Posts Tagged ‘Jim Bowden’

Firing Jim Bowden: How The Nationals Can Actually Win

Captain’s Note: Steven Biel is the Global Warming Campaign Director for Greenpeace USA, but more importantly the writer for the blog Fire Jim Bowden. In the wake of Bowden’s departure I asked Steven for his insight on where the Nationals stand coming into the 2009 season. He was kind enough to contribute his thoughts in this guest post:

Bowden & Kasten are out (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

Bowden is out, Kasten is now in (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

Now that the Jim Bowden regime is finally over, it’s time to assess where the team stands now and determine a path forward.

The team is much better off in one important way: for the first time, we may have some clarity in chain of command within the organization. The team has always been totally dysfunctional because no one has been allowed to pick their own staff. Stan didn’t want Jim. Jim inherited Dana Brown and had Mike Rizzo imposed on him from above. Manny Acta maybe was Jim’s choice, but it felt at the time more like the new owners forced out Frank Robinson and gave marching orders to find a younger manager. Manny hasn’t always been allowed to hire his own coaches…

Now, we may have some top-down cohesion. That in itself is a huge step forward. I hope that, whoever the next GM is, he’s given free reign to clean house and bring in all his own people. I’m a fan of Manny Acta’s but I’d rather have a united organization.

As for the team on the field, there’s a lot of talk today about how Jim left a core of good young talent to build around. That’s a really generous assessment, I think. The reality is that in order to win a championship, you need at least 2-3 of elite position players and 1-2 elite starting pitchers. For my purpose here, let’s assume an elite player is someone who rates among the top 3-4 players in the league at his position, or top 10-15 for starting pitchers. Then, you also need a whole bunch of good complimentary guys. And finally you can get away with some filler in particular roles, but not a lot.

This team has some complimentary players, lots of filler, and really no elite players at all. And even if you want to project the prospects, we probably don’t have more than one or two players with a chance to become an elite player. A reasonable, unbiased observer would probably say that we don’t have anyone in the organization with a better than 50-50 chance of ever reaching the elite class of their position.

Adam Dunn: Good, not Great (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Adam Dunn: Good, not Great (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Ryan Zimmerman is a great glove at a premium defensive position and a solid #6 hitter on a good team. Good player, not elite. Adam Dunn has an elite bat, but his fielding is poor, which net makes him good, not elite. Jordan Zimmermann has a chance, but projects probably a notch below. Chris Marrero’s ceiling is probably something like Paul Konerko–very good bat, marginal glove: good, not elite. Elijah Dukes probably has the best shot of anyone, but we all know the risk factors there. Nick Johnson at his very best is right on the cusp of elite. If you really want to dream on Micheal Burgess, there’s a virtually unlimited upside, but now you’re talking about a 20-year-old who’s never been above A ball. You get the picture.

And don’t get me started on the Daniel Cabreras and Scott Olsens of the world. These guys barely qualify as complimentary pieces, much less players to build a championship around.

So, bottom line, we have a long, long way to go. An optimistic Nationals fan really shouldn’t be thinking about playoffs in 2010 or even 2011, barring some extreme fluke. Maybe 2012.

The way I see it, the team can do one of two things: work to achieve respectability, let’s say 78-81 wins, in 2010-2011, or they can commit to rebuilding towards a contender. To some extent you can do both at the same time, but you

Crisitan Guzman may be a part of the winning soultion (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

Crisitan Guzman may be a part of the winning solution (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

have to commit to one or the other as your priority. The team simply has limited assets (regardless of where you believe that limit should be, a limit DOES exist), and the team needs to invest strategically. So if you’re in re-build mode, you’re going to look to trade your valuable veterans down the stretch for prospects. That means Adam Dunn could once again be on the block this July. If Nick Johnson can stay healthy and return to 2006 form for 3 months, he might still bring back a nice return, even with his health issues. Cristian Guzman, Josh Willingham, Joel Hanrahan–these are all guys who might be able to help a contender and bring back some guys who have a chance to play for a contender down the road.

Of course, if you’re aiming for that elusive respectability, you hoard these types of complimentary pieces and hope for the best. I hope the team resists this temptation. I know, people are tired of the awfulness, but really 78 wins isn’t that much more fun than 60. The goal is to get into the playoffs and compete for a World Series. And we’re really not much if at all closer to that today than we were in November 2004. The new guy should fully commit to rebuilding and aim for a World Series by 2012.

