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Pop Goes the Weasel
2004-11-16 16:16
by Jon Weisman

News: New Washington general manager Jim Bowden commits $23 million to contracts for third baseman Vinny Castilla (104 OPS+ in 2004, where 100 is average) and shortstop Christian Guzman (78 OPS+ in 2004).

Preaction: From Dodger Thoughts, February 13, 2004:

Technically, at least, the Dodgers have other general manager candidates to replace Danglin' Dan Evans. One who would like to be considered is Jim Bowden, former general manager of the Cincinnati Reds.

Although his name grew familiar to many of us during his 11 years with the Reds, let's not forget that Bowden was once a boy wonder like DePodesta. Until Theo Epstein came around, Bowden was the youngest general manager in big-league history, hired at age 31 - the same age DePodesta is now.

Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports Weekly wrote a column about Bowden this week, in which the following quote appears.

"It would be fun to go to a big market, though, and have a chance to win year after year," Bowden told Nightengale. "If I can be creative with a payroll in the forites and fifties, I can be creative with a budget in the hundreds.

"I look at the Dodgers, and think, how can you have the best pitching staff in the league and score less runs than the Tigers? Come on. You've got to do something."

I look at Bowden's words, and wonder what kind of wall I can build to keep him out of Los Angeles.

First of all, creative is a nice mantra to bandy about, but Bowden creatively presided over a team that had six losing seasons out of 11, including the past three, most of the time in the National League's weakest division. Of course, the payroll limitations Bowden cites are legitimate, but for him to brag about his record is silly.

As far as the second half of Bowden's quote, many people would agree. One of those agreeing would be Dan Evans.

The idea that Evans didn't think something should be done to improve the offense is preposterous. No, he didn't succeed yet, and his signing of OBP-challenged Juan Encarnacion (a former Bowden acquisition) raised questions anew about his ability to do so.

On the other hand, Evans reduced the payroll, nurtured the farm system - and oh yeah, built that great pitching staff, the accomplishment many find it so easy to dismiss. He laid the groundwork to acquire some hitting, which he no doubt could have done had Frank McCourt's ownership approval needs not interfered.

Now, it's one thing for you and I to shoot the breeze, in conversation or in print, and say that the Dodgers need offense. But for a baseball executive like Bowden to take simplistic pot shots at a counterpart, without any evidence he could do the job better - that guy needs his ego balloon popped.

Combine Bowden's statement with the incident back in 2001, when Bowden tried to big-time Evans by refusing to discuss business at baseball's winter meetings until Tommy Lasorda was in the room, and Bowden sounds like the big-headed spawn of our last general manager debacle, Sheriff Kevin Malone.

"I don't want to sound arrogant or brash, but there's no doubt in my mind that I can turn the Dodgers into winners again," Bowden later tells Nightengale. "If I did it in Cincinnati, I sure can do it in L.A."

You had two division titles in 11 years at Cincinnati, Jim. Even the Dodgers can match that - with more than twice as many winning seasons to boot.

Guess how you sound.

Not like someone who would come into a situation with the ethic and flexibility to best determine how to improve a baseball team.

Nightengale writes that Bowden "definitely" deserves at least consideration for the job. Maybe you just need to get to know Bowden for that to become apparent. Maybe you just need to not challenge Bowden when he says that under him, the Reds "finished in first place three times," when it only happened twice. In any case, Nightengale doesn't make a very good case for Bowden with this article.

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