March 4, 2009

It's Gonna Stay Lonely at the Top

Bill Ladson, who should be getting his own GEICO commercial any day now, is reporting that the General Manager position vacated by Jim Bowden over the weekend will remain open "for the forseeable future." Mike Rizzo will apparently be interim GM in all but name, as Stan Kasten retains the final say on all baseball operations. Bob Boone, Dana Brown and the other key players will also remain at their posts for the time being. The increasingly indispensible Nationals Journal has more details.

Over at OMG, Harper wonders if the latest developments, coming so close on the heels of Kasten's Al Haig moment, mean that an early pick to be the Nats next GM summarily passed on the job, leaving the front office scrambling. That's certainly a possibility. Even with only 30 GM jobs in Major League Baseball, I harbor no illusions that Washington is regarded as a plum assignment. It seems to me that there's likely a more pedestrian answer though. This club is operating the same way it's always operated over the last few years.

After all, the team had multiple opportunities to name Rizzo the interim GM. Sunday following Bowden's resignation would have been a natural point. Really, naming an interim GM at any point up to Stan's assumption of authority would have been unremarkable. The only newsworthy thing about the current situation is that Rizzo appears to have been given everything but the title.

It can't be a question of unfairly raising expectations. Interim GM's are, by definition, temporary. It's customary to name someone to the interim position, with the tacit if not explicit understanding that a full blown search will follow, and the interim GM may or may not be part of that search. More likely this is just how the Lerner-Kasten ownership makes personnel moves.

After all, this bunch gave Jose Rijo a "leave of absence" to deal with a family illness less than a week before firing him. They let Jim Bowden twist in the wind untenably until he resigned because they were too (loyal/cheap/over-cautious) to fire him outright. Tracking farther back, Frank Robinson's exit was likewise somewhat unceremonious. Quick, clean and decisive action has not been a hallmark of the current ownership group.

In time we may learn that some of the impersonal, shortsighted or downright head-scratching moves made by the club over the last two years cannot be laid solely at the feet of our huckster ex-GM. The front office may have lost its biggest headache, but it lost a lot of cover at the same time. The post-Bowden spotlight has been brief, but it hasn't shown the front office to its best advantage.

(On an unrelated note, NTP joins the rest of the Nat(m)osphere in offering Stan Kasten our condolences on the passing of his mother.)

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