Thursday, August 02, 2007

Thursday Thoughts-What Are the Nationals Doing?

It was quite a quiet day off yesterday, as not much really happened in the sports world. 755, 500 and 300 are still, as of now, not yet reached (I'm no Tim Donaghy but I would be absolutely STUNNED if Tom Glavine didn't pick up win 300 on Sunday, which just happens to be a night-time tilt against the first place Cubs on ESPN). There was some fallout from the Johan Santana blow-up, mainly in the Boston Herald which had an interview with David Ortiz on his thoughts about his former club. Very interesting how the Boston papers are already trying to put Santana in a Sox uniform in 2009, isn't it? Even the New York papers haven't jumped the gun on that (yet, anyways).

Today's rant is going to be directed at Washington Nationals GM Jim Bowden. Normally I would be tactful about this, but I am absolutely at a loss for words, so here it goes. WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING? What is your long-term plan in Washington? Do you HAVE a long term plan? Are you aware that your farm system is as barren as the Siberian desert? Quick Nats fans, name your team's top prospect. Come on, you can do it (answer at the end of the post). These used to be the Montreal Expos, who may have had the greatest prospect line ever until the ill-fated Bartolo Colon deal in 2003. Last year's failure to acquire anything for Alfonso Soriano was just awful, but you took the cake here. Ronnie Belliard and Dmitri Young get extensions? Are you flipping serious? I was unaware that over 30 cast-offs were the way to build a franchise. Jon Rauch and Chad Cordero could have commanded decent packages to help that blackhole of a farm system, yet they are still in Nats uniforms? Has someone told you that you're losing your job and you are just trying to put the screws to this franchise, a la Mike O'Connell of the Boston Bruins in 2005 and early 2006? Is Stan Kasten, who last I heard was part of the ownership group that bought the Nats, reading any newspapers that have a sports section? A new ballpark is supposed to open next year, and it was hoped that after years of suffering through tight-wad ownership groups in Montreal(stand up and take a bow Claude Brochu), overall morons (see Loria, Jeffrey) and dilapidated stadiums (I still love you, Olympic Stadium) that a return of baseball to DC would resurrect a phoenix from the ashes. Instead, we have a situation like the Pittsburgh Pirates, where a beautiful new stadium has assured the fan base of only one thing, better concessions (I wonder if the new Nats park will have enough mustard to last through the 5th inning, unlike RFK). The ownership group is MIA, the GM's mind is MIA, and the fan base is also MIA. In fact, Harris Interactive recently ranked the Nats as the 29th most popular club in MLB, ahead of the storied Toronto Blue Jays and behind such historic clubs as the Colorado Rockies and Tampa Bay Devil Rays. I know Bud Selig is too busy talking about how making it to see 8 games during Bonds homerun chase is "a herculean effort" (he is the freaking MLB Commish, not a UN peace envoy), negotiating sweetheart ownership transfer deals to bail out good friend Jeffrey Loria, and pointing out in his "I told you so" way that if the Twins hadn't gotten a new stadium they would have had to move, but after all the freaking posturing MLB did to get the Expos moved (without a hint of even trying to keep the team in Montreal by the way) and as long as it took them to select an ownership group, shouldn't they have chosen someone with a clue? Is he aware that MLB can't afford to live off of the coffers of the Red Sox and Yankees forever and to actually establish a solid long-term financial plan ALL of his teams should be making money? What was the point of moving a team to DC if they weren't going to have the attitude of the franchise turned around? This is year 3 of the DC era, and the farm system is actually worse now than it was 3 years ago. What sucks about this is you will hear Yankee fans moan about Brian Cashman not making a bigger deal at the deadline than Proctor for Betemit, but you don't hear a ton of outrage at Bowden or even the Pirates' Dave Littlefield (who in acquiring washed up and expensive Matt Morris for a team that has been out of it for a month has just won this weeks "What the Hell Are YOU Doing?" Award) or a baseball insider come on Sportscenter (between "Who's Now" vignettes and Skip Bayless and Stephen A Smith appearances of course) and publicly question if Bowden is suffering from dementia. In fact, there was only one semi-critical article in the Washington Post written by Barry Svrluga yesterday. The last article written by Thomas Boswell, who for the first two years of this franchise was the Post's Nats authority, was written on July 12, 2007. Can you imagine the outrage if Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe went three weeks in season between Red Sox columns? It would make the Bronx in 1977 look like Utopia. In a week in which the Boston Celtics became relevant again for the first time since my early teens, it would have been a nice to see another "childhood favorite" franchise at least make a move to show that they know what they are doing and give long suffering Expos-Nats fans hope. Now all I have is questions, and there doesn't seem to be anyone out there who wants to answer them.

Answer to the question "Who is the Nats Top Prospect?"

Baseball Prospectus has Chris Marrero, a 19 year old right handed hitting left fielder as the Nats #1 prospect. He started this year in low A ball. He has pretty good stats this year for Harrisburg and Potomac. It's a far cry from the days when Larry Walker, Marquis Grissom, and Grady Sizemore were coming out of that farm system.

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