Thursday, May 7, 2009

Sadie Hawkins Day for Lastings

One of these days, I will write about Jim Bowden and how the wheels came off his career, how he pulled the South Park Saddam “I Can Change” routine to sweet talk his way back into the league, and the warning signs that he hadn’t changed his stripes at all. Not today, though.

In 2008, the Nationals rolled out a staggeringly bad 117 home runs through 161 games… yes, most teams played 162, but I don’t think this was the difference. Bowden loaded up the corner outfield spots, acquiring Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham, the latter of which isn’t even playing regularly. Of course, he ignored the fact that he would be getting Ryan Zimmerman, Nick Johnson, and Austin Kearns off the disabled list, as well as a full season from Elijah Dukes, Christian Guzman, and Jesus Flores. The result has been a revamped offense ranking in the top third of most hitting categories despite the rainouts. On the flip side, the Nats produce a Major Movie Star-bad pitching staff and defense, ranked in the bottom third (or DFL).

Lastings Milledge, despite his label as an-uber prospect for five-plus years, doesn’t have the bat of Dunn, Dukes, or Willingham, and doesn’t have the glove of Harris, Kearns, or Dukes. And these moves were made with Wily Mo Pena awaiting a suitor. It appears that not only did Bowden think that there were other GMs out there stupid enough to give up something to take Kearns or Pena off his hands, he may have been awaiting some sort of Godfather deal for Milledge. Maybe not a bad plan, but nobody I talked

Jim is gone and Milledge is in AAA, murdering his trade value Tracy McGrady-style. There have been voices to trade him now, while he is still under control, but few teams are going to jump for a middling corner outfielder who can’t play defense and generally has a bad attitude. Just because he led the team in HRs last season does not make him even a league average hitter; in 2008 he finished 43rd of 62 OFs who qualified for the batting title.

Honestly, if Bowden had a plan for this season (easily debated), it probably didn’t involve Milledge making through spring training. All the Nats need at this point is a dance partner.

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