Friday, August 22, 2008

Let the Fire Jim Bowden Death March BEGIN!

I'm back in DC, and for the most part things are going well. I found out I'm allowed to wear a t-shirt and shorts to work, I figured out my coverage area, and I have cable again (which is probably the biggest positive). But being back in the nation's capital has also forced me to take a hard look at this city's baseball team.

Now the Nationals did do something good last night, snapping a 12-game losing streak against the Phillies (and subsequently leaving the Fightin' Phils 2.5 games behind the Mets). There's no getting around it, though, the Nats have reached unprecedented lows since they arrived in the area and there's just no beating around the ugly bush that has become this team's 45-83 record (the worst in baseball).

And up until a couple weeks ago, I felt like I was one of the few really criticizing the team. Luckily, criticism has picked up in recent weeks as the Nats have become the whipping boy for teams in the middle of pennant races who are desperately searching for wins. But if you've watched this team, you know the answer to the problems. Now in its fourth season of existence, the Washington Nationals have had just three players who can legitimately be considered key ingredients for a playoff team. One was drafted (3B Ryan Zimmerman), another just got traded (RP Jon Rauch) and the other played just a season for the team (Alfonso Soriano).

Other than that, every player brought in or is still here since the team was moved from Montreal is either irrelevant or marginal at best. And you know who the only prominent personnel employee who began with the team four years ago and is still currently with the team: JIM BOWDEN!!!

How many times do I need to put Jim Bowden's mugshot on this website.

I've said it for two seasons now, the guy is useless and shouldn't be allowed to run a baseball team. He was never successful constructing the Reds back in the mid-to-late 90s when he put far too much weight into Ken Griffey, Jr. saving the franchise. When he kept getting hurt, it was easy to notice the rest of the team was badly overmatched. And evidence is now currently mounting higher and higher that seems to point towards Jim Bowden's imminent downfall with the Nationals.

I would argue every single one of Jim Bowden's moves, have in the end, been either fruitless and seriously devastatiing. But recently his mistakes have been especially egregious. Basically, he's got a bad reputation and may have just dug his own grave in the past several weeks. When you have the worst team in baseball, someone in the national media is bound to take notice, if only because they want to be the first to break firings and hirings. Well, Sports Illustrated's Jon Heyman is the first to join my chorus:

Bowden's job status would figure to remain uncertain longterm under the current conditions, which include the team's worst-in-baseball 45-83 record. But for now, his bosses are backing him on key issues in conversations with other top baseball people. Those issues include both the failure to sign No. 1 draft choice Aaron Crow and reports that Bowden is being investigated in baseball's scout skimming scandal.

Ahhh, the worst team in baseball has decided to stop signing draft picks. Excellent thinking by management. Oh, wait, the management sucks and apparently wants Jim Bowden to keep steering this ship into the middle of nowhere. See, they blame the non-signing of a first-roound draft pick on the kid's agents, and of course, the scout skimming investigation is all due to erroneous media reports.

There's no excuse for this foolish trade, though:

Several competing GMs criticized the Nationals for trading productive reliever Jon Rauch in a market bereft of bullpen stars for second-base prospect Emilio Bonifacio, a speed and glove man who one scout said "will struggle with the breaking ball.''

To me, the success of this team is dependant on Bowden getting fired. The Washington Nationals franchise has for the most part stayed in neutral since it came into existance, and it is about time things got shook up. This is the perfect confluence of poor on the field personnel decisions combining with shaky off the field mistakes.

The Lerner family, which owns the team, needs to get off its high horse and do something. Their owner honeymoon period should be over by now, and it's time to hold them to the same standards people like Abe Pollin (Wizards) and Dan Snyder (Redskins) are held to.

Whether it means giving Stan Kasten (the Nats President and former architect of the Braves dynasty) more control over personnel decisions or bringing something else in, I think it's obvious Bowden has got to go. He's done nothing for this franchise's long term success and even his short term solutions have been largely inadequate.


So join in, this is going to be a fun ride. We're going to get Jim Bowden fired. For the sake of DC Baseball.

*Disclaimer: This post failed to mention other slightly less important, but equally stupid Jim Bowden atrocities:

1) not trading Alfonso Soriano before the trading deadline a couple years back, therefore receiving nothing for him after the team didn't re-sign him in the offseason 2) bringing in some players with shaky reputations (Wily Mo Pena — .205 BA, Elijah Dukes — .264 BA 6HR, Lastings Milledge .261 BA ) who have all flopped 3) bringing in players that have been largely irrelevant or aren't even with the team anymore (Paul Lo Duca, Felipe Lopez, Austin Kearns), 4) mistakenly re-signing mediocre players at positions they didn't need them (Dmitri Young or Nick Johnson, Ronnie Belliard, Ryan Langerhans).

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