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Go, Bodes, go!

Sometimes Fortuna tosses you an irresistible T-Bone, and it becomes abundantly clear that the time has arrived to grab the ol' bull by the horns. Change can be difficult for us all, but sometimes it helps to have an itinernate heart. With this in mind, I wholeheartedly support Jim Bowden, should he desire to secrete himself from the Washington Nationals.

The opportunity may yet present itself, as we learned today:

Stuart Sternberg took over control of the Devil Rays from managing general partner Vince Naimoli on Thursday and made several personnel changes while reaching out to fans and promising future success for the franchise, which began playing in 1998.
General manager Chuck LaMar, assistant GM Scott Proefrock, director of player personnel Cam Bonifay and scout Rudy Santin were all let go Wednesday. . . . Possible candidates [to replace Lamar] include former Astros GM Gerry Hunsicker, former Dodgers GM Dan Evans, Nationals GM Jim Bowden, and former Rangers GM John Hart.

Go, Bodes, go!

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I don't want to sound too flippant; after all, your team only gets to have one general manager at a time---unless your team is the Baltimore Orioles, of course. Jim Bowden is still the GM of the Nats, and there remains a chance (especially if this ownership fiasco doesn't sort itself out soon) that Bodes will be sitting in the in big vinyl chair for the duration of the off-season.

He's not without his admirers. Why, in our own DC blogging gated community, called the "Natosphere," Curly W is down with Captain Leatherpants. Truth be told, it's a nice apologia, one that accentuates two points that are fairly undeniable concerning Bodes:

  1. he's very, very driven; and,
  2. his record is starting to look pretty good compared with that of his successor in Cincinnati.
I'm not at all certain the new-look, people-pleasing Devil Rays would set their sights on Bodes, but I am certain that he'd be on upgrade from Chuck Lamar. Sure, any sentient being would be an upgrade from Lamar as any home video would be an upgrade from Manos: Hands of Fate. But the salient point is that we (the Nats bloggers in general) tend to be quick to belittle Jim Bowden, when in reality he does have some distinguishing features:
  1. he's tireless;
  2. he's opportunistic; and,
  3. he's willing to be lucky.
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Alright, I've been nice. Mercifully, I can adopt a new theme now: it makes me queasy to imagine Jim Bowden leading this team into the future.

Simply stated, the man lacks vision, commitment, and patience. (For a more nuanced view, maybe he merely didn't exhibit these things this year.)

Of course, those deficiences are, in a sense, byproducts of the enumerated qualities above. Maybe so (it's hard to pull off being patient and opportunistic, I suppose), but I don't care, because in another sense he is more accurately described as the logical absurdity of tireless, opportunistic, and willing to be lucky, as he's also: hyperactive, arbitrary, and whimiscal.

Bowden strikes me as one of those people who projects himself as exceedingly transparent in order to mask a lack of substance; I suppose it's another aspect of being a "showman," as Bodes also certainly is. During the season, Bowden wrote a regular column for the DC Examiner, a free tabloid. In one column, he laid out about a half-dozen general categories in which MLB general managers fall---from "Moneyball" (like Billy Beane) to "scout" (like the late, great Chuck Lamar). Where did Bodes regard himself on the list? Not surprisingly, a little here and a little there:

There's no right or wrong way. It's just a style, an approach to doing your job. But it's very important for the general manager to understand another general manager's style. As the Nationals continue to look for pitching, pitching and pitching and another bat, dealing with 29 other styles is very important. And where would I put myself? Fortunately I don't have to put myself in one of these. But I'd say I'm a little bit of the first five.

For what it's worth, I agree with Bowden that "[t]here's not right or wrong way." That much is both realistic and self-evident; generally speaking, Terry Ryan is as effective as Mark Shapiro is as effective as Billy Beane. But it's instructive to realize that different ways exist---not just, as Bowden notes, to judge the tendencies of your competitor, but also, importantly, to regulate and guide yourself. I haven't closely observed Jim Bowden for a decade, but I have for a season, and I believe I can say with confidence that his actions and words evince a core lack of principle.

On second thought, maybe that's harsh. Perhaps the word is more like "consistency." Yet, as I consider my choice of words, I realize this one is just as damning.

I recall Bowden's comments regarding the Dodgers before the 2004 season:

"I look at the Dodgers, and think, how can you have the best pitching staff in the league and score less runs than the Tigers? Come on. You've got to do something."

As luck would have it, no one scored fewer runs than Bowden's team in 2005. What was Bowden's mantra during the season? Just scan up at a previous block quote: "pitching, pitching, pitching" That mantra seems a bit in tension with his criticism of a similarly-situated team just a year-and-a-half ago, but whatever. Of course, check the Nats' transactions list: for a team run by a guy who stressed "pitching, pitching, pitching," it's awfully strange that virtually every move---major or minor---was made to the detriment of the pitching staff.

It was the Nats' misfortune that his comparatively understated attempts to focus on the "hitting, hitting, hitting" didn't bear much fruit. And, in the meantime, the one exemplary characteristic that most defined the first half excellence, the Nats' shut-down home park pitching, deteriorated.

Regardless of what he said or what he wrote, it's to Bowden's credit that he at least attempted to improve the offense, right? Well, I guess, if you forget that he committed time, money, and manueverability to some foreseeable personnel blunders in the first place.

Ultimately, when I think of Jim Bowden's year running the franchise, I think of Esteban Loiaza. That's because Loaiza, a brilliant January signing, is just about the only positive contribution Bodes has made for the franchise so far. (Maybe Jose Guillen counts, too, all in all.) Otherwise---with the no-brainer exception of drafting "Dutch" Zimmerman No. 4---his additions to the team bear no relevance to the organization's future.

Essentially, Jim Bowden ran this team like he was applying for another job. I truly wish him the best, if in fact the Devil Rays are interested.