The Great Washington Nationals Overhaul: 08-09

“Congratulations to the Washington Nationals for not being the first to lose 100 games this year.” Those are the paraphrased words that can be found in in my colleague Patrick’s recent season wrapup for the Nats. Now the team is faced with an important off-season during which they will have to rebuild. There are some important things I’d like to note about the coming off-season. Please feel free to weigh in.

  • The Nationals MUST re-sign Odalis Perez (SP). Though he did not win as many games as was expected (7-12), he is cheap, and most importantly he wants to be here. Not many clubs in the situation of the Nationals can boast a veteran pitcher who wants to stay despite the lack of contention. His influence on young pitchers has been phenomenal. Re-sign him now!
  • The Nats must let go of Aaron Boone. As a recent transplant from the New York area, I can sympathize with Boone. He gave me, along with millions of others, one of baseball’s greatest moments. But it is difficult to ignore the fact that he gets hurt an awful lot, and does not regularly make it through the season. His veteran influence will be missed, but there are others who can fill his shoes.
  • First draft pick this year goes to the Washington Nationals. Think about how similar the Nats of today are to the Devil Rays of the not-so-distant past. The youth movement is alive and well in DC.
  • A look at the Nationals depth chart reveals a strong set of position players, especially when you consider what guys like Lastings Milledge, Elijah Dukes, Emilio Bonifacio, Ryan Zimmerman, and even Nick Johnson will contribute in the near future- they are headed into their prime. There are several faces that need to go, though I’m not sure it will happen in this off-season. Outfielders Willie Harris and Ryan Langerhans are heading into their thirties, and neither have made the transition to the major leagues. The Red Sox ruined Wily Mo Pena by benching him for two years, and he doesn’t fit in DC anyway. Dmitri Young is (unfortunately) locked in through next season, but Nick Johnson is the present and the future. Young’s career is in a nose-dive.
  • Pitching is a much more difficult scenario. Though Perez should stay, he is not an ace. Tim Redding is washed up, and he must go. The rest of the staff is very young, and very under-prepared. It is likely that many of them would only be getting spot starts on just about any other major league team. But keep them, and keep them in the majors. They will mature as players, and some may become exceptional. In the meantime, sign two front end pitchers- not necessarily CC Sabathia type aces, but winners.
  • I have faith in the Nationals bullpen. They have been shaky, but not horrible as a whole, and the combo of Chad Cordero and Joel Hanrahan promises to be impressive in years to come.
  • So here’s my free-agent shopping list for the Washington Nationals this year:
  1. Odalis Perez (SP): Resign him.
  2. Ivan Rodriguez (C): He is not needed by the Yankees anymore since Jorge Posada will be back. Though Pudge is experiencing a downturn in career numbers, he has a tremendous talent for working with the young pitchers who make up the vast majority of the Nationals staff. He will contribute by getting on base, and he has always performed best on teams outside of the spotlight. He will also come at a bargain price after his mediocre performance in Pinstripes.
  3. Adam Dunn (LF): I rarely disagree with Tim Dierkes, but I simply do not believe the Nationals are at the beginning of a “long rebuilding process.” I think that they are nearing the end of one. Nats GM Jim Bowden likes Dunn (they were both Reds at one point) and wants to inject the team with power. That is exactly what the Nationals need. Dunn will drive in a ton of runs, create the kind of adrenaline and fan involvement that only a home-run hitter can, and he will help the Nationals grow into its big market. I don’t really know what there is not to like about Dunn in DC.
  4. Freddy Garcia (SP): Now is the perfect time for a club like the Nats to make a move on Garcia. He recently recovered from an injury and pitched fairly well for the Tigers in three games. He will be a major bargain given his time on the DL, but there will be teams after him, especially Detroit. If the Nationals make a bold move and outbid the bargain-hunters, promising Garcia the ace slot, he can be won. Remember, this is a guy with a world series ring who has won between 14 and 18 games five times. Go get him!
  5. Oliver Perez (SP): He has not yet mastered consistency, but he is still young- young enough to live up to the tremendous potential that this 180 strikeout season represents, but also old enough to help guide the younger pitchers. Perez will thrive where he can be a leader, as well as a student. He will also have a lot to learn if the Nationals can manage to pair him up with Pudge Rodriguez.

There are very few people who are willing to watch an atrocious baseball team. The Rays, Nats, and Royals can all attest to that. But Washington DC has the potential to be a massive market, particularly with the ease of travel that the Metro system offers. All that is required is some wise money spent along with continuous nurturing of the phenomenal youth movement taking place in the Nationals organization.

And in case anyone is interested, my prediction is Red Sox vs. Dodgers, Dodgers in 6.

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