To me, this column is Boswell at his worst, falling in love with a situation, coming up with a story, then presenting the information and half-truths necessary to back that story up. It brings back memories of 2005 where a team who succeeded early thanks to consistently good starting pitching and a lot of luck was transformed by the writings of Boz into a scrappy never-say-die squad led by a crafty veteran manager who had seen it all. The Nats front office should be celebrated for what they've done. We don't need to manufacture iconoclast status to do so.
Some choice quotes:
With “Moneyball” barely out of theaters, they are already several years down the road of giving scouts a “65-35” say over stat nerds in their decisions... “We’ll lean a different way.”Mythology : While the entire league was going crazy turning their teams over to computers, the Nats understood the true value of scouts and used stats, but in their proper place.
Narrative : There really isn't any way to dispute what Boz says because it's not based on any facts, just Rizzo stating the team is different than everyone else and has a 65/35 lean. There isn't a list out there of team's "scout/stat nerds percent influence". I'm not denying that some teams did jump into the stat pool with both feet, but the general feeling (which is the best that anyone can do) is fully half the league's teams are still hesitant to put a lot of faith in statistics. Every team is trying to find the proper balance, the Nats may be among the half that continue to favor scouts more heavily.
Why would you risk a 19-year-old in your lineup every day?Mythology : Everyone thought Rizzo was crazy to bring up Bryce Harper and play him everyday.
Narrative : Everyone thought it was a gamble, even Rizzo (he admitted it wasn't optimal developmentally), but most people thought given the Nats situation (injured offense but on top of a NL East with a bad looking Phillies team) that it was a low-risk gamble worth taking.
Why don’t you want Adam Dunn, at any price,Mythology : The Nats were so ready to move forward they would part with an All-Star slugging player without a second thought.
Narrative : The Nats did want to move forward and understood that signing Dunn to a 4-year deal when he was already best suited for DH was a bad move. Still it was reported by most reputable sources that they offered him a 3 year 30+ million dollar deal. They understood he had value, not just 4-year value for a NL team.
or Prince Fielder for a market price?Mythology : The Nats would take a bargain on Prince, hoping he'd see what the Nats were building and come here anyway, but market price is for fools.
Narrative : This one is dependent on what you think market price was. If you think it was what he signed for then Boz's point is fair. If you think, like I do, it is what most teams were willing to pay, then Boz is probably off. The Nats were supposedly in it until the end meaning they probably put out 5-7 years and a ton of money at Prince, but ended up balking at extending the contract further. The Dodgers, Blue Jays, Rangers all seemed to follow the same thought process. The Tigers more or less, went above market to ensure that he would sign with them, much like the Nats did for Werth.
They signed amateur free agents Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, Matt Purke, Alex Meyer and Brian Goodwin for record prices, sometimes shattering previous marks by 50 percent or more. Lerner gave the “go” and Rizzo executed.Mythology : The Nats bucked the establishment and paid big money for their draft picks.
Narrative : Several teams were doing this, particularly the cash strapped teams that saw this as a cheaper way to becoming competitive. The Pirates in fact outspent the Nats in the usual time frame examined. Kansas City, Boston, Baltimore, Tampa, etc were all doing it. The Nats were on the forefront but they weren't out alone bucking convention. Plus their status as #2 spenders had a lot to do with drafting two generational talents in back to back years.
When MLB changed those rules, the Nats still blew up the new slot system this year by drafting “unsignable” Lucas Giolito — the teenager with the 100-mph fastball. They convinced him he’d be happy as a Nat and, come hell or high water, they’d treat his already sore elbow with as much respect and restraint as they had Zimmermann and Strasburg. He signed.Mythology : MLB changed the system but the Nats went again went against the establishment and drafted a guy that they'd need to pay out to do so. But really he came because the Nats convinced him that they were special.
Narrative : The Nats did go against what the MLB was hoping teams would do, but so did several teams (Cubs, Red Sox). The new rules didn't kill the old bonus system outright, rather offered teams a choice. You could still draft a guy in round 1 that you have to pay a ton for but you'll have to draft other guys you don't to make up for it. That is exactly what the Nats did offering Lucas #5-#7 draft pick money. Given his arm situation, it was a lot of money, too much so, to turn down.
Few thought Jayson Werth was worth $126 million, especially when much of the money was to bring attitude, swagger and professionalism. Now the Nats have swagger, Natitude and professionalism.Mythology : Werth is worth the money because of the attitude he brought to the team
Narrative : Werth is still crazily overpaid and is set to make even more for five more seasons. The attitude and swagger you see with the Nats is the effect of winning, not the cause. The professionalism has more to do with the organization, Rizzo, Johnson, et al. than an OF that played horribly last year and can't stay on the field this one.
Everybody, including me, thought they should sign Dunn and Josh Willingham to multiyear contract extensions in 2010. Both are having big years, but Rizzo wanted better defense along with his offense. He got it.Mythology : While everyone wanted Dunn and Willingham back the Nats parted ways with them looking for better defense.
Narrative : This one... this one is really close to true. On Dunn, well as you heard earlier they did try to get Dunn back, so that part isn't exactly true, but a big part of the reason they wouldn't budge on the 4th year was his inability to play first. Willingham too was traded in good part because of his defense, but the Nats ended up with Mike Morse in left, who's no gold glover himself. They have Bryce probably out of position in center. The truth is they understand there's a balance, and will trade off defense for offense, while trying to get both despite what fans want. Which is what most, if not all, organizations would do nowawdays.
Everybody, including me, said they should sign free agent Mark Buerhle and, if they failed, deal for a well-known veteran starter like Zack Greinke. Instead, they traded four prospects for lesser-known, joyful Gio Gonzalez, who has been exactly the vibrant personality that the Nats needed to enliven their gifted but dry-to-droll rotation.Mythology : The Nats traded for Gio to enliven their rotation despite eveyrone thinking signing a guy was the better move.
Narrative : Most of us talking about signing guys didn't really know Gio was available. I'm not sure what we would have thought if we had known that and the price the Nats would have to pay. It was a fair deal but most people overvalue their own prospects. I'm guessing this one would have ended up close to what Boz says, with most people saying the Nats should have just signed someone and kept all those prospects, with a vocal minority liking Gio
As for the liveliness, I'm not sure the Nats needed that as much as another great pitcher. Greinke would have probably had the Nats exactly where they are now. Buerhle a game or two behind. That's not counting what having Tommy Milone and Derek Norris in the rotation and behind the plate would have done (mainly because it wouldn't have made much of a difference other than possibly saving the Nats a few Wang starts)
When Manager Jim Riggleman pulled a midseason stickup for a contract extension, Rizzo let him quit. He talked Johnson back into the driver’s seat and took heat for his insensitivity toward the hometown Riggleman. Yes, 14 months ago, Rizzo was called a short-fuse bumbler.Mythology : Rizzo handled the Riggleman situation perfectly letting the manager walk when he was unhappy.
Narrative : Rizzo was a short-fuse bumbler when it came to this. Boswell said it himself - Rizzo doesn't care what people think and this episode is one that proves it. He decided early in the season that Riggleman was not his guy and then refused to talk to Riggleman about it because either he or Davey or he and Davey didn't want Johnson as the manager until 2013. A fair conversation with Riggleman would have probably ended up in the same place (Riggleman walking away when Rizzo says this is your last year, Johnson taking his place) with Rizzo looking a lot better for it.