Bowden Turns Back On Nats Nation
[November 9th] -- Over the past season, general manager Jim Bowden has been excoriated by many of the blogs covering the Washington Nationals. No matter how hard he tried, no matter the success of his efforts, he was, according to the blogosphere, a disaster waiting to happen. He had to go.
I have been an unabashed supporter of Jim Bowden. The Nationals won fourteen more games in 2005 thanks to his efforts in rebuilding the team. The great majority of his signings helped the team although one or two didn't pan out [though they still could].
My view of Bowden changed last night while reading an article on the official Nats website.
All of a sudden, that freckly faced boy-wonder doesn't seem to be the answer to the team's long term needs after all.
Speaking of his upcoming interview with the Red Sox, Bowden said, "It's an honor and a privilege to be interviewed by the Red Sox." "I was born in Boston and raised in Weston, Mass. I'm interviewing for the position, not to replace Theo, but I'm interviewing to take the baton and keep the organization moving in the same direction."
This bothered me. Is a natural phenomena for baseball administrators to interview with one team while running another. That's fine. But Bowden should understand that type of "gushing" should be reserved for his friends and family to hear. Keep your mouth shut. If you stay with your team, words like that can cause problems.
But he didn't stop there.
"I'm really looking forward to it," said Bowden. "I've never had a big payroll to work with before. A lot of people have said I'd be good with a big payroll. I'd like to give it a try."
Those are pretty damaging words. "I've been stuck running poor teams my entire career and I deserve better than that." SLAP SLAP. "People tell me that with a real team, using real money, I'd be a great general manager." SLAP SLAP. "My bags are already packed and my cell phone is on speed-dial to the Yankees. Give me the word and we'll have Alex Rodriguez by lunch."
I don't begrudge Bowden feeling this way. What I don't like, however, is his saying it out loud. When these type of interviews take place, the whole process always goes underground so that nothing is said that could hurt feelings in either city. Bowden broke that rule and he may now have to pay the consequences. In essence, he told Washington that "My heart lies in Boston, and being the general manager of the Red Sox would be the culmination of my career." All of a sudden, working and living in D.C., the culmination to most careers, is little more than a stepping stone to the forty-four year old.
Additionally, the uncertainty of the team's future just got worse. Agents and other general managers aren't even sure if Bowden is wearing his Nationals' GM hat right now. "There's uncertainty there," said A.J. Burnett agent Darek Braunecker. "There's going to have to be some resolution to the ownership situation, and, I guess, to Jim's situation, before anybody can go forward." Translation: "I'm not going to talk to anyone with the Nationals until I know whose in charge." Multiply that feeling by 29, and my guess is that the Nationals wil be shut out of any real, meaningful change until Jim Bowden and Major League Baseball get their acts together and make their decisions. Sadly, it'll likely be too late to do any good when things finally come together.
Thanks to Bowden's now public desires, and Major League Baseball's undeniable contempt for the well being of the franchise, the team, in the short term at least, is screwed. No one wants to trade with us. No one wants to sign with us. Oh, the team will get by. They'll win another 80 or so games next season, but they lost the opportunity to get better, to make a statement to its fan base that the team would always be trying to improve.
More than likely, Jim Bowden won't be hire by the Boston Red Sox. He'll tell us that while he was grateful for the opportunity, he really never wanted to leave and will continue to make the team's continued improvement his number one priority. He said that following his interview with the Diamondbacks.
We believed him then. But this time, things are different. He publicly salivated over the Red Sox job, making the Nationals, and the Nationals' fans, seem somehow less important in the grand scheme of things. We're wary now. Why should those of us who supported him against the anger of the blogosphere continue to do so when he's turned his back on us?
We shouldn't. But we will. Because Jim Bowden and Tony Taveres and Frank Robinson and Bud Selig and Jerry Reisendorf and all the rest of them are not what we love so dearly. We love the timelessness of baseball, its specialness, the fact that the very language of baseball has permeated the language of our country. We remember the crisp morning air and the dew covered grass when as kids we spent our summers at the ball field. Watching the Nationals play is joyful, but seeing at the game a grandfather with his arm around his young grandchild, teaching him the game, is priceless. Since the beginning of organized baseball, there have been men who tried to hijack the game for their own benefit. They all failed. Fads within the sport come and go. In the end, however, there are ninety feet between the each base and 60 feet six inches from home plate to the pitchers mound. Three strikes make an out, four walks are a ball. If no one is ahead after nine innings, the players keep playing.
Sure, I'm ticked at Jim Bowden. But long after he leaves us, we'll still be here, and so will the Nationals. And that is what makes , in the long term, his actions so unimportant.
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