Results tagged ‘ Jim Bowden ’
In all my years following baseball closely–a state of mind
that dates back to the mid-1970s–I can’t ever recall a spring training so
devoid of trade rumors as this one. There seems to be so few actual trade
discussion going on between general managers that even the rumors have dried
up, even the ones that are made up by those of us with usually creative minds.
In reality, this year’s quiet spring is simply a continuation of what we’ve
seen in recent years. There have been very few spring trades of substance over
the last decade. The last major spring deal I can remember involved the Reds
and Red Sox, who swapped Wily Mo Pena for Bronson Arroyo back in 2006. And even
that, while a significant trade, was hardly a blockbuster.
So why has the spring become such a dead time for dealing? I think a few
causes, each interrelated to the other, are at the root of this trend.
*Major league teams, more so than ever, have become conscious of dealing with
budgets. Budgets are set during the winter, allowing for the signing of free
agents and a significant trade or two for each team. By the time spring
training starts, teams simply do not want to increase the levels of their
budgets. Even if a talented veteran player becomes available, it becomes
problematic because of the expense of bringing in an expensive contract past
*The numbers game has become a bigger factor. By the middle of spring training, teams
are looking to cut down their rosters, as part of the master objective to pare
down to the 25-man limit by Opening Day. With most teams looking to reduce
rather than increase their roster numbers, it becomes more difficult to make
trades, especially involving players who are out of minor league options. If
you are going to trade for a veteran player, you have to be sure that he
represents an upgrade over the existing player at that position–and you have
to be certain you will have room for him on your 25-man roster.
*Teams, more than ever before, believe that they can find cheaper solutions to
their talent problems by relying on their minor league prospects. I’ve heard at
least three general managers or managers make the following statement this
spring: “We believe the answer to Problem X is right here in camp.”
This refrain has become so common that it’s almost become cliche. Sometimes, I
think the general managers are deluding themselves when they make this kind of
remark. A minor league player currently in camp might provide a cheaper answer
to a problem, but he might not necessarily provide a good answer…
One of the few players who has been mentioned in various rumor mills is Melky Cabrera. The Yankees’ onetime center fielder of the future has
drawn interest from the White Sox, a scenario that speaks volumes about Chicago’s center field
quagmire. Brian Anderson, Jerry Owens, and Dewayne Wise all have questionable
resumes and have failed to advance their causes through slapdash spring
performances. The White Sox like Cabrera’s defense and throwing skills, but I
have to wonder how much they would offer for a player who was an offensive nonentity
for most of 2008. If the ChiSox were willing to fork over a young catcher or a
third baseman, the Yankees might have to
take the bait. The power and bat speed displayed by Austin Jackson this spring,
along with Brett Gardner’s rejuvenated swing, have the Yankees thinking better about
their center field depth, thereby making Cabrera more expendable. By trading
Cabrera, who is out of options, the Yankees could also open up a roster spot
for another infielder or a third catcher…
The Washington Nationals, amidst an already turbulent spring, are facing another quandary created by departed GM Jim Bowden. It seems that Bowden made a handshake deal with first baseman Dmitri Young over the winter, guaranteeing the veteran a spot on the Opening Day roster. But Young is overweight and generally out of shape, and happens to play a position where the Nats are already heavily stocked with Nick Johnson and Adam Dunn. Simply put, the Nationals don’t need Young, whose presence would create flexibility problems on a roster that is already lacking in talent. So what should the Nationals do? Given that Bowden departed because of his alleged involvement in skimming bonuses from Dominican players, I think the Nats are well within their rights to tell Young that his handshake deal departed when Bowden departed.
What a wonderful surprise to turn on the TV at about 7:30 on Wednesday evening and find a live baseball game being played between the Red Sox and Twins! Not only does the spring training broadcast signify the start of the exhibition season, but also the coming of age of the new MLB Network. The 24-hour baseball channel has picked up a large volume of steam since last Friday, when it unveiled its “30 Teams in 30 Days” series, consisting of comprehensive hour-long previews of each major league club. Then the MLB Network rolled out a fresh set of old-time games over the weekend, including Tom Seaver’s 300th win from 1985, Carlton Fisk’s triumphant 1981 return to Fenway Park, and Gaylord Perry’s 300th victory from 1982.
