As part of the Curly W's regular Five Questions feature, I exchanged questions with that site's co-contributor and founder, Brandon. I really enjoyed the exchange; I think Brandon and I asked each other some good questions that elicited interesting responses. My responses to Brandon's questions are found at this link. Brandon's responses to my questions follow below:
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1. You've written you grew up in Cincinnati as a fan of the Reds and experienced the joy of a World Series championship in 1990. What characteristics of those years following the Reds (from the perspectives of, say, baseball talent, front office operation, a ballpark slowly becoming obsolete, and everything associated with Marge Schott) shaped your views about the game and how might they be applicable to your views about the Nats now and in the future?
Wow. The answer to this one could be its own post. Cincinnati was the only place I ever lived, and the Reds were the only team I ever followed, so all of my pre-Nats views of the game were shaped by that experience. I'll address some of the characteristics that you mention:
The overarching experience of being a Reds fan, of course, is being a fan of a small-market franchise. I'm too young to remember the heyday of the Big Red Machine in the 70's, but in those years the Reds were the kind of perennial world-beaters that the Yankees are today. The onset of free agency in the 1975 offseason immediately put the Reds and other teams their size at a huge disadvantage against, say, New York.
The frustrating thing about being a fan of a small market team is that the owners are always turning out their pockets and crying poverty when it comes to talent, scouting, free agents and virtually everything. The Reds had baseball's smallest scouting department under the Marge Schott regime, and until a few years ago had no scouting effort whatsoever outside the United States. Marge would spend liberally on free agents like Eric Davis, but she was incredibly tight fisted in all other aspects of operations. She was boorish and embarrasing, but she was a savvy and ruthless businesswoman, quite unprecedented for a woman of her generation.
All of these things tie directly into the Nats experience of today. Until Stan Kasten tells us otherwise, the Washington Nationals are a small-market team, and they remind me very much of the Reds of my youth. The difference is that the Nats are not doomed to be a small market team forever, and are thus not inherently doomed to the same fate as the Reds. In just a few short months, Kasten has dramatically ramped up the team's scouting infrastructure and overhauled the business side of the front office. Marketing, scouts and a better fan experience at the park aren't very exciting for the fanboy set, but the Nats will never be a great franchise without the fundamentals.
This is why I have been preaching patience about the Nats' absence in the free agent market this offseason. I've seen what happens when a team spends all of its limited resources on players without shoring up the foundation of the franchise first. The Reds are the oldest professional baseball team, yet they've only won the world series five times in 103 years.
2. When you first started Curly W, you defended Jim Bowden passionately. Since then, your opinion on him has changed. That interests me, because it seems to go against the human (and blogger, to the extent bloggers are human) tendency to pick a side and go for the gusto from there. So what sparked the change? Is it a difference in the way Bowden conducted business in Cincy with the way he's done things for the Nats?
This is an interesting topic, because now I feel like I've almost come full-circle with Bowden. I supported him at first because he had done a pretty good job with the Reds for all those years. No, they never won a World Series under Bowden, but he always found ways to keep the team interesting well into August and September. He'd take chances on exciting players, and you'd never know where it would lead. It was shocking and unthinkable when he traded for Deion Sanders because no one ever thought in a million years that Deion would end up in Lil' Ol' Cincinnati.
Then he came to DC and put together a pretty respectable lineup for 2005 given the time and resources he had to work with. And sure enough, the 2005 team stayed interesting until the end.
My change of heart came last January in the wake of the Soriano trade. It became clear that Bowden was no longer making deals in the best interests of the team, but to audition for the then-vacant Red Sox GM role and/or the permanent GM role. I just had this feeling that Bowden was completely off the reservation. Looking back, I should have directed my anger at MLB for perpetuating the interim status of Bowden and everyone else associated with the franchise. It created a dynamic where Bowden's interests and the team's interests were not aligned.
Ever since the Lerners have taken over I've actually been quite pleased with Bowden's work. He pulled off a great trade with the Reds and got two pitching prospects for creaky Mike Stanton. My only current gripe with Bowden is that he seems to be killing opposing teams' interest in trading with the Nats by demanding top prospects in every deal. This offseason has shown that teams will spend whatever it takes to buy players on the market, but they'll guard their prospects until the end.
3. If the 2007 Washington Nationals were a brisket, the condition of the brisket would be . . . ?
Cold, dry, and ultimately dissatisfying. But between eating that brisket and starving, I'll eat the brisket for a year.
4. WTWP: Good, bad, or indifferent? MASN: Okay, meh, or spawn of Satan?
I like Washington Post Radio a lot. It's worlds better than that station they had in 2005. The signal is clear and widely available, and I like Charlie and Dave. MASN seems to still be working out the bugs. It's frustrating that they keep switching up the play-by-play team, but Paciorek had to go...he annoyed the crap out of me.
5. Let's play word association. Name the first thing that comes to your mind after you see each of the following words or phrases: "The Plan"; "Fan experience"; "Cheap"; "Bang! Zoom!"
The Plan: Stan "The Plan" Kasten.
Fan Experience: The new food court.
Cheap: My 2007 season ticket plan.
Bang! Zoom!: Soriano's 46 home runs (R.I.P.)
BONUS QUESTION: Resovled: Cinergy Field---cleverest corporate stadium name ever?
It was always Riverfront Stadium during my time there, but I always found it odd that Cinergy (now Duke Energy), the local power company, would pay for naming rights. Why would a monopoly need to advertise like that?
Actually I think Cincinnati currently holds the title for cleverest corporate stadium name ever. Great American Ball Park is named for the Great American Insurance Company (owned by former Reds owner Carl Lindner). It's a corporate name, but the words "Great American" evoke the Americana aspects of the ballpark experience rather than, say "Invesco Field at Mile High."
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Thanks again to Brandon for some really thoughtful answers. I guess I always liked "Cinergy Field" for some reason. But I agree: "Great American Ballpark" is a very evocative name for a baseball park.
In retrospect, I could have asked a question about WKRP, but then . . . he's probably heard enough WKRP questions already.