Jim Bowden on the Lerners, Dmitri Young and D.C.
"With two international signings this year, including pitcher Yunesky Maya for $6.5 million, as well as the $13.7-million they shelled out Monday for Harper, plus four - that's f-o-u-r - "above slot" signings of high draft picks, the Nats continued a 20-month pattern of spending sufficiently, though judiciously, to build a winner," Thomas Boswell wrote this week. "The Nats are way past cheap and on the way to smart.
Indeed, Boz isn't the first to suggest that the Lerners Are Cheap!!1!1!1! refrain be retired, so I figured I might as well post this bit from Jim Bowden's recent appearance on The Mike Wise Show, when asked about the purse strings. He doesn't say they're cheap, not by any means. But he's still talking about the checkbook.
"They're carrying out Stan's philosophy," Bowden said. "And his belief is you win a divisional title, and then you spend it. I think times have changed from his days in Atlanta. I don't think you can just wait any more. So that's a philosophical thing, and that's between them. I was pleased when we were there that we had ownership that stepped up to make the pursuit of Teixeria. We offered more years and more money than the Yankees did. That showed me what the Lerner family's gonna do when Stan and Mike Rizzo bring to them what they want to get done.
"The only difference is philosophically, and I told that to ownership at the time. I kept pointing to Dave Dombrowski in Detroit, and I said the way David got those guys there - the Magglio Ordonezes and the Pudge Rodriguezes - is he overpaid. And he got ripped throughout the industry, including by me, but he got the players to go to Detroit. I said if you're Mark Teixiera or if you're Carl Crawford, who are you gonna pick, you gonna pick Washington or the Yankees? Washington or the Phillies? Players want to win, they don't want to sit there and rebuild, they want to win when you're a superstar.
"And my whole point was I know it's gonna be painful, you're not gonna like it. Because unlike real estate -- where you really pay for whatever the market is -- my point was you've got to overpay Teixeira, you've got to overpay Crawford and try to get them there. Once you get two or three stars there and your prospects come, then it'll all come together, then players will want to come there and it'll be a lot easier to sign players and get your team really good.
"But again, that's a philosophical thing, and I think with Stan and Mike Rizzo, I think the Nationals have the right people in place to get this job done, it's just a matter of patience."
(I know there are many of you who are no longer interested in Jim Bowden's thoughts on the franchise, but I think they still play in this market. This is probably the last season I'll think that, so if you tune out in the meantime, I understand. I still love you.)
Wise then brought up many of the second-chance signings and trades that became Bowden's hallmark, and asked whether he regretted making any of those moves.
"Number one, I would say after Dmitri [Young] had his comeback year we shouldn't have extended him," Bowden said. "And of course ownership and Stan, everybody was on board on doing it, but I think going back, I wish we hadn't extended him. Obviously we couldn't control the diabetes and we couldn't control the things that would follow...[but] he had played so well. But we shouldn't have fallen in love with that one year. I regret that.
"The Elijah Dukes thing was unfortunate. I probably would have taken that chance again, because we didn't give up anything, we didn't give up a player that ever played in the big leagues. And when you don't have money to go get free agents and you don't have a farm system that has any players, sometimes you look at a player that's 20-years old like Elijah Dukes. And you look at his power and you hope that you know what, maybe if we can straighten out his life, maybe we can get the talent to come out. Because it's the only way we're gonna get that caliber player, because we can only draft so many Zimmermans."
Wise then asked if Bowden felt like he had been scape-goated after the Smiley Gonzalez scandal in the team's Dominican operation.
"Look, any corporation in America, when something happens under your watch someone has to take responsibility at the top," he said. "So, a scapegoat? No. I just think it's unfortunate that people make allegations all the time in this country, and they don't back it up, they don't have any facts. And to me, that parts unfortunate. But look, the PR was so bad from the losing, the PR was so bad with the young player that lied about his age, that somebody had to take responsibility to change the PR. And obviously me stepping aside helped the organization put it behind it, and if that meant putting all the blame on me and one person, so be it. The good thing is for the Nationals, the PR got better, the image of the club was better with the fans, and certainly it makes sense for everybody I think."
Bowden again disputed Boswell's claim that Scott Boras despises him, saying "don't make me out to be Elijah Dukes in the clubhouse, because that's just not accurate." Bowden closed by talking about how much he loves doing TV and radio work, and how much he enjoys being able to spend time with family and friends, and how he put in 15 years working 18-hour days as a GM. But earlier in the appearance, Bowden had talked about other regrets he might have had, and it was sort of melancholic-sounding.
"Look, I'm not gonna turn back the clock," he said. "Bottom line, I couldn't get the job done there. I hope that Mike and Stan and the Lerners and everybody involved there can turn the franchise around and win. I hope they can do it. I couldn't get it done, so look, bottom line is that I failed, I didn't get it done, I've got to move on. And I root for them, I want them to turn it around, because I think it's a gold mine. I think when they win, it's gonna be a great baseball town."
Last thing: Bowden talked at length about how Kasten's philosophy was not to struggle for a string of .500 finishes, but instead to build through scouting and development and "take the hit, however long the hit is." Let's hope this is the last year of the hit. Because at the end of this season, barring a 21-20 finish, the Nats will have just completed the worst three-year and four-year stretches in Expos/Nats franchise history.
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