Let me tell you, writing a musical about the life and times of Rickey Henderson is harder than you'd think. And getting financing for it is even harder than that. And getting Otis Nixon to star in it is even harder than that. So here I am doing this again.
Imagine my relief when, after several months hunched over a notepad stolen from my office trying to work the "tenure?! Rickey got 16, 17 years" gag into the libretto, I looked around and realized that the Nationals are almost identical to when I last saw them. There's really not that much to cover, so I'm not trying very hard. Because the last time I tried, Otis Nixon laughed in my face.
RATTY GOATEE OUT, PERM IN
Well, they fired Paciorek. I already miss him, his polo shirts, and his wildly popular trademark catchphrase ("Blargh!"). I also miss the sliver of faith in humanity that I lost when I perused fan reaction to his eminently reasonable sacking. The two things I learned: 1) Paciorek is the greatest color man that ever lived, and 2) There is no definitive way to spell "Wimpy." Or "Whimpie." Or "Whimpeey."
Now we've got Hall of Famer Don Sutton, whose chief claim to fame is as the background to countless TBS-fueled weekend afternoon naps. That suits me just fine, even though the mention of Buck Martinez -- a silver-haired, white-suited, kazoo-voiced god among men -- got my hopes embarrassingly high.
CRANKY OLD MAN OUT, CHIPPER YOUNG MAN IN
They fired Frank Robinson so long ago that I actually blogged about it. There's been some recent drama, what with Frank claiming he was promised one of those nice sinecures where he puts on a cap, shuffles onto the field, and waves to the rubes a couple times a year only to have it snatched from him by one or another lying piece of crap in the front office. Whatever. Don't care. Frank stole enough money napping in the dugout while getting paid to manage the Expos that I don't consider it an injustice that he'll be doing his whining about these players nowadays without the official backing of a major league franchise.
But enough of the Ghost of Lousy Seasons Past, and on to the Ghost of Lousy Seasons Present, Mr. Manny Acta! Some months ago I compiled in my noodle a list of things I was looking for in a new manager. I wanted a guy who 1) wouldn't cost a lot of money B) wouldn't be a bigger target for SportsCenter mentions than his players and III) would make sure Ryan Church got 500 at bats. I'm pretty sure he fulfills my first condition, and I know he's good for the second, but we're off to a rough start with number III. Nook Logan being named starting center fielder shows just how little things have changed with this team. My only wish is that Logan were from an exotic foreign country so that I could make an hilarious joke about how his name is the equivalent in whatever language it is they speak over there to Brandon Watson. As it is, I'm stuck with this.
CRIPPLED SECOND BASEMAN OUT, CRIPPLED AUSTRALIAN IN
This is tough for me. I was bagging on Jim Bowden before he was hired, and I sure didn't stop after he got here. He made it easy for me, too -- the Cristian Guzman signing alone is enough material for one of those one-note Fire [Sports Figure] blogs that Deadspin finds so amusing. But damned if he hasn't been on a roll lately. Remember when he ripped off the Reds so bad that their GM went crazy and started complaining that Freemasons were beaming mind control rays into his head? Or maybe that Gary Majewski was all torn up in the pitchological areas of the body. One of those. So, we won that one, and then he went and screwed Seattle so bad they almost had to move to Milwaukee again. I'm amazed that we managed to get anything for Jose Vidro plus Jose Vidro's bloated "what the hell we're about to get contracted anyway" salary. And we didn't get just anything; we got Chris Snelling, the Australian Ellis Burks. Plus some other guy. I'm not doing a lot of research here.
So what happened? Has Bodes, after 12 years or whatever on the job, gotten better? Or is it what I like to call the "Bowden's A Pimp. He Never Could've Outfought Bavasi" theory, along with the "But I Didn't Know Until This Day That It Was Kasten All Along" Addendum? Which is to say, Stan Kasten is actually running things and laying all these GMs out with x's where their eyes should be.
I certainly don't know. On the one hand, it's a lot easier to believe that someone associated with Bobby Cox and double-digit divison titles is competent rather than someone associated with tracksuits and Bob Boone. But on the other hand, the Lerner/Kasten administration has been so far marked by a certain . . . let's say thriftiness. Other than for laffs, why would they keep a well-compensated buffoon on the payroll? It's not like Kasten's afraid of the spotlight -- if he's willing to go on the John Thompson Show and be called a racist, I can't imagine he's nervous about facing Bill Ladson's soft tosses.
So I have to assume they're keeping Bowden around for some reason, and I further assume that that reason something to do with generally managing. Which leads uncomfortably to the assumption that Bodes is doing some good things. Not all good things, of course. The Nats starting rotation, as it stands today, is five reliable pitchers short of "solid," and the ¡Livan! trade is looking more and more like the result of a pretty severe misappraisal of resources. Like selling both your kidneys because you're pretty sure Mike O'Connor can filter the waste out of your bloodstream for a whole season. Nonetheless, it's no longer clear that Jim Bowden is the unadulterated force for crappiness he once was.
For the moment, therefore, I'm promoting Jim Bowden: having defeated Krivsky and Bavasi in single combat, he's now officially the best of the bad GMs. Like being the best Nats shortstop or cleverest celebrity gossip blog or the 2006 National League champions, it's not a huge accomplishment, but it's something, and there's plenty of room for advancement. I'm just trying to make sure I don't wind up like the guy who wrote this Hardball Times column, which stated that "It's too early to judge Jim Bowden's offseason, but it would appear that the last smart thing he's done was the midseason trade for Lopez and Kearns" the day before Bowden did something very smart. It is now the official position of Distinguished Senators that it actually is possible to underestimate Jim Bowden.
Stay tuned starting in April for my next quarterly update, when I'll discuss why it took them so long to bench Nook.