Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Jim Bowden and the Triumph of Honesty

I'm looking forward to this season, as ghastly as it's going to be, because I've never seen anything like it. It's unusual to see a major league baseball team in this kind of extremity, and it's even more unusual to see one so ready to admit it. I never lived in Pittsburgh or Kansas City, so I don't know how frank frankly awful teams tend to be, but the statements coming from Nationals management seem at least extraordinary, if not unprecedented.

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.

6 comments:

Daedalus said...

Am I the only one deluded in thinking this team can finish fourth? God, I need to lay off the beer or something...

Sen. John Kerry said...

shooting yourself in the foot to get a Purple Heart

What's wrong with that?

Nate said...

Painful, ain't it? The first time the carny-barking huckster actually comes out and says something useful, it turns out to be, "Yeah, we're tanking this season. Suck on it and like it."

*Sigh* Pass the beer, Sister D.

El Gran Color Naranja said...

I think we want the our teams to start each season with the idea that "There's a chance" even if it's a miniscule chance to make the postseason. Once the playoffs are out of reach, we can forgive a team for not trying to win more games this year, though only if it's in an effort to win more games at a later date (say by trading decent players, or cutting salary).

Anonymous said...

Has Many been told or is he being kept in the dark? How about the players?

Ryan said...

I do wonder about that with Acta. I get the impression that he was something of a prospect as a manager - it didn't seem like he'd have to take the first job he was offered. Maybe I'm wrong about that.

But if it's true, you'd think they'd have to assure him that there'd be some reward for suffering through a couple 90-(at least)-loss seasons, that they're not going to fire him in the middle of the Teh Plan. We'll see, I guess.