Sunday, March 01, 2009

Ave Atque Vale, Bodes

We're finally rid of Jim Bowden. Let's be honest: he had his moments. He pulled off some really nifty deals. Jesus Flores for nothing, for instance. He pulled off some other deals that sure seemed like coups, but didn't work out for one reason or another - the infamous Cincinnati hijacking, after which everyone we got turned into a pumpkin. Or my personal favorite, Vinny Castilla for Brian Lawrence.

He had other virtues as well. He couldn't keep his mouth shut, he couldn't keep the tracksuits in the closet, and he couldn't keep himself off that damn Segway. For a franchise desperate to establish a brand name, these kinds of things are, if not important, at least worth something. Look at the racing presidents.

His virtues, though, are swamped by a tidal wave of whatever the opposite of virtues is. Not all his deals were good ones. I still think shipping out Maicer Izturis and Juan Rivera for Jose Guillen was a huge mistake; even huger once the Guzman contract is appended. Smiley Gonzalez for $1.4 million proved to be a loser as well. But beyond any individual decision, Bowden presided over a team that had gotten steadily worse, with a stagnant player development system and lagging fan interest that not even the dopest tracksuit could allay. A lot of things had to go wrong for the Nats to lose 102 games last year, and the fact that Bowden wasn't responsible for all of them doesn't mean he wasn't responsible for any of them.

And that's why it's worrying that it took a massive scandal to finally bring Bowden down. You can't find fault with Bodes getting the GM job in the first place. The Nats were wards of MLB, and there was no guarantee that whoever took the job would keep it for more than a year. Better men than Bodes turned it down, so they settled. Bowden was a stopgap, a bargain bin GM for a bargain bin franchise.

My hope, and I don't think I was alone in this, was that the new owners would come in and hit reset, that they would purge all the vestiges of the Nationals' embarrassing orphan background. New stadium, new players, new management - imagine my disappointment when the first thing the Lerners and Kasten did was confirm Bowden in a post he hadn't earned. There was to be no clean break; the owners were not saviors. They were just some guys with a lot of money and too little judgment.

Jim Bowden should have been fired on Day 1 of the Lerner regime. The fact that he wasn't is a sign of complacency, and nothing that's happened since has changed my mind. And that's why, as welcome as Bodes' final dismissal is, I'm skeptical that much will change. That 100-loss season, that unsigned top draft pick, that million-plus paid to Dominican con artists - these things happened under management that is by and large still with us. If Bowden is responsible enough for these things to be fired, what about his bosses?

Still, it's at least a step in the right direction. We won't get a completely fresh start, but at least Nationals management will not consist largely of people being investigated by the FBI. The team's Dominican operation (at least) has to be rebuilt from the ground up, but a good GM can do it. Let's hope we get one for a change.

As for Bodes, I just hope he uses all his newly-found free time to write a book.

2 comments:

Steven said...

Agreed on pretty much all counts.

WFY said...

I am not a Bowden fan, but I would read a book of his and probably go to the booksigning.