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CHURCH'S "BODY LANGUAGE" EARNS HIM DEMOTION TO NEW ORLEANS

[March 29th] -- It took me nearly sixteen months to dislike Jim Bowden. It took me only one day to hate him.

There are always going to be disagreements between management and fans as to who makes the team out of spring training. That's part of the fun, to second guess the big-shots and poke fun at their choices. But when those decisions hurts the team, when foolish choices cut deep into the very fabric of the team, it goes beyond a friendly disagreement. On Tuesday, Jim Bowden placed his desire to remain as team GM above the Nationals' long-term best interest, and I can't believe he's going to get away with it.

None of us really believe that the Nationals have any real hope of duplicating last season's "run to 81." The pitching is worse and the team has added even more problem players. This should have been a year to play the kids and give the mid-level prospects a chance to either prove they can play at the major league level or get rid of them and free up space for the next batch of hopefuls. The honeymoon is still in full bloom all around the beltway, and another 2.5 million fans would put up with the decaying infrastructure of RFK to support baseball in Washington. They would have come if the team won 75 games, or if they won 65. Let's see who can do what, and then let the new owner and his team decide who stays and who goes.

But Jim Bowden can't do that. He can't risk a sub-standard won-loss record in 2006 or his already slim hope of retaining his position will be all but gone. So instead of bringing his broom, he's brought in rotting timber to shore up the S.S. National for just one more year in hopes of another payday. Dead weight like Royce Clayton is blocking Brendan Harris from showing if he can, as many of us believe, play every day at this level. If bringing in one aging reserve was wise, then signing six must be a stroke of genius. Of course, several quality prospects must now play another year in the minor leagues, unable to prove, or disprove their talents and abilities. Ramon Ortiz and Pedro Astacio, who've pitched as poorly as anyone for the Nationals during spring training, are keeping Jon Rauch and Billy Traber far far away from RFK Stadium. It appears that the team will keep Kevin Gryboski, a journeyman with little left in the tank instead of Bergman, who only has his entire career ahead of him. And now Ryan Church is a Zephyr.

Church, National League rookie of the month last May, was well on his way to a .295-23-89 season when he hurt his shoulder running into a wall in Pittsburgh, making a spectacular catch that sealed a win for the Nats and a save for Chad Cordero. He is most often compared to former Expo Grady Sizemore, who hit 22 homers for Cleveland in 2005. In his place will be Brandon Watson, who is this year's Endy Chavez but with a better set of ears. Rotoworld.com believes that the Nationals are a poorer team with Watson in center, saying, that the only possibility that makes sense is that Bowden is working on a trade that will send Church packing. So what will Bowden do when Watson is batting .200 in late May and Church is batting .300 with 5 homers playing for Pittsburgh, or Seattle or San Francisco? Does anyone really believe that Marlon Byrd is able to play center field every day?

No, my friends, none of these personnel decisions was based on what was best for the Nationals. This is Jim Bowden's best hope of keeping his job. He is trying to catch "lightning in a bottle" one more time with his "future is now" moves, hoping he can squeeze a .500 season out of this group and, assuming the new owner has never heard of Alfonso Soriano, sign a long-term deal with the Nationals.

In an interview with Bill Ladson, Bowden said that Church's demotion was a "wake up call." Reports are now surfacing that the organization didn't like his "body language" in the outfield. What? Alfonso Soriano says for three months that he wouldn't play the outfield, finally relents and botches a bunch of balls, and all that is said is that "as long he continues to improve, we're happy." But Ryan Church, who has done all that was asked of him, who is a proven major league hitter, was sent down to New Orleans in part because of his "body language?" Maybe the body language is the result of broken bones incurred when running into outfield walls for the team?

Did any of these guys work for TASS in an earlier life?

Sigh....


Comments:
It took me nearly sixteen months to dislike Jim Bowden. It took me only one day to hate him.

Welcome to the dark side, Farid. There's always room for one more.
 
Great, great post, Farid! Amen all the way down the line.

I missed the references to "body language." Thanks for pointing them out (though I don't think I'm going to be brave enough to read the news accounts of them!).
 
I suspect that Church is in the doghouse with the Nationals' current management team and has been for quite awhile. If so, he might have played his last game in DC.
 
great piece, farid. i think everyone is so upset about the move because Church was one of the original starters for the team. we fans are invested in their careers, we have ownership. we don't know watson.

that's the reason.
 
Everybody in the natosphere seems furious with Bowden over the Church move (and deservedly so! More ammo for the Fire Jim movement). But is there any indication that Frank's been the one really pushing for this the whole time? I seem to remember F-Rob making several not-so-subtle gripes about players not playing through pain all throughout the late summer and fall; while Bowden tended to speak pretty highly of Church. The GM of course should get the final credit/blame, but he's not working in a vacuum

BTW- I've never posted here before, but check regularly. Always great stuff!
 
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