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Profiles in Courage

Jim Bowden received a second contract extension today, this time through the 2006 season. Might as well, right? As has been said before, decisions can't be made in the absence of a decisionmaker---yes, even bad decisions or potentially bad ones. No outsider is going to take this job yet, nor will an offer be made to one until a new owner is named. Futher, if Bowden is eliminated, then Tony Tavares just delegates the job to one of Bowden's employees, perhaps Bob Boone.

Anyway, here's the underlying subtext:

[Bowden's extension was] a move made at least in part because team president Tony Tavares believes even if a new ownership group is named by the end of this month, it likely won't be completely in place until July.

"By the time you get through the actual closing -- the lawyers beating up the documents back and forth, the new owner getting his financing together, just all the types of things that you go through when you're purchasing a business," Tavares said, "you're probably looking at the earliest the end of May, probably as late as the all-star break, to actually take control."

So Bowden remains the decisionmaker because you cannot be without one, and even if he's relieved of his duties, the functional equivalent of him takes over. Sure, the oranges are rotten, but that's the juice we must squeeze.

Until July, apparently. Hopefully. Maybe sooner. Considering the way things have gone, probably not.

Don't worry about Jimbo, though. As Just a Nats Fan points out, he'll get paid regardless.

* * *

In recent days, Frank Robinson has lit into his charges for substandard play (surrendering twenty-two runs to the Florida Marlins would rise to the level of "substandard," right), and Bowden has been right behind him, toting a rhetorical shotgun:

"We'll start to get serious here and give people opportunities. ... It's got to end, because we don't want to be embarrassed anymore. It's time to step it up to the next level. We'll get through the split squad [games on Thursday] and then we'll have massive cuts, and we go from there."

Massive cuts. Sounds like an 80s hair band compilation.

Anyway, suffice it to say that the message has been received in the Natosphere. See, e.g., OMG; Capitol Punishment; Distinguished Senators. A variation on a popular interpretation is that Bowden has commenced phase two of a Grand Design: 1) invite lots of guys to camp, then 2) talk tough when, predictably, it comes time to toss many of them aside.

Who really knows, right? One thing seems reasonable to me, and quite foreseeable: when you invite sixty-nine guys to your big league camp, chances are you are inviting many, many people who probably are not worthy of a big league roster spot---thus, when many of these guys don't perform, in a limited sample of play at that, it's not exactly a surprise that these folks will need to receive a singing telegram from the Pink Slip Lady.

* * *

While I was in Dallas, something happened with Jose Guillen. Oh, I don't know. I obviously missed it. Something about one doctor saying one thing, and another doctor saying another thing. I can't possibly imagine that happening with this organization. At any rate, maybe it's been cleared up by now. But my man King was on the case, and so was Nasty Nats. Check 'em out for context.

* * *

You know how Bowden promised all of these moves? Well, it's sort of like watching a clip of Reagan directing Gorbachev to tear down that wall. In our case, that wall has already been torn down---or, perhaps more accurately, is being torn down.

What do the various moves and cuts mean to our minor leaguers? I don't really know, but Nationals Farm Authority does. A sample:

Why did they option [Larry] Broadway and [Mike] Hinckley while [Frank] Diaz and [Kory] Casto are assigned?  Aren't all four on the 40-man roster?  Yes.  All four are currently on the Nats 40-man roster.  The reason for option versus assignment has to do with service time.  In simplest terms, a player has three years after he is added to the 40-man roster in which he can be sent to the minors without being removed from the roster, these are option years. An option is used every year such a player is sent down unless the player remains in the minors for less than 10 days in each stint.  Both Broadway and Hinckley have started their option years (they were added to the Nats 40-man in fall of 2004).  Diaz and Casto were assigned because their option clocks do not start until the 2006 season begins.

NFA also has the numerical remains of one grisly inning tossed by Travis Hughes and Bill Bray today. In total: 1 IP, 7 H, 9 ER, 3BB, 1 K, 1 HBP. Yikes.

* * *

Capitol Punishment also has an extended look at another minor leaguer---sort of, potentially, probably: Brandon Watson. The gist is that Watson's an "empty batting average" type of player, a characterization that has some substantial basis in fact if you look at the guy's minor league numbers.

Now, this isn't to slam Watson, because his type of player makes contact, doesn't strike out, puts the ball in play, uses his speed, etc.---and when those things happen, good things (i.e., not a strikeout, not a lazy fly out) can result. In other words, those guys are willing to be lucky, or as Wm. Keeler once advised with perfect grammar, to "hit 'em where they ain't." A player of Watson's type can be opportunistic and is capable of running off a .300-plus batting average performance in a couple or three hundred at-bats, and that's good. But that kind of performance invariably (and reasonably) begets more opportunities, and . . . say, let's allow Chris to complete the thought:

To be fair to Watson, he has done very well with hitting for average. You can't knock that. But I'm always wary when a player's game is nothing but singles. If Watson's not hitting .300, he's killing your team. If he bats .270, he won't walk enough to have a respectable on-base percentage, and he's certainly not going to slug homers. And given his lack of doubles and triples in the minors, he's not spraying the ball into the outfield.

Thus, Watson is an exciting type of player---very fast, creates opportunities, puts pressure on the defense, has a great smile, and according to Buddy Bell, a big league smile is important---but he's also a dangerous type of player for his own team. Simply put, he's likely too one-dimensional to justify regular playing time.

And for those who would argue he has a second dimension, stolen base capability, I'd contend that he has to improve on that ability for it to be a positive dimension. It is encouraging that Robinson has commended Watson on his baserunning so far.

* * *

Quick-takes that I'd excerpt if I weren't starting to get tired:

  • Eucalyptus takes a long look at the new Barry Bonds allegations. So does my buddy Ben from The New Twenty. And so does M.C. Hammer. Don't hurt him.
  • National Interest discusses, among other things, playing hurt and gambling. Or maybe it was getting hurt gambling . . .
  • Church of Baseball is following the World Baseball Classic and has started a new feature: What the announcers say while the commercials are playing. Good times.
  • Nationals Enquirer notes that the heat is on Ramon Ortiz already. Yes, Harper reiterates, already. Reminds me of Zach Day last spring.
  • Nats Blog loves the odds---well, loves to repeat the odds, at least. Apparently, the over/under on Nats wins is 76.5. Guzman has to be good for the point-five, right?
  • Curly W rejoices at the (final final final) stadium deal and notes that if you think Jeff Smulyan will be the owner then you are a cynical, ridiculous idiot. Well, maybe not the idiot part---but cynically ridiculous? Sounds like the Natosphere! Come to think of it, add that idiotic part back in.
  • Banks of the Anacostia is back from hiatus and jumped back into one of his specialties: parsing trade rumors.
  • Beltway Boys takes a long look at minor league pitcher Steve Watkins and likes what he sees. There's some serious Baby Ruckles potential here. Keep that attention on Mr. Watkins, and good things will happen! (That or his ERA will double.)
  • Nats Triple Play, in an oldie but a goodie that I might have mentioned before, has hopped on the Cristian Guzman bandwagon. Okay, he's created the Cristian Guzman bandwagon. Okay, Nate just likes the word GUZMANIA. Well, so do I. It's a neat word. Good idea, Nate.
  • Thurdl Sports has redesigned and is your source for curling, the WBC, and lots of other fascinating stuff.
  • The Donuteer rejoices that his boy, Alex Smit, made the WBC roster for the Netherlands. That is really cool.
  • Finally, Ballwonk absolves Gary Majewski of blame for America's stunning loss to Canada on Wednesday. 'Tis okay, Cameron Poe; thus sayeth the Wonk.