Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Disease of Admiration

Well, now the that the grim specter of baseball death has departed for a couple of weeks, I can return to my regularly scheduled complaining about Jim Bowden. And I have more beef for the taquitos than ever now that Washington Post stalwarts George Solomon and Thomas Boswell have drunk deeply of the Bowden Kool-Aid. Today we'll be focusing on Boswell, who wrote this column about how he doesn't care about the Redskins.
Will General Manager Jim Bowden make another flashy offseason free agent acquisition? He's already added Vinny Castilla, who led the National League in RBI last season with 131, and Jose Guillen, who had 104 RBI for Anaheim. That's a heart of the order right there. He got a fine young shortstop in Cristian Guzman, too.
Flashy? Vinny Castilla is many things (Mexican, overpaid), but flashy is not one of them. Jose Guillen is kind of flashy - no boring walks for him, just fisticuffs. Seriously, though, isn't Boswell capable of better than this kind of inch-deep, analysis? I admit that I don't read the guy often, but he's nationally known and not in a bad way.
If Bowden lands just one starting pitcher from his shopping list of Russ Ortiz, Jaret Wright, Paul Wilson and Odalis Perez, the Nats would already be the equivalent of the 78-win Orioles.
Hey, one of those guys doesn't suck, and he ain't the one who routinely paces the league in walks. Fortunately, Paul Wilson is now unavailable. Maybe I'm expecting too much, but I'm not looking for this team just to keep up with the Orioles. Way to aim high there, Tom.
If this is what Bowden does on a shoestring, who will this crazy guy grab if he ever actually knows what his budget is?
Short answer: Juan Gonzalez. Long answer: what the hell are you talking about? Jim Bowden isn't some kind of enigma: he was a general manager for ten years, and an ineffective one. You can make payroll excuses all you want, but the guy simply didn't win. He didn't produce his own players, he didn't make good free agent signings, and he's not going to do so here, either.

There are two factors at work here, two things making otherwise reasonable men giggle with glee because we threw $16 million at a player whose closest comp is Pat Meares. The first is the mistaking of action for results. This was most clearly demonstrated back on November 21, when Post sports editor emeritus George Solomon wrote: "tell me Bowden isn't cleaning the O's clocks so far?" I'll tell you, George. Bowden has blown about $25 million and improved his team marginally if at all, while O's management hasn't spent any money and hasn't damaged the Orioles. I'll take that strategy every time.

The second factor is pure homerism. I've experienced something similar myself: I always hated the name "Nationals" and the dude ranch-style cursive W. And yet, when it was announced that the Expos would become the Nats and the that red white and blue M thing would become the script W, I didn't care anymore. Sure, they were boring and ugly, respectively, but they were mine. Boswell, Solomon, and many others are seeing the Nats, their GM, and the moves he makes through the rose-colored glasses of the homer. It's a universal phenomenon - go check out an Orioles message board, and you'll see fans argue that Matt Riley is about to break out and win 20. Visit Hiroshima, and you'll hear dedicated Carps followers say with all sincerity that Eddie Diaz is a long-term solution at shortstop. There's a difference between a fan and a homer. A fan hopes Vinny Castilla hits 40 home runs in 2005; a homer knows he will.

There's another blog. DC baseball blogs are mushrooms and it has just rained. I'm going to make a haiku out of that when I get a chance. Anyway, go read the DC Baseball Blog.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Boswell can be remarkably analytical, and a very talented writer, who clearly loves baseball. Remember "Ninety-Nine Reasons Why Baseball is Better than Football?" (http://www.baseball-almanac.com/legendary/libvf100.shtml)

Having said that, he can also be remarkably thick, a ridiculous homer, and make remarks suggesting he doesn't know much about baseball at all.

Speaking of which -- Russ Ortiz? As in, the guy who nearly led the league in walks for the past two years?

-- Gadi

Ryan said...

Ortiz has been in the top 5 in walks allowed for six straight years - every year except his first, when he only pitched 88 innings and still gave up 46. It's amazing that he's even been as good as he has.

JammingEcono said...

Ortiz benefitted from superior offenses in San Francisco and Atlanta that could bail him out. That said, he did seem to have a "knack" for pitching himself out of the jams he created with all those walks. Unfortunately, with his velocity eroding, I think he ability to cover up his mistakes will fade. You're right on with the implied advice that of the 4 pitchers mentioned, Odalis Perez is the obvious #1 choice to pursue. Offer him 4yrs/$26M and be done with it.

On the other hand, I think you miss the larger point of Boswell's article, which is that the Nats have become the water-cooler sports topic of choice for many Washingtonians. He's looking at the Nats from the casual fan's point of view, not the hardcore's (i.e., us). While we can debate the on-the-field significance of the Guzman/Castilla/Guillen signings 'till the cows come home, you have to agree with him that they have made another dreary fall of watching the Skins crash and burn much more palatable.

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