Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Mike Bacsik Grooved It

Tim Redding alleges what many have suspected. In an interview he supposedly gave on XM, he told this (as relayed by a msg board poster):

JC: You were with the Nats the night that Bonds broke the career HR record. What was that atmosphere like? Wasn't it Mike Basik or somebody who gave it up?

TR: You know, I don't like to speak ill of people...Mike was a nice guy and a good teammate....but Mike wanted to give up that HR. I was charting pitches that night for my start the next day and it was super obvious that he wanted to give it up. Everything to Bonds was low 80's and center cut. I think Mike had some notion that if he gave it up, he could be part of history and make a few dollars out of it one day.

Mike Bacsik blows. In case you didn't know that yet.

Go Back To Your Mansion, Mark

From today's worthless chat with the fans... someone asked him about why signing Pudge's dead bat would benefit the team.

The owner's answer?

"Pudge is also an experienced clutch hitter."

Pudge, in High Leverage situations, 2009: .267/ .297/ .302

Pudge, in High Leverage situations, 2008: .225/ .260/ .310

Perhaps pointing to facts isn't really what I should do here. Clutch Hitter isn't being used as anything other than a descriptive phrase, something to put a heroic image in your mind, and not something to be taken literally. It's that nice little flourish of adding the prefix "experienced" ahead of it that I love, which takes it away from a regular ol' hoary baseball into something completely different.

Vapid, even.

So Phil Wood and Jim Bowden Walk Into a Bar

The always diplomatic and patient JayBeeeee went after Phil Wood yesterday with a rant somewhat related to my post from yesterday. His question isn't important, but Phil's answer is. But Phil's answer is really two answers/observations that he blends into one, which sort of makes a muddle of the discussion.

The first part is good ol' gossip. He throws out the idea that Stan Kasten is a brilliant mastermind: He wanted to fire Bowden, but Bowden's first-class ass-kissery to Cousin Mark made him an untouchable. So StanK played politics, giving ol' Leatherpants enough rope that he could hang himself.

Interesting idea, and I can definitely see parts of it. Question though: if the Smiley thing hadn't surfaced, would StanK still be sitting on the sideline waiting for Bodes to trip up? That explanation seems awfully convenient, in some respects, even if there's probably a grain of truth to it.

Anyway, where Phil goes off the rails is in the second part:
[L]et me ask you this: Have you ever heard any big league executive in any sport come out and say, "Hey, we got nothing. No hope here." Of course you haven't. No one has. If painting a pretty picture is lying to the fans, then everyone's guilty. And "the plan" wasn't a sham. It's exactly what they're doing now. No plan will work if the guy in charge doesn't follow it, and that was happening until last March. And, while I'm occasionally semi-conscious, I have a clear conscience. As for indirectly working for the Lerners, their share of MASN is pretty tiny, and if you want to work as a baseball broadcaster in this market, you have no other options. I can say this, they take well thought out criticism very well. It's the shoot-from-the-hip kind that falls flat.

There's a difference between painting a pretty picture for the fans and the outright kinds of lies they made. They didn't say "We have an improving scouting operation." They didn't say "We're light-years ahead of where we were when MLB ran the club." They didn't say "we're well on our way to having a first-rate scouting operation."

They said they had EVERYTHING THEY NEEDED. They said that they ALREADY were in tip-top shape.

Those first examples are examples of how to spin something without it being a lie. What they said, instead, were lies. How to rectify Chico's story saying that they've been running on the cheap with Svrulga's old story about how they were already doing it first-rate? You can't.

Yes, every team needs to spin. The team, ownership in particular, has been far too tone deaf and inattentive to these things. But there's a difference between trying to influence the debate, even via propaganda, and obfuscation and spinning.

He says that "The PLAN!" wasn't a sham. But how can he say that? The team's current scouts admit it was. The key there is the past tense. "The PLAN!" might not currently be a sham, but it almost certainly HAS been.

He says that "The PLAN!" didn't work because of the guy in charge. Certainly true to an extent, but that's making the assumption that Bowden had all the financial resources he needed, just that he chose not to use them. Maybe that's true. I don't know. But I look at a situation like with Aaron Crow and JP Ramirez, where the latter's signing happened only because the former didn't, and wonder how much of a financial backing the guy had. Did the Nats run a bare-bones scouting operation (the words of one of their current, recently hired scouts) because Bowden didn't want to or because he had to?


One last point... It might've got lost in yesterday's disjointed rant, but that wasn't meant to be so much of a criticism at what Rizzo's doing now. For all we know, they're on the right track -- although their continued lip service to an international and not just Dominican presence is disappointing.

The point I tried to make was that, even if they ARE doing the right thing, none of us can possibly know that now, by virtue of the lying (or spinning, as Phil would say) they did before. They don't deserve the benefit of the doubt; they're going to have to earn it.

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.