Saturday, July 30, 2005

If It Quacks Like A Doc

Think of any cliche you'd like (sinking ship, train wreck, etc), and it'd fit. The Washington Nationals slipped into a coma on Jeff Francueour's bloop single on Thursday afternoon. And last night, Todd Jones' nasty cutter in on the hands of a swinging Brian Schneider created the steady high-frequency beep that indicates the patient is dead.

They're simply not making the playoffs. We were able to consoles ourselves with the losses earlier by talking about the comfortable lead they had built up, but the team has been hemorrhaging them for weeks now.

And the worst part is that there were a bunch of doctors standing around watching the life ooze out of the patient's body.

If this really was a matter of life and death, there'd be a mile-long line of ambulance chasers willing to take on another quick-buck malpractice case. Oh, if only there were something equivalent for season ticket holders!

When the new owner comes in, he needs to wipe out the staff. I've tried to be patient, but no more. Their general incompetence, stubborness, and inability to see flaws in their strategies have cost this team its chance.

Fire Jim Bowden.
He has passion. He has energy. But, he's not an especially effective or innovative GM. While the infield rotted away, with a immobile nearly-crippled third baseman, an injured darkhorse MVP first baseman out, and a shortstop who is quite literally the worst regular player in major league history, he patches holes by trading for more outfielders.

He has no clue of what the team's weaknesses are.

He talks about the need for more pitching, but, under his watch, the team has crapped away pitchers: Zach Day and Tomo Ohka were traded; Claudio Vargas given away for NOTHING; Jon Rauch was lost for the season, with no replacement coming in.

He's shown an inability to acknowledge the team's weaknesses, because those weaknesses were created by him, in one of his first acts as General Manager. Vinny Castilla and Cristian Guzman were his big signings -- bold steps of a confident, decisive man of action, a GM who gets results (or so he wants you to believe)

But the emperor shortstop has been bucknaked the entire season, from just about day one. And, unlike the fable, hundreds of people are yelling, pointing out that the guy's ass is showing. It's only Jim and Frank that aren't listening, jamming cotton in their ears and saying "Nyeah Nyeah Nyeah, I can't hear you."

With all his PR flash and sizzle and his pronouncements, it's as if he was a five-year old who wet his pants and exepected his mom to be pleased because he drew a pretty picture to make up for it.

A real leader admits mistakes and corrects them, instead of stumbling along pretending that everything is A-OK! Hey, it's JimBo's Happy Fun-Time Land, where everything is great! We're a World Series contender -- he told us so!

If only it really worked that way.

Fire Frank Robinson
I've been down this road a thousand times. He's an incompetent in-game strategist, calling for bunts indiscriminately, failing to make subsitutions appropriately, calling for strategies that don't match the qualities of the players on his team.

Off the field, he runs down his players, feuds with the pitchers (Livan, Armas, Day, Ohka for starters) and has them run out of town if he's not happy with them.

He has an unhealthy obsession with veterans and jerks players who haven't done it for him yet around (see Church, Harris, etc).

And most importantly, that senile @#$@# writes Cristian Guzman's name in the lineup every day. He's said he's sticking with him because he doesn't want to 'lose him'. Well, Frank, you've lost the flipping pennant because of your stubborness, and, I suspect, you're starting to lose the team. Even though most of them don't have two stable legs to stand on, they have to question why a complete offensive zero (hell, he's a negative number!) and a recent defensive flameout is being penciled in every day.

I wonder how Ryan Church, who's been jerked around day after day feels about that. I wonder how Brad Wilkerson, who has played every game while being injured without all the self promotion of the non-hustling Jose Guillen (who has never missed a chance to tell you how hurt and wonderful he is or to not run out a ball), feels about Guzman in the lineup nightly, sulking, and killing the team.

Fire Cristian Guzman
He's a sunk cost. I can understand the team wanting to get something out of him, but you have to pay him whether he's starting or released. Bench him, start Jamey Carroll (or whoever!) and see if he can rebound next season. But continuing him in the starting lineup is malpractice.

Fire Jose Guillen
It baffles me that the team picked up his option so early. It's really easy to see why so many other teams have soured on him. He desparately wants to be a team leader, and more importantly, have the accolades that come along with it. Yet, he doesn't put much of the effort into it.

Yes, it's admirable that he plays hurt, but sometimes, like when he scuffled for three weeks, it's better to take a day or two off.

But it's not admirable that he continues to not run balls out. Last night was the culmination -- he 'lost' a ball in the lights that was a double. Because he stood around looking lost, he only got to first. Thankfully, his teammates bailed him out, but he shouldn't put them in that position. One day, it's going to really cost them.

He just seems to let too many distractions get in the way. When he's focused, he's a great player. It's just a shame that he lets so many things get in the way of his focus.

Fire Vinny Castilla
The old guy is still giving a good effort with the glove, but his range is down since his knee flared up.

That same injury has taken him from below average offensively to pretty poor.

It's clear that he needs more time off, but the team seems unwilling to trust it's prospects, such as Brendan Harris.


Other than that magical June, this has been a team hovering near .500. It's clear that June raised the bar of our expectations too high. If anything, THAT was the fluke, not our current level of play.

While there's still an outside chance that this team could sneak in, it'd take another June-sized fluke.

They're not the 95-loss team of last year, and they're not the 100-win-pace team of this year. They're somewhere in the middle, a .500ish team.

That's still pretty damn good, but it doesn't make the recent slide any less painful.

But some changes for next year could push us further in the right direction.

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