SO, NOW WHAT?
[July 1st] -- It was April Fools Day in June. It had to be. I mean, how else could something like this happen? That said, and much to the chagrin of the fans of the Washington Nationals, Stan Kasten announced that Jim Bowden, the team's "temporary" general manager, isn't "temporary" any more. It doesn't matter that we disagree with Kasten's decision any longer; we have to live with it now. We have to come to the realization that as we scan the morning Nationals' news on the internet, the name "Jim Bowden" and term "general manager" will co-exist for some time to come. We need to focus less on "that it happened" and more on "what's next." So, what's next?
I see two potential scenarios growing out of Kasten's decision. First, Kasten is leaving Bowden in place because he can control Bowden, that Jimbo is so excited to keep his job that he is willing to report to the team president before he goes wee-wee. Some mentioned this relationship has Kasten having a "short leash" on Bowden. I see it more as a taser baton. Screw up, Jim baby, and you'll get 12,000 volts of "oooooooooooooooooooooooowwww" right between your butt cheeks. I don't think this is what's happening. Kasten did his best to stay in the background during his time in Atlanta, and consulted with GM John Scheurholtz as to only the money that was available for contracts the team might acquire in a potential trade. I'm sure that when Tony Tarasco was traded to San Diego for Fred McGriff, Kasten wasn't consulted. No, I don't think Kasten wants to work that way.
The second scenario is that Stan Kasten is an honest man and he truly believes what he says. He was reported as saying that he has told those close to him "from day one" that he wanted to retain Bowden, and that he feels that Bowden's stewardship of the Nationals during this "difficult time" has been excellent. If he believes these things, then he would have no reason to keep Bowden on a leash. In the few articles I could find about his hiring of Scheurholtz in Atlanta, Kasten's flowery prose regarding Scheurholtz was eerily similar to what he said about Bowden.
It's easy for us on the "outside" to mock the decisions of those on the "inside." Perhaps Bowden's poor player personnel choices occurred because his hands have been tied and was not able to do his job properly, both in Cincinnati and here in Washington. Of course that's possible, and I'm willing to give him a "fresh look" in the coming months. But two things worry me. His treatment of Ryan Church had nothing to do with limited funds. He broke the guy, he publicly questioned his commitment and ability. Now, for some players, that kind of public ridicule causes them to work harder and become successes. Others, however, begin to have self doubts and say, "Gee, if the boss thinks I suck, I must really suck." A good GM needs to know which players to kick in the pants and which players to kiss on the forehead. The other concern was the Soriano trade. Trading three players, all of whom were under club control for quite some time, for one guy, in his free agent year, then demanding him to play another position, something he has refused to do twice in his career, well, that's not about having one's hands tied either. His "Soriano" decision was stupid. His "Church" decision was spiteful. I can forget the Soriano debacle, but I can't forgive him about Ryan Church. At least, not yet.
I hope Stan Kasten understands the message he just sent Nationals fans. Instead of staring new and removing every remaining vestage of those dark "owned by Major League Baseball" days, he has in essence validated baseball's choices by retaining those people who ran the team for Bud Selig. Bowden is forever entwined with the D.C. City Council, Cristian Guzman, Selig, Marion Barry, et. al. Not a wise move, at least at this juncture.