Say what you want about the Alfonso Soriano fiasco (and by now we all have, twice) but it gave sports writers and Nats bloggers something to talk about. Now that the A-Sor issue has been momentarily resolved, what's next?
Apparently the topic du jour is the minor leagues. I'm still not conviced that the front office doesn't hand out a weekly topic sheet to the media (Tuesday - Vidro's knee; Wednesday - Guillen's wrist; Thursday - Church's soul patch; Friday - TBD but feel free to write about Bowden's fashion sense.) In any case, both MLB.com and WaPo have inside looks at the Nats farm system. The official happy-talk overview of the team's minor league talent can be found here, while the Post takes a not exactly hard-hitting look at the changes to the farm system staff. Of course, the Natsosphere is blessed with its own source of insight and analysis, the Nationals Farm Authority guys. Always check with them first.
A lot of the problems facing the 2006 Washington Nationals are directly attributable to "Crazy Omar's Montreal Fire Sale", when everybody expected Les Expos to be contracted out of existence and then-GM Omar Minaya gutted the farm system:
- No leadoff hitting CF? That's because Grady Sizemore is racking up the hits in Cleveland.
- No starting pitching? Say hello to the Cleveland's Cliff Lee and San Diego's Chris Young, former Expos farm-hands.
- Update: NFA's Scott reminded me that 2005 All-Star OF Jason Bay was another casualty of Les Expos clearance event. If you're keeping score at home, that's 2/3 of an outfield and 2/5 of a starting rotation, all under the age of 29.
So Omar Minaya sold off our platinum prospects for peanuts. But that only crippled our farm system. Killing it was Jim Bowden's job:
- SS Macier Izturis - traded to Anaheim with Juan Rivera for Jose Guillen.
- CF Jerry Owens - traded to Chicago for Alex Escobar.
- IF Alejandro Machado - released to clear a space for Escobar.
- SP Claudio Vargas - released because he was pitching injured.
- SP Sunny Kim - released to clear a roster spot for since-released OF Matt Cepicky.
- P Darrell Rasner - released to clear a spot for 3rd 1B Matt LeCroy.
- SP Armando Galarraga - traded to Texas with Wilkerson and Sledge for Alfonso Soriano.
None of those guys is an All-Star in the making, but all of them might turn out to be at least major league utility/bench/bullpen players. And what do we have to show for it? A 1-year rental 2B turned disgruntled LF, a back-up 1B, a consistently injured AAAA outfielder, and Jose Guillen, who might be playing himself onto the DL as we speak.
There's no question that the farm system was a mess when the team relocated from Montreal to DC. But putting Bowden in charge was the worst move possible. He did the same thing he always does when he finds himself in a hole. He kept digging.