Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Why Does Ken Rosenthal Hate Freedom?

Ken Rosenthal vivisects the Nationals, but not in the way you'd expect. He leaves the piss-poor on-field product alone, but focuses on the front office and the operation of the team. If the stories are true, and Stan Kasten et al don't actually deny the events, just the intent in some cases, it's a damning indictment and gives credence to the worst thoughts we've had about the Lerner ownership group.

You really owe it to read the whole thing. A quick summary can't do it justice. It's long, but an interesting story, even if you don't believe everything in it.

First the good:
--The team's budget for scouting and Player Devl. is top 5 in the majors.

Then the rest:
--Poor work environment and shoddy treatment causing some employees to leave (I give the least credence to these; it's easy to complain when you've been sacked)
--Squabbles over per diem payments to employees
--Refusal to let an employee use Fed Ex to ship files
--Over 50 employees have been dumped, some of whom were hired by Bowden.
--Letting Rick Eckstein walk as hitting coach because they couldn't tender him a contract on time, then filing a grievance for tampering when he signed elsewhere
--Scouts have a hard time getting travel expenses reimbursed.
--Questioning the sunflower seed budget
--An overly bureaucratic procurement policy which slows down purchases
--Expenses for the cost of baseballs in the minors
--Questioning why Ronnie Belliard wanted another order of bats
--The appearance of a dysfunctional front office with contrasting styles/personalities and the tensions between Lerner, Jr/Bowden versus Kasten and even Mike Rizzo.

Give it a read. It's worth the 10 minutes or so.

I did like this part though:
There have been a lot of changes because, to be honest, our standards are much higher," Bowden says. "We want to be best in the game. And when you want to be the best in the game, unfortunately there has to be turnover.
Such as in your job, Jim?


  • Here we come!

    By Anonymous Chris's Cadre of Curmudgeons, at 5/02/2007 2:47 PM  

  • To be somewhat fair, the burdensome purchase approval process seems to be a matter of policy across the board, not just a matter of "questioning the sunflower seed budget."

    Still not good, though.

    By Blogger Rocket1124, at 5/02/2007 2:50 PM  

  • Let me rephrase...

    We want to be best in the game. And when you want to be the best in the game, unfortunately sometimes you have to be the worst in the game.

    Wrap your head around that.

    By Anonymous Cap'n Leatherpants, at 5/02/2007 2:51 PM  

  • Can someone name me one thing the Lerner family has done right since getting the team? I have a laundry list of bad things.

    By Blogger Adam Douglas, at 5/02/2007 2:55 PM  

  • Beacuse freedom isn't free? (and neither is a bag of balls)

    By Blogger Harper, at 5/02/2007 3:11 PM  

  • It's nice to see that Washington's baseball team runs just like its city's primary industry.

    I'd be more upset if the Lerner's hadn't cleaned house . . . has anyone checked the record of those crack staff that got fired? Do the Nats have the worst minor league system in baseball or not? And aren't those guys who got canned responsible for it!

    So, just like in politics, you go out with a blaze of not for attribution glory. I tried to do my job but I was blocked at every opportunity. Whaa Whaa Whaa. I live in Florida but I want my travel per diem. If you are 26 and making $20,000 think about a career change pal instead of complaining that your per diem scam was ended.

    No wonder most of them are still unemployed.

    Perhaps Ken would have been better served investigating how the organization was run under MLBs reign? Put people who have never run a baseball organization in charge and give them a dysfunctional template and of course chaos reigns. Will it continue?

    All in all, it seems JimBo's got some pretty powerful enemies throughout the game to get such a big hit piece written about him. Watch your back jimBo.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5/02/2007 3:57 PM  

  • All in all, I took the former employees' grumblings with a huge grain of salt. I agree that a lot of the turnover is part of the "regime change," and I'm sure that some of the folks were unhappy with the new level of accountability real ownership brings.

    However, it's hard to discount the descriptions of the Lerners' penny-pinching. The Washington Post's profile of the Lerner family last summer included similar stories from folks you have worked with the Lerner Group (including disputes over issues as minor as postage on a single letter). I understand financial accountability and running a tight ship, but nickel and diming your employees to death is no way to get anything done.

    And while I've defended Kastan and the Lerners when others have accused them of being cheap, the piece regarding the removal of the five minor-league strength and conditioning coaches from this year's budget raised my eyebrows. I mean, a first-class player development organization would certainly see $30,000 as a reasonable expense for this, right? Perhaps they spent the $30K on strength training equipment instead? Otherwise, I don't get it.

    By Anonymous Natty Fan, at 5/02/2007 5:11 PM  

  • Give some credence to those complaints about employee treatment. I wonder if they treat people with respect.

    The Lerner's fired the RFK announcer this spring. No problem with that.

    But they told the media before they told the fired announcer.

    The Lerner's fired Frank Robinson in October. No problem with that.

    But they led him to believe he would have a significant role in the organization.

    Their job offer was insulting. A non-paying advisory gig if he paid his expenses. It would have less humiliating to simply say, "NO."

    By Anonymous Brian, at 5/02/2007 8:59 PM  

  • Chris,


    The quote in the story is

    The Nationals' budget for scouting and player development, Bowden says, ranks in the top five in the majors

    The important point is BOWDEN SAYS....That does not sound like we can take that as fact...This is why we need an accounting....I do not trust JimBo and neither do any of his peers.....

    By Blogger JayB, at 5/02/2007 9:10 PM  

  • Let's not overreact to this. As I read Chris's summarized list of "grievances" I realized that they sound a whole lot like gripes I've heard about nearly every workplace I've been a part of and those of my friends and family, too.

    There are bound to be disfunctions in any organization and, while not good, none of these seems to be particularly damning. The comments on this post are mostly from the same guys who post here every day with that tired mantra:

    Bowden bad. Lerner cheap.

    Move on, already!

    By Blogger Brandon Kriner, at 5/03/2007 8:22 AM  

  • i thought the tony siegle firing on the very day he helped interview manny acta was pretty alarming. use the guy's expertise, then ship him out the door?

    and of course the general perception of bowden around MLB is always a fun read.

    By Blogger Natty Bumpo, at 5/03/2007 10:15 AM  

  • While this doesn't necessarily validate or invalidate other ex-employee complaints, the FedEx issue can be explained away (something Rosenthal should have easily known): MLB has an exclusive contract with DHL, so using FedEx would violate that contract.

    By Blogger SR, at 5/04/2007 8:18 AM  

  • I'm not sure if that's valid. They might have a national contract with them, but I'm sure that doesn't preclude the local teams from changing.

    MLB has a national contract (in fact they own part of), yet some teams still use ticketmaster.

    MLB has a national contract with Pepsi, yet RFK sells Coke.

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 5/04/2007 8:30 AM  

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