterra suggested it earlier this week--that the Nationals are waiting for the FBI to give them something incriminating in the Smiley-gate investigation so that they can fire Bowden for violating some kind of moral turpitude clause that would allow them to withhold the rest of his contract.
This theory gained traction with the Chico Harlan story on Monday, which reported:
Behind the scenes, according to sources, some within the team's ownership group -- which includes Managing Principal Owner Theodore N. Lerner, seven principal owners and nine founding partners -- are eager to cut ties with the general manager they inherited almost three years ago, and see the investigation as a way of facilitating Bowden's exit. The Nationals, one source said, are encouraging the investigation to return an answer on Bowden so the parties can "go on their merry way."The Lerners aren't known as forgiving bleeding hearts. It's hard to believe that they are going to this length out of some wildly exaggerated commitment to fairness. So maybe Calcaterra is right, and this is just another version of the stadium rent story, a case study in extreme penny wise-pound foolishness that leads them to do real harm to the value of the overall product with a protracted PR embarrassment, all for the sake of the MLB equivalent of a few nickels.
Ed note: a previous version of this post implied that Tony LaCava may be in the DR on Nationals business. Tony is 100% an employee of the Jays, and if he's there, it's on Jays business. I didn't mean to imply otherwise, but my language was sloppy, so I wanted to be clear.