Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Microcosm

Let this be today's teachable moment. Perhaps Stan and I need to sit down and have a beer summit. Although given the ways of the Lerners, I'm sure they'd charge me $7.50 per.

Today's WaPo has a story from everyone's favorite Hong Kong correspondent, Chico. Reading it on the face, it's terrific. It tells the story of how the Nats have ramped up their scouting department in an attempt to, well, push "The PLAN!" along further. Good stuff.

Perhaps if you just woke up from a coma.

If you've been paying attention for more than the last six months (WE SIGNED PUDGE!!!!), then it should piss the living crap out of you. It's the same goddamn story that Barry Svrulga wrote THREE YEARS AGO.

"There's nothing more important than what our scouts are doing right now," General Manager Mike Rizzo said earlier this spring. "We've built an all-star team of these guys, the best there are in baseball, and we're going to compete with every single team. There's nothing we won't do to find and get the best players there are."

OK, I cheated. That wasn't Rizzo. That was Bowden way back in Spring '07.

"I'm thoroughly impressed with the scouting and development departments, and I'm hard to impress," said Jay Sartori, one of the dozen new front-office employees the Nationals hired. "I don't say that because I'm new on board. We are going about it the right way, and we are going to succeed."

OK, I cheated. That wasn't Sartori. That was Chuck Lamar way back in Spring '07.

From Svrulga on Moose Stubing, a respected scout: ""They gave me the title," he said at the time. "And they made it hard to resist." Translation: They paid a more-than-competitive rate. "They just flat-out bought a lot of these people," said one source."

From Chico on Jay Robertson, a respected scout: "When Rizzo got into the finer points -- talking money, car allowance -- Robertson raised his hand. "Mike, stop right there," Robertson said. "I'm on board."

Rizzo in '07: ""There's nowhere we won't go," Rizzo said. "This is a competition. We need to beat other teams at it. We need to be the best, and we will be."

So why today's article then? Great. They're doing what they should be doing per Rizzo. But it's the same damn crap they told us they were doing three years ago. Were they lying to us then? Yep. Looks like it.

Sure, it's easy to blame it all on Bowden. Haha... he's a fool. But Rizzo himself is quoted extensively in the old piece, and there wasn't any criticism -- anonymously, of course -- about the way they were doing things. Should all the stink of the last three years' failures (what today's article is all but admitting) completely rub off the guy?

Isn't today's article confirmation that none of us should give anyone associated this team, particularly the cheapass Lerners the benefit of the doubt? They've shown that they'll lie and spin, and that they're all too infrequently willing to put their money where their mouth is -- or at least beyond the meager expectations this fanbase has.

Today's article shows that they were running a tightwad organization. Their new scout says that that's what all the other scouts talked about. Yet they assured us that they had a first-rate operation? Screw them.

So not only are they cheap, they lie and spin about it. Charming. Even the Lerners' biggest detractors (raises hand) couldn't have written a more thorough treatise on their incompetence as owners.

But the article also shows another problem with this franchise: the coverage of the team. God bless Chico, and may he someday bring us to a higher plane of journalism when he somehow manages to combine the DNA of Joe Gould and Andrew Zimmern, but for God' sake, where's the institutional knowledge on this one? What an embarrassment.

I know that beat writing is a goddamn thankless job, and if you're over about age 25 and you think it's a good job, you're probably a moron (or have had head trauma), but part of the problem with the Post's churning through all these beat writers is that they end up missing things like this. That there's no look to the past or attempt to put today's story into the context of what's come before is a problem; it's incomplete coverage of what should be a key issue critical to the success of the franchise.

Now that's not on Chico, per se, but you can't tell me that anyone who semi pays attention to the team, and who has done it for more than 2 seasons, could read that without some alarm bells blaring. (Note: does not apply if you've ingested some of Uncle Stan's Flavor Ade) The paper deserves as much scorn for that. And if they're really contemplating hiring someone from outside of sports -- as their initial memo indicated they might -- then they'll just bury even more institutional knowledge in the backyard of Tom Boswell's bayside mansion.

Yeah, I'm a cynical bastard most of the time, but these guys -- everyone! -- keep doing absolutely nothing to dissuade me. Nobody associated with this team deserves the benefit of the doubt; words obviously mean nothing to them. Show us something, guys.


