Consider some comments Thom Loverro reports that Jim Bowden made during a recent interview.
"The (major league payroll) budget was a lot lower this year than before. But that was a baseball decision. We certainly could have gone out and spent, let's say $9 million, on three pitcher who would do a better job of keeping us in games or gone and got one Gil Meche for $10 million a year."Aside from the spasmodic reaction the Meche mention is likely to prompt from Needham, I'm surprised to find a carnival barker like Bowden admitting that the Nats quite easily could have been better than they are, but that they aren't, because, you know, Plan.
"You saw that last year. At the trading deadline, teams that want to win, they don't want second-division starting pitchers, so you can't trade them. That piece doesn't get you anything. That doesn't work long term. Then, you win a few more games and get a worse draft pick, so I don't know if that is worth it.Hmm. Now, I'm fairly pro-Plan, I guess. It's not that I think that Jason Simontacchi or whoever is a real pitcher, but I do have some confidence in the long-term outlook of the team. As I mentioned at least once before, this is the first time that has ever been true. And that's something. Quite a lot, actually.
However, there's a line that's been crossed here. It's one thing to say that your team is going to be awful. We understand that, as long as there's nothing you can reasonably do about it. But Bowden is admitting here that the Nats could have been competitive but that it was decided that they would not be, and that this decision was made at least in part so that we'd get a better draft pick. That's like shooting yourself in the foot to get a Purple Heart, and I don't know that I'm comfortable with it.
But it's not like Bodes invented this maneuver. A dude named Bimbo figured it out when the Cavaliers did it, for example. And pragmatically speaking, it makes sense. $10 million sunk into the rotation is extremely unlikely to result in a team that going to do anything of note, and it does, as Bodes says, make more sense to invest that money in the farm system. I don't know, are we used to teams trying to compete, or are we used to teams pretending they're trying to compete? I mean, yeah, some teams compete. The good ones. But it's taken for granted that certain proportion of franchises in any sport is going to endure the blows of a losing season in order to build for the future or pocket some easy money or because they don't have the will to fire the incompetents running the thing, and the public relations noises they make to the press while they're doing it don't change the reality of their effort.
So it's not Bowden's tactics that make me uneasy, it's his honesty. And that kind of thing should be encouraged, so I guess he gets a pass.