The team won't always do what I want, and the outcomes won't always be good. But if the team is at least gathering the right information, taking the right factors into account, considering all alternatives, and making decisions for sound reasons, then I can live with it.
Probably the quintessential example of bad process for the Nationals is keeping Jim Bowden on as GM after the team was sold to the Lerners. You can argue that Bowden was a good GM, and many of you did (you know who you are), but the truth is that Bowden kept his job because he had a cozy relationship with the owner's kid. I don't care if Bowden turned out to be Earl Weaver, Vince Lombardi, and Erwin Rommel rolled into one. Mark Lerner's personal feelings for Jim Bowden shouldn't even be a factor in the decision. That's bad process.
As friend of FJB Rob Neyer wrote today, chances are that history won't remember the Dukes release as a big deal. Last season was a big step backwards for him. I would give Dukes maybe a 10% chance of making the Nationals regret this, and a 20% chance of thinking "wow, we dodged a bullet there." I guess that leaves 70% chance that he fades away like Glenn Gibson never to be thought of much again.
But still, I don't believe the Elijah Dukes decision was made for the right reasons or as a result of good process. I think Mike Rizzo decided before he even got this job that if he ever had the chance, he would dump Dukes (as well as Lastings Milledge, for that matter). Mark Zuckerman (kind of accidentally) nails it:
There's a reason a guy like Austin Kearns is kept on the roster an entire season despite his horrific production at the plate. Kearns was revered inside the Nationals' clubhouse for his work ethic, his attitude and his refusal to grumble over lost playing time.And there's a reason why certain teams lose 100 games year after year after year. Bad decisions resulting from bad process.
And there's a reason a guy like Elijah Dukes is cut loose on March 17 even when he's got minor-league options and would have cost the organization less than one-fifth of what Kearns made a year ago.
The factors Mark Z. cites are all relevant. It's not like he asked his fiancee which guy was cuter and cut him to avoid competition. It's just painfully obvious that too much weight is being placed on clubhouse clubbiness, and not nearly enough on talent.
OMG lays out the comps between Dukes and the players we're likely to see in right this season and concludes, fairly indisputably, that Dukes is the better talent on the field. But the point doesn't end there. Because Dukes had options, you have to believe that he's less valuable than the least valuable outfielder anywhere in the organization. Worse than Willy Taveras, worse than Jerry Owens, worse than all the late-20s organizational filler players who have never appeared on anyone's prospect lists ever?
The key factor here wasn't whether anyone would trade for him. After all, if the Nationals called you up anxious to deal a guy like Dukes, wouldn't you assume that there was something you didn't know? It's that he has all-star tools, cost next to nothing, and had options. Unless he was really so disruptive in the clubhouse that he'd be an impediment even as a leftfielder in Potomac, there's no possible way this makes the team better. And we know how he'd handle a demotion. He handled it just fine last year with no incidents of any kind.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not making excuses for Dukes' bad behavior. He should have been more punctual. He should have used a condom. He should have paid his child support on time. He should have used a condom. He should have just flipped Nishea Gilbert the bird like a normal hot-head, not texted her a jpeg of a handgun. He should have used a condom.
But the team has made it perfectly clear that there was nothing Dukes did to make himself unemployable. (Riggleman: "Elijah was great. He's done his work. He's got no issues.") Rizzo just didn't like him and wanted him gone. Bad process.
As for the future, I do think Dukes will be back in the major leagues, probably soon. My guesses for where? 1. Chicago, South Side, which I think is both the most likely and the best fit. Grab him in deep fantasy leagues if that happens. 2. Chicago, North Side. This would be a disaster, but Jim Hendry's made this kind of mistake before, and failed to learn from mistakes other times. 3. Anaheim. I don't think it would work out long term, but they have a lot of faith in Mike Scioscia's ability to manage a clubhouse, and I bet they'd get a win or two out of him. 5. New York Mets. If no one else does, Omar will take the bait.
Finally--for the people who are applauding this new era of strict accountability in the Nationals organization, I wonder how you square that with the fact that Smiley Gonzalez, er Carlos Alvarez, is still drawing a paycheck? I mean, it's a bit of a non-sequitor, but if you think Dukes needed to be fired for his off-field issues and unreliability, shouldn't Alvarez be drawn, quartered, and his remains shot out of a cannon?