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Hints, allegations, and things left unsold

In a stunning development, Major League Baseball has delayed its announcement of the winner of Nats Derby; moreover, if you believe Bill Madden of the New York Daily News (and who wouldn't trust a face like that?), then we looking at an announcement in January, at the earliest.

Hey, don't claim I didn't warn you. In fact, I said it was stunning, didn't I? Let's presume that Madden's "indirect quotation" from Bud Selig is correct. Presuming that . . . ah, hold on a moment; I've got an aside upcoming:

[Aside: According to Madden's column, "[n]ow Bud Selig says the ownership decision won't come until January, meaning the Nationals will be operating under MLB's direction throughout the winter business period." The clause after the comma is clearly an inference provided by Madden, one that would logically flow from an ownership decision not coming before January. However, if Selig said what came before the comma, why not quote him directly? (Stranger still, Madden quoted Frank Robinson directly a couple sentences later.) Could it be that Selig actually hasn't said this, to Madden or anywhere else "on the record"? Is Madden relating the words of a "baseball insider" who is speaking for Selig on the issue? If so, why didn't Madden employ the old trick of "[S]ources close to the situation, speaking on the condition of anonymity . . . "? And if neither Selig nor anyone else on a confidential basis has said this, could it be that the clause before the comma is really just Madden's understanding, as well? Not that it really matters, of course; I doubt this thing gets done before January, anyway. But how reliable is Madden's report, which is offered as a blurb near the end of a notes column? Anyway . . . ]

Well, let's say January, just to be conservative here. MLB's history of taking its sweet, sweet time with this franchise is nothing short of consistent with this presumption, anyway. So this gives us a timetable: 2006. As long as 2006 presents the standard 12 months that all of the previous months of mankind's recorded history have, I'm reasonably certain that the Seligulans will allow this franchise finally to operate unencumbered sometime in 2006. Now that's progress!

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Needless to say, ownership delays and instances where Jerry Reinsdorf opens his filthy mouth aren't happy occasions. See Rocket (collecting blog links). This presents a problem for me, seeing as I had a very good weekend . . . well, except for the part where the Redskins lost with a minute to go, and except for the part where I forgot to submit my Group Home picks, and except where MLB dragged its . . .

. . . Come to think of it, I'd better not dwell on this last caveat, lest my weekend end up not-so-happy. Instead, I'll try to spin this situation positively. After considering the possibilities, I've come up with one viable angle. It won't make some readers happy---probably a minority of them, but I care about you, too. However, I ask that you stay with me as I note that:

At least Jim Bowden can't screw up too badly now.

I mean that with all due respect to Mr. Bowden---however much is due, of course. Hear me out: I think we can all agree that, whatever evaluation of Bodes' transactions for the Nats, he struggled the most on multi-year ones. There might be a sample size issue at play, I suppose, but Castilla was a poor choice for a two-year contract, and Guzman was an unmitigated disaster---and then we consider that Guzman's signed for three more years.

[Another aside: I've seen a growing movement to declare that the "jury's still out on Guzman." Can we lay this one to rest, please? Maybe Guzman will bounce back and have a decent campaign next year . . . or in '07 . . . or '08. Great. Wonderful. That won't erase that Guzman did for more than $4 million what some jock-jaw off the streets of Des Moines or Norfolk or Sacramento could have done for $300,000, and I daresay Guzman did it worse. What's the "positive equivalent" of what Guzman suffered through this season? How about a .375 OBP and .500 SLG? Does that sound reasonable? Unless Guzman can have one of those seasons in addition to two decent ones---even by his standards---then the jury has been instructed, has eaten lunch, has rendered a verdict, has talked to a few reporters, and is laughing at Jay Leno's lame-ass monologue by now.]

I don't mean to belittle, and to prove that, I'll get to my point. The guy has a degree of skill in the area of jumping on little moves that work out. If he struggles with identifying worthwhile big ticket ideas, then he possesses an eye for finding viable bounce-back guy candidates.

Coincidentally, and perhaps to the franchise's long-term benefit, the Seligulan foot-dragging on the lease issue has probably foreclosed Bowden from the opportunity to extend long-term contracts to free agents. Seeing as the Nats probably weren't contenders for the top-tier guys, this means that Bodes is probably now restricted from offering hefty contracts even to second- or third-tier players. Undoubtedly, Guzman and Castilla qualified in the lower tiers last offseason. While I'm mindful that Bowden has done well to mitigate the Castilla mistake (by acquiring Brian Lawrence), I confess to being more concerned about a Guzman-class mistake.

Now, I don't know if this makes any difference in the hypothetical reality that is the Nats Derby. Let's say that Fred Malek were declared the winner tomorrow; what would he do with respect to Bowden? Who really knows---reportedly, Malek was fond of Josh Byrnes, who is now in Arizona. Would Malek have replaced Bowden immediately, with the hopes of jumping on Theo Epstein immediately? (Byrnes was, of course, an assistant to Epstein in Boston.) You know as much about this as I do, which is to say not much. I suppose it is possible that Malek would have retained Bowden for the life of Bodes' six-month deal with the instructions to fire away and make a name for the Nats' franchise---with the attendant promise that Bowden would be re-evaluated come April. Is that likely? Perhaps not, but again, we don't know.

Yet, what we do know is that it's reasonable to believe that Bowden has been frozen from making large financial commitments---and, meaning no disrespect to Mr. Bowden, this is probably a good thing for the franchise. He's now free to concentrate on picking and pecking unassuming players who can contribute a bit-of-production for less-than-that-bit in salary and who can return something on the trade market. That might mean an Esteban Loiaza or Hector Carrasco slip through the team's hands, but it might also mean that Bowden finds the 2006 versions for little money or commitment.

And, if you think about it, a roster comparatively and not additionally encumbered by imprudent commitments is almost certainly the best, most respectable stewardship a temp like Bowden can provide to this organization, its (eventual) owner(s), and its (established and growing) fanbase.

For that, I would give Jim Bowden a well-deserved round of applause, and his task might just be easier now.

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Speaking of Bowden's stewardship to the organization, Nationals Farm Authority recently compiled an in-depth and extremely useful run-down of the moves Bodes has made with respect to the farm system since assuming the temporary general manager position. Brick fills out the list with two additional players.