  • Is this thing on?

    But seriously, well done.

    By Blogger Rocket1124, at 1/26/2010 11:48 AM  

  • I'll be checking in here for a review of the online chat with Mark Lerner. Can the Stanspeak Translator handle Lerner-speak?

    By Anonymous Sec314, at 1/26/2010 11:53 AM  

  • Crawl back into your hole, you moron. You haven't been missed.

    By Anonymous eggplant parmigiana guy, at 1/26/2010 12:13 PM  

  • A-trucking-men! 3 plus years into the Lerner rule and it is a whole lot of the same. The Plan 2.0 invloves no creativitiy, no risk, no willingness to add long term pieces at market price. Clubs all over are doing bold things (Hell the Bucs blew the whole thing up to start over!), the entire NL east has put distance between what was already a huge gap and the fans are somehow supposed to be excited about innings eaters and 38 yr old catchers and the like. Sad stuff.

    By Blogger Don, at 1/26/2010 12:20 PM  

  • Well said. Welcome back?

    Guess I should probably go read Chico's article now or something...

    By Anonymous The Nationals Enquirer, at 1/26/2010 12:58 PM  

  • More cowbell and Lerner bashing, please.

    By Blogger Mac G, at 1/26/2010 1:28 PM  

  • This post lacks West Virginia jokes.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1/26/2010 2:40 PM  

  • If this story inspired you to return to regular Nats blogging, then I'm very glad Chico wrote it. Welcome back!

    By Blogger Section 222, at 1/26/2010 5:00 PM  

  • I am guessing from the tone of this article you aren't going for Chico's vacant job?

    By Anonymous Gus, at 1/26/2010 6:18 PM  

  • This comment has been removed by the author.

    By Blogger Steven, at 1/26/2010 10:03 PM  

  • Seems like there's not enough blame placed at Tom Boswell's doorstep. I feel like Chico's obviously going through the motions now (I didn't even have the energy to read this article past the jump, to be honest).

    But looking at the Post big picture, isn't Boz the guy who's supposed to fill the analytic gap you're talking about? But with him, we get backflips about signing Brian friggin' Bruney.

    His problem isn't tenure, obviously. Maybe it's that he hasn't actually watched a baseball game since Cal Ripken retired.

    By Blogger Steven, at 1/26/2010 10:10 PM  

  • More cynicism from a guy who thinks he is a lot smarter and funnier than he thinks he is. No thanks.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1/27/2010 10:41 AM  

  • This will make my chili taste a little different as I wait for Riggleman, Dibble and some players to show up at the Hard Times in Clarendon this afternoon. I have missed this commentary, although I can get my pessimism from FJB.

    I have been holding onto the "Rizzo will make it better" security blanket really hard this offseason. My instinct is to grab onto it even harder after reading this, because I would rather believe things will be better. I probably should just let it go until such time as Rizzo impresses us with something unexpected.

    By Blogger Positively Half St., at 1/27/2010 11:37 AM  

  • Chris,

    Not only is this spot-on correct about the duplicity of the Lerners, StanK and Rizzo, it may singularly be the best insight I've read into the journalism business, circa 2010. These papers, the Post included, think you can just cut salaries to the bone, reduce staff, cut sections, reduce the news hole, and nobody will notice. When you do that, the good people leave. What's left is the Ronnie Belliards of the profession. Beats change, inexperienced people take over, nobody remembers stuff from three years ago ... because nobody was working in this city then. Just churn the pot, change the headcount, reduce the bodies, lower the healthcare costs and stay alive for the next quarter. Welcome to the Great Newspaper Hoax, 2010. Oh, news? You want insight? Perspective? A little historical context? Oh, never mind. Great job, Chris. Come back, please.

    By Anonymous Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me, at 1/27/2010 12:56 PM  

  • It's good to hear from you again, Chris. Although I've read and liked your NBC articles about the Nats, I have missed some of your old edge and analysis that we haven't seen since you did your blog regularly. Insightful post.

    By Anonymous cass, at 1/27/2010 3:09 PM  

  • Sunshine is spot-on. This is the unfortunate state of journalism in general. 99% of what's printed is spoon-fed and regurgitated propoganda.

    By Anonymous Let Teddy Win, at 1/27/2010 5:05 PM  

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