With the Grapefruit and Cactus League seasons kicking off on Wednesday, the MLB Network now has a real opportunity to shine. By providing local broadcasts of a variety of spring games, beginning with the Boston feed of the Red Sox-Twins matchup from Ft. Myers, the network has brought back terrific memories from the early 1980s. That’s when our local cable outfit in Yonkers used to air local broadcasts of the Braves (on SuperStation WTBS), the Red Sox (on Boston’s WSBK), the Cubs and White Sox (WGN), and the Pirates. By airing an array of exhibition games this spring, the MLB Network will not only show us a similarly wide range of teams, but also give us the local flavor of the hometown cable broadcasts. And that’s going to make this one of the more enjoyable spring trainings, even if I’m stranded in 20-degree Cooperstown…
The decline and fall of onetime premier prospect Andy Marte has reached stunning proportions. After being designated for assignment by the Indians earlier this spring, Marte cleared waivers on Wednesday, passed over by the 29 other clubs. Not even teams in need of an upgrade at third base–the A’s, Astros, and Giants come to mind–decided to put in a claim for Marte. That’s a shocking development, given that Marte is still only 25 and has ample talent. Only four years ago, Marte was generally regarded as one of the top ten prospects in the game, a complete package of power and fielding prowess at the hot corner. So what happened? Some scouts believe that Marte’s swing is too long, making him susceptible to any pitcher with an above-average fastball. Unless Marte can undergo a major overhaul of his hitting mechanics, he may be destined for a long career in Triple-A…
It will only be a matter of days before the Nationals officially fire general manager Jim Bowden, who has been implicated in a scandal involving the skimming of bonus money that was intended for a number of Dominican prospects. The developing scandal has already resulted in the dismissal of Jose Rijo, the former Reds’ ace who had become one of Bowden’s advisors. Even prior to the scandal, Bowden’s record as a GM has been mediocre to poor; his resume received another blow this spring when the Nats discovered that prospect Esmailyn “Smiley” Gonzalez had lied about his name, identity, and age (he’s four years older than what he told the Nats). In his 15 years as the prime decision maker for the Nationals and Reds, Bowden has overseen 11 losing seasons. Even with the off-season signing of Adam Dunn and recent trades that brought in multi-tiered talents like Lastings Milledge and Elijah Dukes, the Nats look like the “favorites” to finish last in the National League East. They have virtually no starting pitching, a paper-thin bullpen, a middle infield of journeymen, and a full supply of questionable attitudes in Dukes, Milledge, and Wily Mo Pena. What a mess.
From Horace Clarke to Robinson Cano, author and historian Bruce Markusen provides observations on baseball history, nostalgia, and the stories of today.
An introduction is in order. I’m new to MLB.com’s world of MLBlogs, but baseball has been a part of my life since I was three, when I started watching Mickey Mantle on TV (or so I’m told). As a 10-year veteran of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, where I worked from 1994 to 2004, I had the privilege of interviewing most of the living Hall of Famers during that span. With access to both research materials and newly conducted interviews, I’ve written five books on baseball, including biographies of Roberto Clemente, Orlando Cepeda, and Ted Williams. And I’ve also co-hosted the “Hall of Fame Hour” and the “Heart of the Order” on MLB Radio, working alongside solid on-air professionals like Billy Sample and Marty Lurie, and guided by the assistance of hard-working producers like Mike Dillon, Vinny Micucci, Mike Siano, and Dan Gentile. Drawing on those experiences, I’ll do my best to produce a lively and diverse MLBlog that features analysis of current-day baseball, the latest trade rumors, memories of collecting baseball cards, thoughts on growing up with the game, storytelling that relates to baseball history, and tributes to those that the game has lost. I hope you enjoy it. Here goes…
Several candidates have been mentioned as possible successors to Tony Pena in Kansas City–including current ESPN broadcaster Larry Bowa, Hall of Famer George Brett, former Pirates and White Sox skipper Gene Lamont, and onetime Red Sox manager Grady Little–but the most prudent choice would be former Royals second baseman Frank White. Currently managing Kansas City’s Double-A farm team at Wichita, White would bring a variety of strengths to the table; he’s a great communicator and teacher, knows the game and the organization inside-out, and also provides a link to the Royals’ last great era of the 1980s… For what it’s worth, White is also a great interview. Of the dozens of interviews I conducted while working at the Hall of Fame, a spring training conversation with White ranks as the best. The interview, originally intended to be about five minutes in length, lasted a memorable 20 minutes, as White spoke eloquently and dramatically about his appreciation of baseball and the game’s history…
Nationals general manager Jim Bowden did excellent work over the weekend in acquiring Marlon Byrd from the Phillies for fellow outfielder Endy Chavez. While both of these 27-year-olds have been disappointments, Byrd has more power and patience at the plate, giving him the much higher ceiling of the two projects. He also fills a specific need for the Nationals, giving them some right-handed power to balance a lineup that leans heavily to the left, featuring southpaws Nick Johnson, Ryan Church, Brad Wilkerson, and the switch-hitting Jose Vidro. At one time Byrd was compared to Kirby Puckett, and while he’ll never become that kind of player–in part because of a fragile ego–he has enough talent to become a solid everyday outfielder under the tutelage of the fiery Frank Robinson…
It’s a little surprising the Yankees didn’t get something in return for Steve Karsay, rather than simply releasing the onetime hard thrower while having to pay all of his 2005 salary. Given the number of teams that are both desperate for relief pitching and had expressed interest in Karsay (including the Rangers, Cubs, Marlins, Brewers, Mets, and Giants), the Yankees should have been able to play one of those six teams against the others and extracted at least a grade-C prospect in return–or even a backup outfielder like the Cubs’ Todd Hollandsworth. If the Yankees had played up Karsay’s services under the guise of a bidding competition (either real or imagined) during his stay on the designated-for-assignment list, they might have even convinced one of those teams to soak up a small percentage of Karsay’s contract. As it stands, the Yankees received nothing for a pitcher of pedigree who was once considered one of the better set-up relievers in the game. They also did nothing to gain some financial relief from what is becoming an ever-growing luxury tax.