Monday, October 17, 2005

Breaking News - Farm Director Relieved of His Duties

Apparently, Tony Tavares wasn't kidding when he said Jim Bowden was planning on changes to the Nationals farm system. The Nationals Director of Player Development, Adam Wogan, was relieved of his duties today. Wow. That wasn't the first name I was expecting to see leaving the front office. Is it reasonable? The short answer is yes. Wogan was the head of player development and the buck stops with him. The Nationals have only one contributor that they developed, Chad Cordero. Guys like Wilkerson and Schneider were there prior to Wogan's arrival, and many of the others (Majewski, Patterson, and Church) were acquired via trade. Is it fair? I would say no. Wogan stepped into the job midway through Spring Training in 2002. So, he's had a grand total of three years to prove his worth. Players that were considered up-and-coming (Cliff Lee, Grady Sizemore, and Jason Bay) were traded away by former GM Omar Minaya when the then Expos were competing for the wild card. It wasn't his fault the value in the minors was traded away for Bartolo Colon. Additionally, with the budget he was provided, there was limited instructional leagues and their Latin program has no money to sign players which eliminates a cheap source of talent that a lot of small market teams rely on. He took the job knowing these risks and in this game, unfair is not unexpected. What I find much more telling are the following comments:
Bowden said Wogan's replacement will not be announced until ownership is in place for the Nationals.
The Nationals will be operating without a Director of Player Development. This tells me two things. One, the odds that Bowden is headed to another team as the GM are diminishing. There is no way Tavares would allow the team to be rudderless at both the Player Development and General Manager positions. Second, this may lead to increased responsibilities to Director of Scouting, Dana Brown, who has drawn interest from Mets GM Minaya. The more telling quotes are the following:
"I thought that it was important to make a change in leadership and player development. I think player development and scouting are the backbone and foundation of good organizations," Bowden said. "I also felt it was in the best interest of Adam to make the decision now so that he could have an opportunity to get another job in baseball." Wogan said his meeting between with Bowden on Monday lasted about two minutes. "I don't want to get into anything personal between Jim and I, but there were a lot of things that led to this from a professional standpoint," Wogan said. " He said there needed to be a change philosophically. That was the only reason I was given. I wasn't given anything more than that."
This tells me there is a turf battle that Bowden clearly won. It was readily apparent that the sides in the battle are Tavares/Bowden versus Frank Robinson. But it is becoming clearer to me that the battle line are more the 2002 guys (Robinson, Wogan, et al) versus Tavares' alliance with the 2005 guys (i.e. Bowden's guys). The meeting lasted two minutes and one side came out and said it was to give a guy a chance to get a job while the other side references "professional/philosophical" issues. I believe it is a mistake to leave the position unfilled, unless Brown assumes the responsibilities in an unofficial basis. Under no circumstances should Bowden assume that mantle. This is for no other reason than their needs to be a division of labor between managing the major league roster and directing the farm system. If he is here for 2006 (and beyond), Bowden needs to focus on the big picture. He doesn't have enough time to do both. Establishing a direction for the farm system is part of his job, but he needs to do that from an overarching level and leave it to the Farm Director to implement the plan. Brown has done an admirable job in the Scouting department. If I read the hierarchy correctly, Brown would be instrumental in the recommendations that brought guys like Cordero, Ryan Zimmerman, Patterson, Church, and Majewski to the Nationals. Hopefully, this is part of a plan to hold onto Brown (or at least make it more difficult/costly for Minaya to bring him to Flushing). The impact that this will have on the Nationals in the hot stove league is unknown. The only certainty is the Nationals need an owner to get the ship moving in one direction.

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