What Did He Know, And When Did He Know It?
[February 26th] -- Not since the days of Watergate has Washington been awash in conspiracy theories of this magnitude. Although Howard Baker isn't saying it, the blog-o-sphere is: "What did Kevin Towers know, and when did he know it?"
Now, I have no clue as to whether the Padres' general manager knew that Brian Lawrence was damaged goods. My guess is that he did not. That doesn't mean, however, that he was blind to the fact that there was something "different" with his former opening day starter.
In four major league seasons, Brian Lawrence was remarkably consistent. He averaged 10 wins and 206 innings per year. His ERA during 2002-04 was 3.69, 4.19 & 4.12 respectively. Halfway through last season, Lawrence's ERA was 4.14 and he seemed on the way to yet another cookie-cutter, just-above-average year. Then, something happened. He struggled in the second half of 2005, posting a 5.86 ERA in his last 19 starts. Shortly thereafter, he was traded to the Nationals.
I don't believe that Towers had any tangible proof that his pitcher was ailing, but he wouldn't be a very good general manager if he didn't realize that something was wrong. His velocity was typically 83-84 mph, down from the high 80's in 2002.
Lawrence never missed a start, never experienced any pain, and believed he was healthy. Towers, however, has supervised hundreds of pitchers over his career, and likely picked up on the signals that Lawrence's stats were telling. He did the right thing by moving Lawrence.
That brings us to Jim Bowden. The Nationals general manager told reporters that the team scouted all of Lawrence's starts the last month of the season. He saw him pitch a three-hit shutout personally. He was healthy, or so he thought. But if Towers could read his tea leaves properly and make the move at just the right time, then why couldn't Jim Bowden see the same thing with the same tea leaves? Was Bowden duped or is he simply a dupe?
I don't know, and probably, we'll never know. That said, consider this: Last October, the Nationals could have released Vinny Castilla and no one would have really cared. We were stunned that "Trader Jim" could have gotten so much in return for a washed-up third baseman.
"How did he do it?" we all asked.
We know now, don't we?
I was a big fan of Bowden when he first joined the Nats, but I'm not beginning to wonder ....
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